Fibers are complex carbohydrates that are not digested and not absorbed by the small intestine. Fibers play many important roles in our diets such as efficient intestinal functioning. There are two main types of fibers, mostly found in plant foods:
- Soluble fibers. They dissolve in water forming a gel-like substance in the stomach and provide some calories as little as 2 kcal/gr from the metabolic breakdown caused by the bacteria in the the large intestine.
- Insoluble fibers. Not soluble in water and pass through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact. These fibers provide bulk for stool formation, helping the movement of food and elimination of food waste, which can prevent constipation.
Within the soluble fibers, Beta-Glucan have received lots of scientific attention over the last decades. Beta-Glucan are polysaccharides of branched glucose found in fungi, algae and many other plants including, for instance, oats. Beta-glucan are known for their cholesterol-binding properties and thereof their cholesterol-lowering effect. As a soluble fiber, beta-glucan itself is not digested, but it does slow food transit in the intestines. As a result, carbohydrates are absorbed slower, resulting in more steady blood sugar. In addition, it moves slowly through the digestive tract, taking cholesterol with it as it goes.
The beta-glucan found in oats may help keep cholesterol in check by reducing the levels of total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol but did not impact HDL cholesterol levels or triglycerides. Typical effective dosages include 7.5 grams of beta-glucans made from yeast, added to juice and taken twice daily for 7-8 weeks, or 3-10 grams of beta-glucans made from barley or oat taken daily for up to 12 weeks.
The power of a morning porridge [1,2]
Porridge is a healthy, nutritious way to start the day. There are many varieties of porridge oats, including rolled, quick and instant. Regardless of the type, shape or size, all porridge oats are wholegrains and they all contain beta-glucan. A 60g serving of porridge oats contains ca. 2-3 g of beta-glucan, that is already the minimum amount of beta-glucan that will help lower your cholesterol levels by 5 to 10% in people with normal or slightly higher blood cholesterol levels. Remember that if you have high cholesterol, always consult your doctor regarding any changes in your diet and medications.