Nearly a quarter of Canadians over the age of 40 are living with unhealthy levels of LDL cholesterol. This increases their risk of developing heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in Canada, and boosts the chances of experiencing a heart attack or stroke (Statistics Canada).
When first diagnosed with high cholesterol, your physician will often offer an ultimatum: lower your cholesterol naturally over the next few months or they’ll prescribe statin medications. Statins are pharmaceutical drugs specifically designed to lower LDL cholesterol. While effective, they often result in severe side effects such as muscle pain, headaches, dizziness, liver damage, and much more.
Most people seek to avoid taking statins as the negative side effects are so severe. Instead, they try to lower their cholesterol naturally by making changes to their diet.
Cutting out high cholesterol foods rich in trans and saturated fat (such as red meat) is a great first step, but the real secret to lowering cholesterol naturally is to improve fibre intake. Soluble fibre has been proven to reduce LDL (bad) levels in your blood stream. Specifically, beta-glucan fibre from barley and oats has proven to be one of the most effective fibres at naturally lowering cholesterol.
In this article, we’ll explore what beta-glucan is, how it lowers cholesterol, why it’s so good, and how you can introduce it to your diet to achieve your health goals.
What is Beta-Glucan?
Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fibre found primarily in the cell walls of barley, oats, mushrooms, and fungi. As a soluble fibre, it dissolves in water and is digestible – creating a gel-like substance that coats the digestive system.
The type of beta-glucan that is effective at lowering cholesterol can only be found in barley and oats, with barley providing the highest concentration of beta-glucan by volume. If you’ve ever noticed the sticky texture of oatmeal, it’s the beta-glucan that creates that texture.
Barley beta-glucan has been extensively researched and proven to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by as much as 24%, making it one of the most effective soluble fibres at lowering cholesterol. Additionally, it is recognized for its ability to:
- Help improve the health of your digestive system
- Improve digestion and regularity
- Improve satiety
- Help regulate blood glucose levels
You can find several detailed studies regarding beta-glucan's ability to lower cholesterol here.
How Beta-Glucan Lowers Cholesterol
Once consumed, beta-glucan makes its way from your stomach to your large intestine where it is digested by your gut bacteria. This turns the beta-glucan into a gel-like substance that coats the lining of your intestines, slowing absorption of carbohydrates and sugars. The beta-glucan also surrounds and binds itself to bile acids (the end product of cholesterol metabolism), preventing them from being re-absorbed through the walls of the small intestine. These bile acids are not able to be recycled back to the liver and, as a result, leave your body through the digestive tract.
Because your body requires a minimum level of cholesterol and bile acids, your liver is forced to create new bile acids from cholesterol already present in your bloodstream, thereby lowering the total amount of LDL and total cholesterol in your bloodstream.
Health Canada approves beta-glucan as a viable way to lower cholesterol if 3 grams are taken daily for 4 to 12 weeks.
Why Beta-Glucan is One of The Best Fibres For Lowering Cholesterol
Beta-glucan is one of, if not the best, fibres for lowering cholesterol simply due to how effective it is and how easy it is to introduce into your diet.
When people think of soluble fibre, psyllium husk often comes to mind. Psyllium husk is a type of soluble fibre that comes from the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds and is primarily grown in Asia. Psyllium does naturally lower cholesterol but it’s not as effective as beta-glucan. 7g of psyllium husk is required daily to lower cholesterol compared to beta-glucan's 3g per day. Additionally, beta-glucan can lower cholesterol to a much greater extent. Psyllium can lower cholesterol levels by up to 7.4% whereas with beta-glucan you can expect to see a reduction of up to 24%.
Additionally, unlike other fibres, beta-glucan does not bulk beyond its own volume in your digestive system which reduces the likelihood of experiencing choking or a blockage in your digestive tract. Because beta-glucan is naturally neutral tasting, additives don’t need to be added for it to be palatable.
How to Introduce Beta-Glucan Into Your Diet
According to researchers and Health Canada, 3 grams of barley or oat beta-glucan taken daily for 4 to 12 weeks is required to naturally lower cholesterol levels.
While you could try and eat whole grain barley or oats every day, an easier way to introduce beta-glucan into your diet is by taking a supplmeent.
Our team at NutraStat produces a single ingredient barley beta-glucan fibre supplement that makes it easy to add 3 grams of beta-glucan into your daily diet. NutraStat is has a neutral taste and mixes easily in liquids and food, making it a great option to ensure you get enough beta-glucan every day.
Despite best efforts, the reality is that 95% of Canadians simply don’t get the recommended daily intake of fibre. Health Canada recommends women consume 25g of fibre per day, and men 38g per day. While we should all strive to consume diverse, high fibre foods – adding a supplement such as beta-glucan is a great way to boost fibre intake while achieving your cholesterol lowering goals.
When adding a fibre supplement to your diet, always ensure that you are taking a product that has been naturally produced without the use of chemicals or enzymes and is free from any additives. NutraStat is made from a single ingredient (Canadian non-GMO barley), is free of additives, and is extracted using a natural air technique.
Other Strategies For Lowering Cholesterol Naturally
Supplementing beta-glucan is the easiest way to lower cholesterol naturally, however there are additional steps you can take to further increase the chances you meet your cholesterol lowering goals. Other steps you may want to consider include:
- Introducing additional fibre to your diet by eating fibre rich foods such as:
- Fruits such as raspberries, apricots, apples, pears, and bananas
- Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts
- Seeds, especially flax seed
- Reduce the amount of high cholesterol foods you are eating such as:
- Full fat dairy
- Processed meats
- Red meats
- Fried foods
- Baked good
- Avoid trans fats as much as possible
- Increase physical activity (Health Canada recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week)
- Stop smoking if you’re a smoker
More About NutraStat Beta-Glucan Fibre
NutraStat fibre supplement is produced in Canada using exclusively non-GMO Canadian barley. We use a patented air extraction process without the use of any chemicals, enzymes, or additives. One serving of NutraStat provides 3g of beta-glucan fibre, the required amount to effectively reduce LDL cholesterol. In addition to the cholesterol lowering benefits, NutraStat also can help improve your digestion and the health of your digestive system, increases satiety, and helps to regulate blood glucose levels.
We are a family run business with a passion for producing the most natural health and food products to improve the health and wellbeing of Canadian families.