What are beta-glucans?

Beta-glucans, β-glucans, Beta-d-glucans, polysaccharides… typing these into a search engine can lead you down a rabbit hole of scientific jargon. Luckily, behind all the technical terms, beta-glucans are not too complicated, and may have benefits for your health. Let’s take a refreshingly simple look at what they are, and why they might make a great addition to your diet.

What are beta-glucans?

To a simple question, a simple answer: beta-glucans are a type of fibre.

Where can I find them?

You can find beta-glucans in the cell walls of microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast, as well as algae, lichens, seaweed and many plants.

Gut health

Beta-glucans are a prebiotic.(2) This means that while you can’t digest them yourself, they provide a nourishing meal for the ‘good’ bacteria living in your gut.

Heart health and cholesterol

Interestingly, the improvements beta-glucans provide for your gut health also have knock-on effects elsewhere in the body.


The scientific community is well aware of beta-glucans. Researchers seem to prize them highly for their immunity-boosting properties. (For a quick refresher on how your immune system works, and the cells involved in protecting you from pathogens, head to our winter immunity article.)

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“Beta-glucans from mushrooms seem to support the immune system by enhancing the function of both microphages and natural killer cells.”

Protection from disease

We know that beta-glucans can help stimulate the cells of your immune system, which is exciting news for scientific researchers around the world. As a result, many different studies are underway to try to understand how they can help protect us from disease.

How can you get more beta-glucans in your diet?

To add beta-glucans to your diet, simply make sure you’re eating plenty of oats, barley, and other foods which naturally contain them.

What to look out for when buying medicinal mushrooms

If you’re interested in increasing your intake of beta-glucans via medicinal mushrooms, there are a few things you should look into before buying.

Look for a wood or a liquid medium

When buying medicinal mushrooms, look for a supplier that uses a liquid or a wood medium. The latter is sometimes called a ‘lignocellulosic substrate’ — this simply means ‘cellulose’, or plant matter, derived from ‘ligno’, or wood.

More on mushrooms

If you’re interested in finding out more about adding medicinal mushrooms to your routine, there’s lots of information available in our Erbology Editorial section.

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