Photo Courtesy: Sergi Escribano/Getty Images
Barley is a chewy cereal grain with a slightly nutty taste. Generally speaking, it has more beta-glucan content than other foods. There are two types of barley you’ll commonly come across: hulled barley and pearled barley. Hulled barley is a whole grain, and the only thing that’s been removed in its processing is the outer husk, which is indigestible. Pearled barley is not considered a whole grain because both its outer husk and bran layer have been polished off, removing some of its fiber content. Regardless, both types include lots of beta-glucan.
Some people choose pearled barley over hulled barley because it’s faster and easier to cook; the softer grains of pearled barley soften in around 40 minutes. Hulled barley takes roughly an hour longer. Either way, there are lots of ways to include it in your diet, as it’s often used in soup, salad, bread and stew recipes.
Photo Courtesy: Dougal Waters/Getty Images
Like barley, oats are a type of grain with cereal beta-glucan due to their rich fiber content and the fact that they’re cereal grains. Depending on the time of year when oats are grown, their beta-glucan content can vary slightly, but they’re a great primary source of this fiber type regardless.
Additionally, the amount of processing the oats have gone through before they reach your plate or bowl can mildly impact their beta-glucan content. Listed from least to most processed, you can find oats in the following forms: oat groats, steel-cut oats (also known as Irish oats), Scottish oats, rolled (or old-fashioned) oats, instant oats, oat bran and oat flour. The easiest and most popular way to eat oats is in oatmeal. However, you can also include oats in smoothies, cookies, muffins, pancakes, bars and even as breading for chicken.
Photo Courtesy: TinaFields/Getty Images
Many edible mushrooms are great sources of beta-glucan, but shiitake, reishi and maitake mushrooms are better than the rest. Beta-glucan is found mostly in a mushroom's fungal cell wall. As an added bonus, mushrooms are also packed with plant nutrients that can have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in your body.
Because mushrooms have lots of health benefits in general, they might already play an active role in your diet. If not, it's easy to start including them. Put mushrooms into pasta sauce or saute them and add them to a sandwich. Or better yet, make a vegetarian shiitake "burger" using the mushroom’s large cap as a substitute for the patty. Include mushrooms in soups and on salads, or heat some up and eat them on their own as a dinner side.
Photo Courtesy: Tim E. Klein - EyeEm/Getty Images
Sorghum is a gluten-free cereal grain, and though it’s not as widely eaten as other grains, it’s still a valuable source of beta-glucan. For a while, it was commonly used as a sweetener. Now, thanks to the expansion of the market for gluten-free products and the fact that sorghum is nutritious, people have found healthier uses for it.
When sorghum is ground up into flour, you can use it as a substitute for almost any other flour. However, its lack of gluten makes a binding agent like cornstarch necessary in baked goods. Sorghum can become the new base of a risotto or other grain bowl. Use it to make gluten-free pasta, bread and desserts. As a fun alternative, you can also pop it like popcorn.
Photo Courtesy: Julia Lazarova - EyeEm/Getty Images
While rye doesn't have nearly as much beta-glucan as barley, oats or mushrooms, the fiber is still present in this grain. Unrefined rye is a highly nutritious food on its own, with tons of vitamins, minerals and even some protein. That little bit of beta-glucan in rye can go a long way if you're including rye in your diet regularly.
Mostly, people consume rye in bread. An easy way to eat rye is to simply buy a high-quality loaf of rye bread from your grocery store or local bakery. However, there are other ways to get rye into your meals as well. Use rye berries as a base for bowls, in salads and in soups in place of other grains. Be prepared for a much earthier flavor than wheat.