Polysaccharides and Food
The most important thing to understand about polysaccharides and food, is the question that most ask first: What are glyconutrients? Simply put, they are plant carbohydrates (monosaccharides) that help your body function better. Out of the 200+ carbohydrates and sugars available to ingest, only 8 are good for your body. These 8 monosaccharides (otherwise known as polysaccharides) include xylose, fucose, galactose, glucose, mannose, N – acetylglucosamine, N – acetylgalactosamine, and N – acetylneuraminic acid. If you're wondering how you're ever going to remember them all and what they do, don't worry! It's a lot easier than you think.
Breaking Down Polysaccharides
Each polysaccharide has its own special function in the body and a can be obtained by eating different foods.
- Role in the Body: Xylose is most important in your body for cell-to-cell communication; but it also acts as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. It is also proven to help prevent cancer of the digestive tract. Xylose promotes the growth of “friendly bacteria” in the intestines that help manufacture and absorb all nutrients which ultimately helps boost your immune system, which in turn helps you fight of illness.
- Safety: Xylose is quickly distributed through the body and one quarter often leaves the body within 5 hours of ingestion. It is recommended that xylose be ingested twice a day to maintain healthy levels (35 grams per 150 pound adult is the maximum per day suggestion).
- Foods: Xylose is found in the following foods: pears, blackberries, raspberries, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, okra, corn, and cabbage.
- Role in the Body: Fucose is a very beneficial to have in your body because it has so many functions inside of the body. It is found to have reversed disease processes like inflammation and immunity. Research has shown that fucose is found in the kidneys. Many scientists have noticed that fucose has a promising effect on inhibiting and reversing leukemia and breast cancer, including the suppression of tumors.
- Safety: While conclusive research on the subject of the safety of ingesting fucose is still being conducted, researchers are certain that twice daily doses are sufficient for maintaining healthy fucose levels in the blood. However, right now 34 grams per 150 pound adult is the maximum suggested.
- Foods: Fucose is found in mushrooms, kelp, wakame, and beer yeast
- Role in the Body: Galactose is a simple sugar that is more common in your body than glucose. However, before galactose can be used as energy, it must first be converted into glucose by the liver. Even though it's a sugar, galactose does not affect insulin levels and therefore is safe for diabetics to ingest. It helps wounds heal, decreases inflammation, and lowers the risk for cataracts to develop. It is also a vital component of your immune system. Research has shown that the more serious the disease was, the lower the galactose levels in the patients studied.
- Safety: The great thing about galactose is that there are yet to be any side effects associated with it. Galactose-intolerance is extremely rare and is safe at most levels, 50 grams being a good maximum.
- Foods: Another interesting fact about galactose is that it is found in virtually all the food that we eat. It is found in dairy products and almost all fruits and veggies. More than likely, if you're eating a fruit or vegetable, you're eating one with galactose in it.
- Role in the Body: Glucose is the most well known polysaccharide but is commonly misunderstood as being table sugar. Table sugar is a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose. Glucose is most often used as a fast energy source for the body because of the body's way of absorbing it so quickly. It also enhances memory, increases cell-to-cell communication, and stimulates calcium absorption.
- Safety: It is commonly known that Americans consume too much sugar .This includes glucose which actually hinders the body rather than helps it. The question, “How much is too much?” is a question that varies from person to person, but you can rest assured that you're probably eating too much.
- Foods: Glucose is found in almost everything, like Galactose; but the best sources are available in honey, grapes, bananas and strawberries.
N – Acetylglucosamine
- Role in the Body: Mannose is the foundation for all the polysaccharides and is involved in almost all the fundamental cell actions. It is gaining a great reputation for fighting urinary tract infections, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, and is proven to reduce tumor growth.
- Safety: As of right now, the highest dosage for a 150 pound adult is 23 grams but that much is hardly necessary. You can often get enough mannose by eating your vegetables.
- Food: Mannose can be found in: green beans, cayenne pepper, cabbage, tomatoes, turnips, and shiitake mushrooms.
N – Acetylgalactosamine
- Role in the Body: Otherwise known as glucosamine sulfate, it helps repair cartilage damage while acting as an anti-inflammatory agent. It also has anti-viral and anti-tumor capabilities as well as activities against HIV. Glucosamine is also essential for the brain's ability to learn.
- Safety: Glucosamine is best ingested at the rate of 1 gram per 150 pound adult divided into smaller amounts, multiple times a day. Diabetics should consult a doctor and always start with a very low amount and work up to an amount suitable for the body.
- Food: Glucosamine is best ingested by the supplement of glucosamine sulfate. It can also be ingested by shiitake mushrooms.
N – Acetylneuraminic Acid
- Role in the Body: Galactosamine is the least known of the 8 essential sugars and there is little research done on it. What scientists do know, however, is that one of its most important jobs is cell-to-cell communication and may also help inhibit the growth of tumors.
- Safety: Very little is known about the safety of N – Acetylgalactosamine so there is no conclusive safe minimum or maximum amount. Consult a doctor if you really want to take this.
- Foods: Very little food contains this polysaccharide. It is, however, found in bovine cartilage and Dumontiaceae, red algae only available in Japan.
In summary these these polysaccharides are tools to help your body. There are healthy carbohydrates and sugars you can ingest to make yourself as healthy as possible. Long term science may discover that polysaccharides may help prevent and treat many common auto immune diseases.
- Role in the Body: Otherwise known as sialic acid, it is an immune moderator that affects the flow resistance of mucus, which helps repel bacteria.
- Safety: Very little is known about how the body reacts to sialic acid, but the scientific community does recommend that a 150 pound adult ingest no more than 140mg daily.
- Food: Whey protein isolate or concentration is the best source of sialic acid.