While we’re looking at nutrition and how it benefits your immune system, it’s impossible to overlook the importance of polysaccharides in your diet. You may never have heard this term used before. However, you can be certain that you will have included polysaccharides in your diet.
What Are Polysaccharides?
Polysaccharides are vital for proper nutrition since they contain complex carbohydrates that are essential energy sources for the body. All bodily functions rely on carbohydrates to produce energy, and although the body is capable of producing some energy itself, it cannot produce enough to make itself sustainable.
Failing to consume enough carbohydrates means that energy needs to be supplemented by other sources. Insufficient carbohydrates in your diet put you at risk of physical symptoms such as blood sugar drops, along with feelings of lightheadedness and weakness. Polysaccharides help you to overcome tiredness while supporting healthy blood sugar levels and blood pressure, supporting your immune function, promoting good cardiovascular health, and even boosting your libido!
The Most Common Polysaccharides
Commonly, polysaccharides are found in cereal grain husks, certain yeasts, algae, mushrooms and fungi, and plants. Some common polysaccharides include:
- Astragalus root – this polysaccharide is known to stimulate the immune system by increasing stem cell numbers in the lymphatic tissue and spinal cord and encouraging them to turn into immune cells, promoting T lymphocyte activation, stimulating macrophages and immunoglobulin production, stimulating the endogenous production of interferon and inhibiting virus replication.
- Laminaria Japonica – this polysaccharide binds strongly with toxic molecules like heavy metals, encouraging them to be eliminated from your body before their harmful effects can be experienced.
- Cordyceps Sinensis – rich in polysaccharides, adenosine and cordycepic acid, this mushroom stimulates the immune system.
- Goji berries – these contain polysaccharides that powerfully support the body’s defense systems by increasing lymphocyte and NK cell activity.
- Larchwood – this contains polysaccharides known as arabinogalactans that increase the body’s immune system response to disease by stimulating the body’s natural killer cells’ cytotoxicity and acting on inflammation.
How can I add Polysaccharides into my Diet?
It isn’t difficult to add polysaccharides into your daily diet.
Starch is the main example of polysaccharides – the primary carbohydrate source for tubers, plant seeds, and vegetables that grow under the ground. Food sources of starch are often called starchy carbohydrates and include foods such as rice, potatoes, and corn as well as pasta, cereal, and bread. These foods usually make up the most common type of carbohydrates in your everyday diet. Starches are broken down in the body into glucose, and this supplies the essential energy you need.
Cellulose is another polysaccharide that is found in many foods. It provides a protective structure or covering for vegetables, fruits, and seeds. It is cellulose that gives foods their crunchy texture and it cannot be digested by the body. It functions as a dietary fiber source, adding bulk to stools and helping in the maintenance of proper digestive processes. Pear and apple skins contain cellulose, as do whole grains such as wheat bran, and plant leaves such as spinach.
Pectin is another polysaccharide compound that forms a gel-like substance when the body breaks it down. Foods containing pectin are sometimes called soluble fiber sources, and they benefit your body by prolonging the time taken to empty the stomach, helping you feel fuller for longer. Some soluble fiber sources include dried beans, oats, flaxseed, barley, nuts, apples, oranges, psyllium husk, and carrots.
While starchy foods often have a bad reputation as food sources that are high in fat, they actually contain less than 50 percent of the calories of fat in your diet. Starchy foods are also good sources of iron, calcium, vitamins, and fiber. To maximize their benefits, prepare them in healthy oils such as vegetable or olive oil, and avoid using high-fat methods of preparation such as frying since this can offset their nutritional value.
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