Although sugars are often demonized in the nutrition world, there are actually sugars your body needs. There are over 200 naturally occurring sugars; however, there are only 8 sugars that are considered essential for the body. The 8 sugars your body needs are called glyconutrients, which are necessary for the body to function properly. Glyconutrients combine with fats or proteins to form either glycoconjugates or glycoproteins. Glycoconjugates coat cell surfaces, serving as cell recognition sites, while glycoproteins transport molecules, produce enzymes, produce hormones, and acts as cell attachment recognition sites. As you can see, glyconutrients are critical for proper cell communication and function, and each glyconutrient can enhance health in specific ways.
Xylose is often found as a sugar substitute in sugarless gum. Yet, it can also be found naturally in guava, pears, blackberries, broccoli, spinach, peas, corn, and even aloe vera. As one of the sugars your body needs, xylose is necessary for communication between cells. It is also an important sugar that has antibacterial and antifungal properties, which is one reason it is used as a sugar substitute in gum. Xylose also shows promise in helping prevent cancer of the digestive tract! As a sugar, xylose certainly can do a lot!
Fucose is a glyconutrient that is especially important for babies because it helps the brain develop properly. Fortunately, Mother Nature is smart, and plenty of fucose can be found in breast milk. Aside from brain development, fucose has several other key functions that are needed throughout life. Like all glyconutrients, fucose is needed for cell communication. It is also crucial for nerve function. High concentrations of fucose can be found at the junctions of nerves, indicating that it is needed for nerve signals and impulses. Another function that fucose has is to act as an immune modulator inhibiting tumor growth! Essentially, fucose can help keep your body cancer free. Since fucose has important functions outside of brain development, you will be interested to know that consuming mushrooms, sea vegetables, and nutritional yeast will allow you to get the fucose you need in your diet.
Like fucose, galactose can inhibit tumor growth, especially in the liver! It can also help prevent you from getting cataracts as you age. Cataracts may not be something you are worried about now, but the cloudy vision they cause is something you want to try and prevent. In addition to inhibiting tumor growth and preventing cataracts, galactose also increases wound healing, decreases inflammation, and increases calcium absorption. This is definitely a glyconutrient you want to be sure you are getting. Thankfully, it isn’t difficult to find galactose, which can be found in many fruits and vegetables including apples, mangos, pineapples, peaches, lettuce, carrots, pumpkins, and avocados.
Glucose is one of the most commonly known glyconutrients. Because eating foods with glucose provides people with a fast energy source that is released directly into the blood stream, athletes will often consume foods with glucose to get a burst of energy. Aside from being an energy source, glucose enhances memory, stimulates calcium absorption, and helps with mood. Interestingly, it has been found that people who suffer from depression often have impaired glucose metabolism, which demonstrates how important glucose is for mood. Glucose is found in many foods, but your best choices are fruits and vegetables, especially dates, bananas, mangos, and grapes.
Manose is a glyconutrient that has strong antibacterial properties. If you have ever heard that cranberry juice cures a bladder infection, you now know it is the manose in the cranberry juice that resolves the bladder infection. D-manose, which is found in cranberries, fights bladder infections by surrounding bacterial cells, making it impossible for them to stick to the walls of your bladder. While cranberry juice is the best choice for bladder infections, you can find antibacterial properties in other manose containing foods, like blackcurrants, redcurrants, tomatoes, turnips, peppers, and green beans.
While n-acetylgalactosamine is an essential glyconutrient, there is not much known about it. The limited research conducted has demonstrated that it is essential for cellular communication and it inhibits the spread of tumors. It has also been discovered that patients with heart disease have low levels of n-acetylgalactosamine, suggesting it is needed for heart health. Interestingly, there are very few known sources of this glyconutrient. Currently, researchers know it is found in shark and bovine cartilage, as well as the red algae, Dumontiaceae.
N-acetylneuraminicacid is abundant in breast milk, which is due to the fact that it is necessary for brain development as it helps improve memory and performance. It also acts as an immune modulator by affecting the viscosity of mucus, which repels bacteria, viruses, and pathogens. N-acetylneuraminicacid decreases as you age, which might suggest that it is not as essential for adults as it is for growing babies.
Found abundantly in shiitake mushrooms, n-acetylglucosamine helps alleviate the inflammation associated with arthritis. It also helps decrease the cartilage damage that can occur as a result of arthritis. The anti-inflammatory actions of this glyconutrient are not just limited to arthritis; they also help relieve inflammation that occurs in inflammatory bowel disease. Another disease that can be treated with n-acetylglucosamine is Multiple Sclerosis, MS. MS is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the nervous system. N-acetylglucosamine decreases the autoimmune response that results in the nervous system being attacked.
In discussing sugars your body needs, you can see that I am not talking about the sugars found in table sugar, rather, the essential glyconutrients that keep your body healthy are found mostly in fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating fresh produce will help your body get the glyconutrients it needs to function properly. Were surprised to learn there are sugars your body actually needs?