Several natural polysaccharides are used in processed foods for their functional properties. These natural polysaccharides include starches from several sources, guar and locust bean galactomannans, alginic acid and carra-geenan from seaweed, and xanthan gum. Polysaccharides are also modified physically and chemically to enhance their functionality (Table 1-3). Starch and cellulose are alkylated or esterified to convert a veiy small proportion of the hydroxyls into ethers or esters for increased solubility. Starches are also subjected to partial acid or enzymatic hydrolysis, resulting in starch dextrins and maltodextrins with improved solubility Starch dextrins also are produced by a process that promotes alteration of the structure, including new linkages, increased branching, and some decrease in size. Maltodextrins are much smaller, in the oligosaccharide range, but without other structural alterations. For most modified starch products the enhanced solubility should lead to faster digestion by a-amylases. The high-amylose starches are an exception, because they tend to be more crystalline and less readily digested. In general, the modified starches are digestible and caloric, whereas the other polysaccharides added to foods contribute to dietary fiber.
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