7 foods with natural digestive enzymes
A crucial component of our health few of us appreciate is enzymes. At any given moment, there are thousands of enzymes performing specific functions within every cell of our body. Without enzymes, these chemical reactions could not happen. Enzymes are small chemicals, usually proteins that act on other chemicals within cells to speed up body processes, but are not changed during those processes.
Enzymes are the life-force in all living things essentially making our world go round. Every day, enzymes are in charge of regulating tens of thousands of biochemical functions occurring in our body responsible for building, detoxifying, and healing the body.
An instrumental role enzymes play is providing our body with the mechanism by which to digest food and absorb various nutrients. These particular enzymes are referred to as digestive enzymes and are absolutely necessary for breaking down protein, carbohydrates, and fat found in food we eat into progressively smaller components so we can absorb them.
For example, the enzyme lactase is responsible for breaking down the sugar in milk called lactose. People who do not make enough of the enzyme lactase, will have difficulty digesting milk or dairy products which can result in belly bloat and gas. Other digestive enzymes include amylase found in our saliva which breaks down carbohydrates, protease (notice most enzymes end in “ase”) which breaks down protein into amino acids, and lipase which breaks down fat into absorbable components.
List of enzyme-rich foods
Besides the enzymes found naturally within our body, certain foods contain enzymes providing a helping hand and an extra boost improving digestion. This means less tummy troubles while blasting belly bloat triggering our body’s metabolism to function more efficiently.
Here is a list of foods rich in digestive enzymes to take advantage of:
Pineapples are special. They contain a compound called bromelain, a mixture of enzymes found only in this tropical fruit. Bromelain helps digest protein and research has shown bromelain may have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties as well. Find ways to add pineapple frequently into your diet – add ½ cup of pineapple to a smoothie, add fresh pineapple chunks to salads, or cook with meats such as pork.
Another good food source of natural enzymes is avocados. Avocados contain lipase, an enzyme necessary for the metabolism and digestion of fat. There are several ways to add avocados to your daily diet such as topping salads with cubes pieces, add to smoothies, or spread a soft, ripe avocado in place of butter on your toast.
Bananas are known for being a fabulous source of potassium, but also know they are a good source of the enzymes amylase and maltase. Amylase is one of the primary enzymes helping breakdown carbohydrates found in foods like bread, potatoes, and cereals. Maltase breaks down maltose also called malt sugar found in carbohydrate foods. Bananas are quite versatile – they can be used as a topping for cereal or oatmeal, baked into bread, used in place of jelly on a peanut butter sandwich or blended into a smoothie.
An enzyme found in this mildly sweet fruit is papain that works to break down proteins into their most basic form to be used throughout the body. To make the most of the enzymes papaya provide, have a healthy snack composed of freshly squeezed lime juice over papaya chunks with a handful of walnuts or almonds.
An enzyme called invertase is found naturally in the enzyme-rich fruit of apricots. Invertase breaks down the carbohydrate sucrose into fructose and glucose units helping your body use these rapidly absorbed sugars for quick energy. This same enzyme is also an antioxidant with free radical-scavenging activities. Enjoy fresh or dried apricots regularly.
Besides tasting wonderful, mangos also contain an important enzyme called amylase. When you buy a mango at the store and bring it home, after a few days it will begin to soften. This is due to the enzymatic action of amylase which promotes ripening. Amylase is also a digestive enzyme helping break down starches into smaller molecules making it easier for our body to digest and absorb them. Mangos can be sliced or chunked to be eaten alone or top a green salad with them for a healthy splash of color.
Excellent sources of enzymes along with probiotics improving the digestion of your food are found in fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut. The fermentation process used to make sauerkraut was developed centuries ago as a means of preserving vegetables for a food supply during long winter months. To ensure that the cabbage used to make sauerkraut has been fermented and not pickled, read the ingredient list and buy sauerkraut made with water and salt and not vinegar. Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut can be eaten as is or they make a great side dish with any meal.