Our digestive system is much more complex than most think - different organs need to work together to make sure that the food and drink we consume is broken down into components that can be absorbed by the body and then passed into the bloodstream to provide us with energy. The "small cogs" that drive this process are enzymes, which are responsible for breaking down food molecules into components that can be digested.
If your body can’t produce enzymes or you do not consume enough of them in your diet, the food you eat will not be able to properly break down and you may suffer from various disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and intolerance to various foods. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you go over this list of 11 foods that will provide your body with the enzymes it needs in the most delicious way possible.
This yellow and sweet tropical fruit is rich in excellent digestive enzymes, most important of which is bromelain, which is abundant in pineapple. This enzyme helps the body break up protein into its primary components, including amino acids, which help digest and absorb this important material in our body. In a 2008 study of people with pancreatic failure - a medical condition in which the pancreas doesn’t produce enough digestive enzymes - it was found that consumption of bromelain by eating pineapples, for example, along with dietary supplements containing pancreatic enzymes, significantly improved digestion.
Papaya is another tropical fruit that is rich in useful digestive enzymes. Like pineapple, papaya also contains a group of enzymes that help digest proteins called papain. In a study conducted in 2013, it was found that taking a formula improves the digestion process and eases the common side effects of irritable bowel syndrome, such as constipation and swelling. Note that if you want to make the most of the enzymes found in papaya, make sure you eat it ripe and not cooked since exposure to heat can greatly reduce its enzyme content. Also note that eating unripe papaya may be dangerous for pregnant women, as it can cause contractions.
Did you know? Americans consume about 1.3 pounds of honey per person annually. This natural and sweet food is a rich source of many elements that are very beneficial to the body, among them of course, various digestive enzymes such as:
If you want to eat honey to take advantage of its digestive benefits, make sure you buy pure honey since processed honey is often heated - and at high-temperatures digestive enzymes are destroyed.
This may be surprising to you, but avocado is a fruit and not a vegetable as many people think, although unlike other fruits, avocado is high in fat and very low in sugar. The avocado also contains digestive enzymes called lipase, which help digest fat molecules and dissolve them into smaller molecules such as fatty acids and glycerol, making it easier for the body to absorb them. In addition, lipase enzymes contribute to the maintenance of pancreatic function, and given all these advantages, we are sure that you won’t want to miss an opportunity to eat this tasty green fruit.
Not everyone knows this excellent milk drink which originated in the Caucasus Mountains, but it has many surprising health benefits, some of which exist thanks to the many enzymes it contains. The process of making kefir, in which milk is added to a mixture of yeast and friendly bacteria, enriches the beverage with a variety of healthy nutrients and important digestive enzymes such as lipase and protease. Another enzyme found in kefir is lactase, which helps absorb lactose - the same sugar that is found in milk and is barely digested in the body. A study at Ohio State University found that kefir consumption improves lactose digestion in those who have an intolerance to it.
Bananas are another food packed with natural and positive digestive enzymes that will help your body. Bananas contain enzymes such as amylase and glucosidase, which help dissolve complex carbohydrates, such as starch, into smaller components and sugars that the body absorbs easily. In addition, bananas are also an excellent source of fiber which can greatly improve your digestive system. In a study conducted in 2011, women who ate 2 bananas a day were significantly less likely to experience swelling and abdominal pain.
You can add mango to the list of healthy tropical fruits full of digestive enzymes. Like the banana and a number of other foods mentioned above, mangoes also contain amylase enzymes that play a role in the process of breaking down carbohydrates into sugars, improving their absorption by the body and providing us with quite a bit of energy. To take full advantage of them, try to chew the mango well before swallowing it because the amylase enzymes present in our saliva are added to those of the mango significantly improving the digestion process.
This time it’s not just another exotic fruit, but rather a Korean food made from pickled, fermented vegetables. Like kefir mentioned earlier, Kimchi's preparation process also leads to the development of friendly bacteria that provide a variety of components with many health benefits. The enzyme content in Kimchi includes proteases, lipases, and amylase, which improve the digestion and absorption of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, respectively. Kimchi is also particularly effective for lowering cholesterol. A 2013 study of 100 healthy young people found that those who consumed the most kimchi had the lowest levels of cholesterol in their blood.
Ginger has been a very important component of traditional medicine for thousands of years. Some of the medicinal properties and health benefits of ginger are probably found in the many digestive enzymes it contains, such as zingibain, which helps the body break down protein into its building blocks and thus helps absorb it better. In addition, a study conducted at the Central Institute for Food Technology Research in India found that several types of spices, including ginger, of course, help the body self-produce those essential enzymes such as amylase and lipase.
Another exotic and special fruit which is an "Enzyme hothouse" is the Kiwi – green on the inside and furry on the outside. Kiwi contains a plethora of enzymes, the main ones being azetidine, which scientists believe is the reason for it being able to improve digestion. In a study published in 2011, it was found that adding kiwi to one’s diet improves the digestion of gluten, meat, and soy protein. Further studies have found that eating kiwi reduces swelling and helps relieve constipation.
The last item on the list comes from far away Japan - where traditional miso paste, made from fermenting rice, soybeans, salt, and yeast, has been prepared for many years and serves as a basis for soups and other foods. Like several other foods presented, in this case too, it is the yeast that is responsible for the friendly bacteria that raise its nutritional value and load it with beneficial ingredients and many protease and amylase enzymes - which all contribute greatly to the body's ability to digest and absorb foods efficiently. In a study published in 2016, it was found that the content of friendly gastric bacteria in miso could reduce the appearance of symptoms related to digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.
image source: David Niergarth, Alpha