What are enzymes and how do they benefit the body? They are biological catalysts that accelerate certain chemical reactions in the body. Think of an apple that starts to turn brown from air exposure. Well, that is because enzymes in the apple react to the oxygen present in the room. There are other enzymes that are particularly beneficial for digestive health, breaking down the food you eat and aiding nutrient absorption.
You can obtain enzymes from a variety of sources, including supplements and foods. Nutritionists encourage people to consume foods that are rich in digestive enzymes as they optimize digestive health. Of the many enzymes in existence, there are three primary types of digestive enzymes, which work to break down macronutrients:
- Amylases work to break down starches, which provide most of the energy that the body uses.
- Proteases help the body break down proteins, contributing to the repair and growth of bodily tissues.
- Lipases help the body digest fats and break down triglycerides into fatty acids and glycerol.
You can obtain most digestive enzymes from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and many other foods. Continue reading to learn about great foods that are rich in digestive enzymes.
You may or may not be familiar with papain, a protease enzyme that aids protein digestion. Initial research indicates that papain may relieve heartburn and treat symptoms such as bloating and constipation. Although papain is available in supplement form, you can easily obtain it by eating some papaya cubes. Just make sure that you don’t eat too much.
Similar to honey, bananas contain amylase, which works to break down starch into sugars. Amylases are also responsible for sweetening bananas as they ripen, according to a 2016 study. Bananas also contain maltase, which breaks down malt sugars, food starches, and absorbable glucose. Research indicates that green bananas seem to be the most beneficial sources of digestive enzymes. Although some cereals contain small amounts of maltase, bananas are better and more nutritious whole-food options.
A 2016 review found that avocados are great sources of lipase. As stated earlier, lipase works to break down fats into smaller fatty acids, which the body can absorb more easily. The pancreas makes lipase, however, eating avocados can support digestion in other ways, as they are high in healthy fats and fiber.
If you love garlic, you are in luck! Keep the vampires and bloating at bay because garlic is rich in alliinase, which researchers have linked to lower blood pressure levels. Not only does that make alliinase a great enzyme for digestive health, but also for people at risk for heart problems.
Pineapple contains bromelain, a protease that works to break down proteins during the digestive process. Bromelain may also reduce sinus and nasal inflammation, and some studies indicate that it aids wound healing and immune function. On top of all that, researchers note that bromelain exhibits antimicrobial properties, which have proven to fight Candida albicans, a bacteria that may cause fungal infections.
Studies show that honey is one of the most potent enzymatic foods in existence. Raw organic honey contains diastase, amylase, glucose oxidase, alpha-glucosidase, and invertase. Similar to amylase, diastase works to break down starch by turning it into sugars. More research is necessary regarding the amount of honey you should consume for optimal digestive health.
Kimchi, among other fermented foods, is great for the digestive system. It is a great source of lipase, protease, and amylase, all of which form during the fermentation process. Not only does that enhance the nutritional value of kimchi, but it also works to optimize digestive health.