Digestive enzymes are a vital part of the digestion process – but did you know there are a few ways to get these enzymes from the foods we put on our plates? Give your digestion a leg up with these 6 tasty foods which pack a good dose of these gut and pancreas-boosting enzymes.
Digestive enzymes are naturally occurring in our bodies, aiding the process of breaking down food in order to ensure we get those essential nutrients where they need to go. For instance, amylase helps us break down complex carbohydrates, protease helps us break down proteins, and lipase helps us break down fats. But if our bodies aren’t making enough of these enzymes on their own, our digestion is inhibited and we can end up with a range of uncomfortable symptoms, from gas and bloating to constipation and diarrhoea. Luckily, we can actually eat these enzymes! Let’s take a look at some of the foods loaded with these digestive enzymes to give our digestion a boost.
Ever heard that when you eat pineapple, it eats you back? Well, it’s true – the enzyme known for that tingling, stinging feeling you get after eating too much pineapple is called bromelain. While you probably won’t want to overdo it on this stuff – unless you enjoy the pain! – a serve of pineapple is rich in digestive enzymes known as proteases. These break down proteins and help us make use of them, in fact, bromelain does this so well that it’s even sold on its own for use as a meat tenderiser. Research shows that this enzyme significantly improved digestion in those with pancreatic insufficiency. All the more reason to kick back with a piña colada!
Avocados are a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats, but they also happen to be packed with lipase, a digestive enzyme which helps our bodies break down and digest fats. Lipase is produced in the pancreas, so we don’t necessarily need to get it from our diet, but it can help to make our digestive system’s job that much easier – and avocados are just the place to get it. Plus, they also have other enzymes like polyphenol oxidase – this is the stuff that makes avocados turn brown.
Kefir is a gut-boosting fermented milk drink which is known for its probiotic content, but it also happens to be loaded with digestive enzymes like lipase, lactase and proteases. Lactase, for instance, is known for boosting our digestion of lactose in milk products – one that many of us struggle to digest on our own. Research found that kefir significantly improved the digestive process of lactose in those with an intolerance to it. Researchers believe it’s the fermentation process that results in bacteria digesting the lactose in the milk, along with aiding the growth of good bacteria, nutrients and digestive enzymes. Other fermented foods also pack a good dose of digestive enzymes, so consider adding some of the following to your plate:
Kiwi fruit is packed with digestive enzymes, and it’s especially rich in proteases like actinidain – these aid with the digestion of proteins. Research shows that kiwi fruit helps the digestion of meat products like beef, along with soy and gluten – and it’s the actinidain researchers hold responsible for these benefits. Another study found that meat moved through the stomach faster with the addition of kiwi fruit, reducing the likelihood of bloating and constipation.
Apart from being a powerhouse of antiviral and antibacterial properties, ginger is also loaded with digestive enzymes to make the digestive process that much easier. One such enzyme is known as zingibain, which helps us digest and make use of proteins. Plus, ginger has been found to promote healthy digestion – including the prevention of constipation – by helping food move though our stomach instead of sitting there too long. More impressive yet, research shows ginger helps promote the body’s production of digestive enzymes, leaving a knock-on effect for our digestion and nutritional absorption.
Papaya, like pineapple, is loaded with digestive enzymes known as proteases – these help us break down proteins in food. But here’s where papaya differs – it has a particular type protease known as papain. Research shows papaya may reduce constipation and bloating in those with IBS.
Note: If you’re looking to reap the benefits of the digestive enzymes in papaya, make sure you don’t heat the fruit, as this can destroy these enzymes.
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