Why do we need digestive enzymes?
Your digestive system is made up of many organs. In other words, it takes a lot of teamwork to break down the food & liquids you consume into proteins, carbohydrates, fats & vitamins. Once they are broken down, they are then transported across the small intestine & into your bloodstream for energy, growth & repair.
OK but what about the digestive enzymes? It is the digestive enzymes that break down the molecules like fats, proteins & carbohydrates into smaller, easier to absorb molecules. That is pretty simplistic & there is a lot more that could be said about digestive enzymes – but as you know I’m all about the food!
With this in mind, eating foods which are high in naturally occurring enzymes will help with digestion. Sounds great right, so here are some enzyme rich foods to include in your diet.
Raw honey is a powerhouse of digestive enzymes, not to mention just plain delicious! Make sure you are buying raw honey if you want the digestive benefits. Often processed honey has been heated & the high heat can destroy any digestive enzymes.
If you haven’t heard of sauerkraut, it is a German dish of fermented cabbage with a distinct sour taste. It is the fermentation process which adds the digestive enzymes; plus, it has a hit of probiotics which are beneficial to a healthy gut. Yup you can improve gut health & immune at the same time – winning! Again, go for raw or unpasteurised sauerkraut, as any high temperatures deactivate the good stuff.
From Korea this is another fermented dish, although this one is vegetable based. Similar to sauerkraut, it also contains probiotics which are beneficial to your gut health. Yup, another multi-tasker.
Another fermented favourite but this time from Japan. It is the fungus (koji) which is added during the fermenting process which adds the variety of digestive enzymes. It is believed miso not only improves digestion but also assists with absorption of nutrients – yup, it is a doubly good for you.
These little beauties are high in healthy fats, & contain an enzyme which helps digest the fat molecules so the body can absorb it better. Interestingly they contain other enzymes as well which are responsible for the cut fruit browning after exposure to oxygen.
A delicious tropical fruit which is rich in digestive enzymes, particularly bromelain.
Another tropical fruit, particularly good at assisting with the digestion of proteins. Papayas are known for papain. The secret for this one is to have it ripe & uncooked, as the cooking heat will destroy the digestive enzymes.
Similar to papaya, it is great for digestion, especially helping with digestion of protein.
My favourite summer fruit! Mangoes become softer & sweeter as they ripen, which is due to their enzymes which break down carbohydrates from starch (which is a complex carb) into sugars.
Similar to mangoes, the enzymes in bananas break down starches into sugars as the bananas ripen. As well as their enzymes they are also a great source of dietary fibre.
This little gem has been used in cooking & traditional medicine for thousands of years. It is particularly good at breaking down proteins & helps food move faster through the stomach by promoting contractions (moving the food bolus).
Try adding some of these to your diet. It will help to promote digestion & better gut health, which is a good thing.
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