Foods With Naturally Occurring Digestive Enzymes

You know eating right is good for your health, but without digestive enzymes you wouldn't be able to get all the good stuff food has to offer. While your body is able to produce all the enzymes you need to digest carbs, protein and fat, you can also get some digestive enzymes from the food you eat, including pineapple, papaya, mango and honey.

Two pineapples on a wooden table. (Image: whitetag/iStock/Getty Images)

Bromelain in Pineapple

If you've experienced the mouth burn after eating too much pineapple, then you've been introduced to the effects of bromelain. This proteolytic enzyme, which helps digest protein, is found primarily in the stem of the pineapple and its juice. While bromelain may be effective at helping you digest protein, it is also used as a treatment for a number of ailments, including inflammation, arthritis pain, hay fever and ulcerative colitis, and as a debridement for burn wounds. But there is insufficient evidence to support the health claims of bromelain, according to MedlinePlus.

Papain in Papaya

Like bromelain, papain in papaya is also a protein-digesting enzyme. It is most often used as a meat tenderizer. Meats that are tough are often the ones that do the most work, such as meats from the shoulder or hip of a cow. These meats contain strong fibers that make them difficult to cut. Papain works by cleaving the protein chains that hold these fibers together, which tenderizes the meat.

Amylase in Mango

If you purchase a hard mango at the grocery store and let it sit out on the counter, you'll notice that it starts to soften after a few days. This is due to the enzymatic actions within the fruit that promote ripening. Amylase is one of a number of enzymes that assist with ripening mangoes. Amylase is a digestive enzyme that helps break down starches into a two-sugar molecule, also known as a disaccharide, called maltose.

Multiple Enzymes in Honey

The enzymes found in honey are actually introduced by the bee that makes the honey. Honey contains enzymes that digest both protein and carbohydrates and include amylase, sucrase and proteases. Sucrase is an enzyme that helps break down sucrose, which is the sugar found in table sugar, into glucose. Your body uses glucose as a source of energy. Protease refers to the group of enzymes that break down proteins into amino acids.

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