Enzymes play an essential role in the digestion of the foods. Enzymes are made up of proteins that help with many events within the body, including the breakdown of nutrients for absorption. Some enzymes are made within the body for use during these processes, others come from foods. Some fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of enzymes. These enzymes can also help to prevent diseases.
Pineapple is high in the enzyme bromelain. Although not generally consumed, the stem of the pineapple contains the highest amount of bromelain. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, bromelain helps reduce inflammation from infection and injuries. Bromelain may also be useful for treating tendinitis, sprains, strains and other types of muscle injuries. The University of Maryland notes that several studies have concluded other possible benefits of bromelain, including treatment for sinusitis and indigestion.
Unripened papaya contains the enzyme papain. Papain helps break down proteins into smaller units, called amino acids. The body uses the amino acids for many basic functions. Papain enzymes are useful for treating bedsores, skin ulcers and wounds from surgery according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. They may also promote wound healing from burns. This enzyme is available in pill or powder form over the counter. Before using any supplement, discuss it with a doctor.
Asparagus contains glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme the body uses to create antioxidants, which are used to combat cancer-causing agents. To get the most benefit from glutathione peroxidase, eat asparagus raw, as the cooking process destroys much of the glutathione peroxidase. Asparagus is also high in folic acid and other vitamins and minerals.
Raw Fruits and Vegetables
Many raw fruits and vegetables are naturally abundant in digestive enzymes. Because many enzymes are destroyed when heated above 115 degrees F, it's better to eat raw fruits and vegetables for the maximum benefit. Generally, the enzymes they contain are most beneficial for digesting the nutrients within that particular food, but are also necessary for the entire digestive process. While all fruits and vegetables contain enzymes, those considered to contain the highest amounts in raw form include apples, avocados, carrots, grapefruit, spinach and tomatoes.
While it may be tempting to head to a health food store to buy a variety of enzymes in supplement form, it is important to remember the numerous other benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables. Lowering your cholesterol level, decreasing your weight and increasing your overall nutritional status are all important reasons for adding fruits and vegetables to your diet. Before starting any supplement program, it is crucial to speak to a medical professional to ensure the supplement does not interfere with any other medication you may be taking and to discuss the possible side effects.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Bromelain
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Papain
- "Enzymes for Digestive Health and Nutritional Wealth: The Practical Guide for Digestive Enzymes"; Karen Defelice; 2003
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fruit and Vegetable Benefits
- University of California: The Raw vs. The Cooked