Enzymes are protein molecules that act as catalysts to carry out multiple metabolic activities. Complex molecules like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are broken down by the enzymes into simpler substances that can be excreted by the body easily. The digestive enzymes present in our body are also to be found in vegetables and fruits, and they are known as natural digestive enzymes. Consumption of these food items assists the digestive system of our body.
Types of Enzymes
The benefits of digestive enzymes are mainly associated with metabolic activities. They are broadly categorized into three groups as mentioned below:
- Proteolytic Enzymes: Protease helps to break down proteins into amino acids.
- Amylolytic Enzymes: The enzyme amylase helps to degrade carbohydrate and starch molecules into simple sugars.
- Lipolytic Enzymes: The enzyme lipase helps in degradation of fat molecules into fatty acids and glycerol.
- Acid Proteases
Natural Sources of Enzymes
Vegetables and fruits that contain digestive enzymes must form a part of regular diet. When consumed with other foods, they catalyze the digestion process. They are as powerful as chemical tablets or syrups containing digestive enzymes. Therefore, increased intake of these substances helps in maintaining normal metabolic activity of the body. People who suffer from health disorders can increase the intake of following foods as they are rich in these enzymes:
It is a natural source of the protease papain. Papain is also known as a cleansing enzyme as it improves the skin texture. It is found abundantly in the latex of papaya tree. But, as the latex is toxic, it is extracted by industrial process and is commercially sold as tablets. It is a digestive aid tablet that helps break down a protein-rich meal. However, eating too much papaya elevates the level of papain in body, which can lead to indigestion, nausea, bloating, and diarrhea
The protease present in this fruit is known as actinidin, an enzyme that helps in the digestion of protein-rich foods. The activity of actinidin is similar to that of bromelain and papain enzymes, in that it acts as a catalyst in protein digestion. Some people might have an allergic reaction to it though, and it is not advisable to consume this fruit if you are sensitive to actinidin. It can also cause diarrhea and nausea.
Pineapple is a great source of enzyme bromelain. It is a protease that helps in the breakdown of protein molecules. Fresh pineapple pulp is a natural source of this enzyme. However, herbal companies that sell this product perform extraction of enzymes from pineapple parts and sell them as tablets or pills. Many organic food stores supply pineapple products containing bromelain to cure arthritis. It also acts as an antioxidant for the body.