Digestive enzymes are responsible for helping break down molecules like proteins, carbs, and fat so your body can absorb them and harness these vital nutrients. The three primary types of digestive enzymes are:
Let’s take a look at the high-enzyme food you can eat to boost health and vitality.
Pineapples aren’t just delicious tropical fruit with a sweet and pleasing taste, but they contain an abundance of digestive enzymes. Pineapples feature a type of digestive enzyme called bromelain, which are in foods with proteolytic enzymes. These are food enzymes that break down proteins into building blocks like amino acids to aid in protein absorption and overall digestion.
Bananas are delicious fruits that contain high levels of natural enzymes. They contain glucosidases and amylases, two categories of enzymes break down complex carbohydrates such as starch into smaller sugars that your body can absorb with greater ease.
The enzymes in bananas start to break down starch into sugars as soon as the fruit beings to ripen. That’s why yellow, ripe bananas have a considerably sweeter taste than unripened green ones do.
In addition to their notable enzyme profile, bananas are an excellent source of fiber that can also boost digestive health.
Another tropical favorite, mango is a popular summer fruit that packs quite a punch in terms of digestive enzymes. Like bananas, mangos also contain amylases, the family of enzymes that breaks down complex carbohydrates into sugars.
Similarly, the riper the mango is, the more active the amylase enzymes within are — which is why mangos are sweeter as they continue to ripen. Your body also produces amylase enzymes in the salivary glands and pancreas. These are responsible for breaking carbohydrates down for easy absorption.
As a side note, this is why many doctors, health and wellness experts recommended chewing your food slowly and thoroughly before you swallow. The amylase enzymes contained in your saliva break the carbs down for enhanced absorption and better digestion.
Avocados are a superfood different from other fruits as they contain high levels of healthy fats while remaining low in sugar. Avocados contain a type of digestive enzyme called lipase, which helps your body process fat molecules and break them down into smaller ones. Your body absorbs smaller molecules such as glycerol and fatty acids more easily.
Fermented foods with digestive enzymes contain significant amounts of enzymes. Kefir is made when you add kefir grains (comprised of lactic acid, yeast, and acetic bacteria cultures) to milk. During the process of fermentation, the bacteria break down the natural sugars in the milk and converts them into carbon dioxide and organic acids.
As a result, this not only produces friendly bacteria but adds enzymes and other nutrients. Kefir contains a range of digestive enzymes, such as proteolytic enzymes in food, lactase, and lipase. Lactase can also help you digest lactose, a milk sugar that many people are intolerant to.
A spicy side dish originating in Korea, kimchi is a probiotic vegetable dish that developes healthy bacteria and enzymes during its fermentation process. Kimchi with enzymes also contains Bacillus bacteria, which creates lipases, proteases, and amylase enzymes. These enzymes help you digest carbs, fats, and proteins.
Besides its benefits for your digestion, foods high in enzymes such as kimchi could also lower your cholesterol and reduce risk factors for heart disease.
Another one of the top foods with enzymes, sauerkraut is fermented cabbage with a potent taste. During the fermentation process, digestive enzymes form, so eating sauerkraut is a fantastic way to boost your digestive enzyme intake. Besides digestive enzymes, sauerkraut is an essential probiotic food with friendly gut bacteria that also enhances your immune system, digestive health, and may even reduce or prevent acne.
When you choose sauerkraut, be sure to opt for unpasteurized or raw products instead of cooked. Cooked sauerkraut heated to high temperatures could negate any digestive enzymes it contains.
A popular Japanese seasoning, Miso is made from fermented soybeans combined with a fungus called koji and salt. Koji is an ingredient high in digestive enzymes containing a different profile of enzymes, including proteases, lipases, lactases, and amylases. Miso may also alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms stemming from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Fermented soybeans are high enzyme foods with higher nutritional content because the fermentation process reduces the antinutrients. Antinutrients are a kind of compound naturally occurring in foods that could bind and prevent nutrient absorption.
Tempeh is an enzymatic food that is also an excellent source of protein and fiber. If you have trouble digesting high-protein, plant-based foods such as tofu or beans, tempeh could be an excellent option to try. During the process of fermentation, the soybeans soften, as the mold produced enzymes that predigest a considerable portion of the nutrients within.
The molds that the tempeh ferments in generating enzyme phytase that breaks down the phytates and heightens mineral absorption of calcium, iron, zinc, and other essential nutrients. Fermentation also lowers the oligosaccharides that could make the beans difficult for some people to digest.
Foods rich in healthy digestive enzymes run the gamut from sweet and savory fruits to tangy probiotic sides and garnishes. Infuse your favorite meals and snacks with these high-enzyme foods by exploring our recipes and read our lifestyle posts for the latest health, wellness, and nutrition tips.
Teami Blends - Co-Founder + CEO
Certified Nutrition Health Coach