Your digestive system is composed of a group of organs working together to help break down the food you eat into nutrients that your body uses for energy. Foods are broken down into proteins, fats, and carbohydrates before being released into your bloodstream to help your body grow and repair itself. The way food is broken down is by enzymes that each adheres to certain molecules to break them down further into something the body can handle. Protease is specifically engineered to break proteins down into amino acids, lipases break down fat, and amylases break down carbohydrates into the body’s main source of energy, glucose (and maltose). If a body is lacking any of these digestive enzymes, the corresponding nutrient can’t be broken down or properly digested. For example, someone who is lacking in lactase might have trouble digesting dairy, which leads to lactose intolerance. For this reason, choosing foods that naturally contain digestive enzymes can help enhance the digestive process.
Pineapple and papaya have long been touted as great food options for people who have trouble digesting protein. Pineapple contains bromelain, a type of protease. Papaya contains papain. People also use powdered bromelain and papain as a weight supplement and as a meat tenderizer for this very reason. Papaya has an added advantage because people have found it eases the symptoms of IBS-related illnesses, such as constipation or bloating.
For breaking down carbohydrates, mangoes are a great option. The amylase enzymes in mangoes work together with the body to break down carbohydrates into simple sugars. One of the reasons it is recommended to always chew food properly is because saliva also contains amylase and the digestion process starts before swallowing. Chewing food slowly makes digestion and absorption easier.
Another widely popular food is honey. In its raw form, it contains a variety of enzymes that can aid in digestion and break down a variety of nutrients. Proteases break down proteins into amino acids, and the rest focuses on carbohydrates, with diastases breaking down starch into maltose, invertases breaking down sucrose into glucose and fructose, and amylases breaking down starch into glucose and maltose.
Bananas are another fruit that contain digestive enzymes of their own. Amylase and glucosidase work together to break down starch into smaller and more easily digested sugars.