If you're plagued with embarrassing bouts of gas, bloating or constipation, adding certain fruits to your diet may help prevent these symptoms. Enjoy a tropical fruit cocktail or a fruit salad as a refreshing dessert or snack and help improve your digestion at the same time. Certain fruits contain natural digestive substances called enzymes that help your body absorb nutrition from the foods you eat. Fruits are also rich in essential fiber, minerals and vitamins that are necessary for healthy digestion, normal bowel function and your overall health.
You may have seen your grandmother use powdered papaya extract as a meat tenderizer before making steaks or a meat stew. Papaya extract helps to soften tough, chewy meat because it contains natural chemicals called enzymes that can break the bonds between proteins. Similarly, eating fresh papaya before or during a meal provides natural plant enzymes that can help your body digest protein-rich foods. Enzymes help to ease and speed up natural reactions and processes in the body. A study published in the journal "Protein Structure and Molecular Enzymology" found that there are three different protein-digesting enzymes in papayas called papain, chymopapain and papaya proteinase. This means that they help to digest foods such as meat and poultry by breaking the bonds between the amino acids that make up the protein.
Pineapple slices add tangy flavor to your roast chicken or pizza, and they can also help digest your meal. Pineapple is another tropical fruit that can ease healthy digestion. Like papaya, it contains a natural fruit enzyme called bromelain, which helps to break down proteins in foods. The University of Maryland Medical Center advises that it is best to eat raw pineapple or drink pineapple juice before or during a meal to get these benefits. Bromelain can help reduce digestive upset, bloating, inflammation, gas and constipation, especially after eating a large meal.
Eating an apple a day may help to keep your digestive tract healthy and improve your overall health. The University of Illinois Extension notes that apples are naturally high in soluble fiber called pectin, which helps to slow digestion, balance blood glucose levels and reduce unhealthy blood cholesterol levels. Eating apples with the peel also gives you insoluble fiber that helps to bulk up waste matter in your intestines and move it out of your body. A medium apple with the peel contains 4 grams of dietary fiber and nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and folate.
If you don't have papayas, pineapple or apples on hand, your digestive health can benefit if you eat other fruits. MayoClinic.com lists fruits that are high in soluble fiber including raspberries, oranges and citrus fruits. Eating a high-fiber diet helps to keep your bowel movements healthy because it bulks up, solidifies and softens waste master. Fiber from fruit and other whole foods may also help lower your risk of digestive tract problems and diseases. The recommended amount of fiber per day is about 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Bromelain
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Papain
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fiber: Essential For a Healthy Diet
- DietandHealth.net: Digestive Supplements
- Protein Structure and Molecular Enzymology: The Proteolytic Activities of Chymopapain, Papain and Papaya Proteinase III
- University of Illinois Extension: Apple Nutrition
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.