Food Enzymes

While the body manufactures a supply of enzymes, it can, and should, obtain enzymes from food. In fact, the body's ability to manufacture enzymes is being seriously taxed by our diet of processed and highly cooked food. Unfortunately, enzymes are extremely sensitive to heat. Low to moderate heat (118 degrees F or higher) destroys most enzymes in food. To obtain enzymes from the diet, you must eat raw foods. Eating raw foods, or alternatively, taking enzymes from supplements, helps prevent depletion of the body's own enzymes and thus reduces the stress on the body.

Proteolytic Enzymes

Enzymes can be found naturally in many foods. Avocados, paneapples, papaya, bananas, and mangos are all high in enzymes. Sprouts are the richest source. The enzymes extracted from papaya and pineapple, papain and bromelain, are proteolytic enzymes, which break down proteins. MAny fat-containing foods also contain lipase, which breaks down fats. Pancreatic lipase digests fat in highly alkaline environment (the intestines) whereas lipase found in food fats works in a more acidic environment (the stomach). The optimal extraction of nutrients from fats depends on the work of different fat-digesting enzymes in successive stages1.

Home grown sprouts
Sprouts are rich in natural enzymes

Enzymes In Food Processing

There is not a single food system that does not involve enzyme reactions. In many processes, a cascade of complex enzyme-mediated reactions is in operation. However, there are relatively few enzymes utilized in food processing. The following is a list of important industrial food enzymes and their applications.

  1. α-Amylase
    • Conversion of starch to dextrins in the production of corn syrup.
    • Supplement to flour types low in α-amylase to ensure a continuous supply of fermentable sugar for yeast growth and gas production in dough making.
    • Solubilization of adjuncts (nonmalt carbohydrate materials from barley and other cereal grains) used in brewing.
  2. Glucoamylase
    • Conversion of dextrins to glucose (saccharification) in the production of corn syrup.
    • Conversion of residual dextrins to fermentable sugar in brewing for the production of "light" beer.
    • Β-Amylase
      • Production of high-maltose corn syrup.
  3. Xylose (glucose) isomerase
    • Isomerization of glucose to fructose in the production of high-fructose corn syrup.
  4. Β-Glucanase
    • Breakdown of Β-glucans in malt and other raw materials to aid filtration of wort after mashing in brewing.
  5. Lipase
    • Enhancing flavor development and shortening of the time for cheese ripening.
    • Production of specialty fats with improved qualities.
    • Production of enzyme-modified cheese/butter from cheese curd or butterfat.
  6. Papain
    • Used as meat tenderizer.
    • Used in brewing to prevent chill-haze formation y digesting the proteins that can otherwise react with tannic substances to form insoluble colloid particles.
  7. Chymosin
    • Curding of milk by specific proteolytic action on caseins in cheese making.
  8. Microbial Proteases
    • Processing of raw plant and animal proteins. Production of fish meals, meat extracts, texturized proteins, and meat extenders.
  9. Pectinase
    • Treatment of fruit pulp to facilitate juice extraction and for clarification and filtration of juice.
  10. Lactase

    • Additive for dairy products for individuals lacking lactase.
    • Breakdown of lactose in whey products for manufacturing pulylactide.
  11. Acetolactate decarboxylase
    • reduce maturation time in wine making by converting acetolactate to acetoin. In the absence of the enzyme, acetolactate is oxidized to diacetyl that requires a secondary fermentation to reduce it to acetoin.
  12. Lysozyme
    • Antimicrobial preservative
  13. Glucose oxidase
    • Conversion of glucose to gluconic acid to prevent Maillard reaction in egg products caused by high heating used in dehydration.
    • Potential use to remove oxygen in food packaging for protection against oxidative deterioration.
  14. Cellulases
    • Conversion of cellulose wastes to fermentable feedstock for ethanol or single-cell protein production2.


  1. Prescription for nutritional healing. Phyllis A. Balch
  2. Food enzymes: structure and mechanism. Dominic W. S. Wong



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