(June 30, GUEST COLUMN)

Lycopene, calcium, selenium, phytonutrient, flavonoid – the list goes on.

Produce marketers justifiably use the nutrient content of fresh fruits and vegetables to their advantage, especially when they’re given the green light to make a health claim.

Many produce companies, however, have left out from marketing efforts one of the best reasons to eat fresh produce.

In an apple, there are enough reasons to digest the whole fruit. In an orange, too. A salad, as well.

In fact, every piece of uncooked fresh produce has a distinct advantage over processed fruits and vegetables, meats, grains and pasteurized dairy.

Raw produce not only provides essential vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, it also contains food enzymes, which are necessary for our bodies to properly digest and absorb everything that makes fruits and vegetables so good for health.

The four most common digestive enzymes are amylase for carbs, cellulase for plant fiber, lipase for fats and protease for protein. However, there are only two ways in which we can ensure they’re in our diets.

One, we can eat raw foods such as produce, uncooked fish or unpasteurized dairy, or two, we can get them through enzyme supplements.

But why promote the enzyme advantages of fresh produce when our digestive systems already seem to take care of cooked and processed foods? Why do natural food enzymes matter in our diets?

To start, Dr. Edward Howell, who pioneered the use of enzyme supplements to improve digestion and overall health, said the length of life is in direct proportion to the “enzyme potential” of an organism. In other words, once your ability to produce enzymes is finished, so are you.

In fact, the enzymes in fresh produce can help us live more healthful lives.

First, enzymes are essential for digestion. When food is broken down properly, digestive complications such as indigestion, heartburn and reflux can often be relieved or eliminated. Also, when digestion is supported, studies have shown that more serious health problems — in particular, allergies and immune disorders — are less likely to develop.

Natural food enzymes help our bodies better assimilate the lycopene, calcium and other nutrients that come from fresh produce and other foods. And because food enzymes take some of the workload off the pancreas, the organ that produces digestive enzymes, the body is able to devote more energy toward immune function and overall health.

One fresh produce company, Chiquita Brands International LLC, Cincinnati, is using the bromelain enzyme content of pineapple in its marketing efforts. Bromelain improves digestion and helps relieve symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders, as well as reduces inflammation, supports joint health and speeds healing.

Like Chiquita, other produce companies – no matter what type of products they ship – could add information about enzyme content to boxes, bags or stickers. Marketing materials could emphasize that food enzymes found in fresh produce can aid in digestion, increase energy and help the body maximize nutrient absorption.

Bryan Scribner is marketing coordinator for Enzymes Inc., Parkville, Mo. He worked for The Packer from 2003-06, most recently as news editor. E-mail bscribner@enzymesinc.com.

Enzyme content of fresh produce could be marketed
Bryan Scribner
Enzymes Inc.