Each person is unique and requires different types of foods!
This can change throughout the seasons and throughout a lifetime, so what you thrived on when you were 20 might not be what you feel your best at when you’re 76. As we age we tend to produce fewer enzymes, this is especially true for those of us that have not always eaten a nutrient-dense diet, have undergone surgery, are under digestive distress, or are suffering from chronic health conditions.
Why are enzymes so important and what do they do?
Enzymes are complex protein molecules that are responsible for virtually every process that goes on in our body. Enzymes are catalysts that transform our food into usable vitamins, proteins, minerals, fats and carbohydrates. They play a vital role in digestion and all life processes! Enzymes assist your body in digesting and absorbing the substances that it needs from your food. They build new cells and repair damaged ones in the blood, tissues, and organs. No vitamin, mineral or hormone can do any work without enzymes. Enzymes help your body digest, build, store, form, dissolve and even attack! There are thousands of known enzymes and more are discovered every year. Enzymes are natural proteins that stimulate and accelerate biological reactions in the body. Many of them are made in the pancreas, break down food and help with the absorption of nutrients into the blood. Enzymes allow one substance to be turned into a different substance and support the pancreas, liver, and immune system’s function.
Your body needs three types of enzymes:
1. Metabolic enzymes keep your body functioning and work at the cellular level at activities such as energy production and detoxification.
Metabolic enzymes are intra-cellular, they are inside your cells, where they help the cell carry out a variety of functions related to its reproduction and replenishment.
2. Digestive enzymes are manufactured by your saliva glands, stomach, pancreas, duodenum and liver, they digest your food and break it down as you eat it.
Digestive enzymes, as their name implies, help you break down food into smaller parts that can be absorbed, transported and utilized by every cell in your body.
Digestive enzymes are extra-cellular, they are found outside your cells.
There are 8 primary digestive enzymes, each helps to break down different types of food:
- Protease: Digests protein
- Amylase: Digests carbohydrates
- Lipase: Digests fats
- Cellulase: Breaksdown fiber
- Lactase: Digests milk sugar (lactose) in dairy products
- Phytase: Helps with overall digestion, especially in producing the B vitamins
- Sucrase: Digests most sugars
- Maltase: Converts complex sugars from grains into glucose
When our bodies produce fewer enzymes, it is essential to reduce inflammation in the body and digestive tract. Digestive enzyme supplementation can be beneficial to properly break down your food.
3. Food enzymes are part of all raw and living fermented foods, they are killed at temperatures higher than 118°F.
Food enzymes are the enzymes we have the most direct control over!
When we choose a healthy diet plan that incorporates high enzymatic activity with living foods, we maximize our levels of nutrient absorption and these foods, in turn, give us more energy. A diet of over-cooked, processed and refined foods, over time, depletes the body’s metabolic and digestive enzymatic potentials. Raw foods are enzymatically alive which means these foods have live enzymes within them to help digest 40 to 60% of that particular food. Cooked and processed foods are enzymatically dead which means there are no live enzymes within that food to help digestion. These dead foods place stress on the digestive system, pancreas, immune system, and your whole body. Lack of food enzymes affects the pancreas. Remember the digestive system is designed to break down approximately half of the food. When we eat cooked and processed foods, we’re asking the digestive system to break down 100% of the food we have eaten. This means every time we eat these foods, the pancreas must produce twice as many enzymes and the pancreas is working double time. Doing this year after year puts a tremendous strain on the pancreas and eventually stresses our immune system and reduces our metabolic enzyme supply.
There are great benefits to including raw food in your diet, however eating 100% raw is not beneficial for all! The state of your digestive system will often determine how much raw food your body can handle and varies greatly from individual to individual.Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut are excellent alternatives for people with gut issues. First, the fermentation process “pre-digests” the vegetables and makes them easier to absorb. Second, fermented veggies contain probiotic microorganisms that help heal the gut. Eating raw foods and juicing as part of a crucial healing period can be amazingly beneficial for some, but not for all!
Balancing some raw and cooked foods in every meal is often less extreme and a good middle ground! Listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel after meals.Raw nuts and seeds and many grains and beans are plant foods that contain enzyme inhibitors that can block enzyme function. Most plant foods develop these inhibitors to form a protective barrier against insects. Nuts and seeds will not break down into their simplest forms during digestion when these enzyme inhibitors are present. Enzyme inhibitors also prevent enzymes from digesting proteins, which can cause a burden on the pancreas. To get the maximum amount of nutrition from your beans, grains, raw nuts and seeds that you consume, you must eliminate these inhibitors prior to eating them by soaking them! They each require a different amount of soaking time to eliminate inhibitors.Raw nuts and seeds are live foods that are likely to sprout or grow if you plant them. By soaking them, you awaken their life force, which will cause these inhibitors to break down, so your body can absorb the live nutrients. Beware of enzyme inhibitors! Your body will thank you for it!
A diet deficient in food enzymes will deplete the digestive enzymes made by our own body. We are actually weakening our own immune system if we eat an enzyme-depleted diet. Other substances that block the way enzymes work their magic are alcohol, caffeine, fluoride, chlorine, chemical additives and pharmaceutical drugs. Enzymes also need co-enzymes to work efficiently. The most important ones are Vitamins E, C, B-complex, magnesium and zinc and CQ-10. Remember that a nutrient-dense diet is always richer in enzymes then a processed food diet! To make a long story short:
Adding more living and enzyme rich foods to your diet can dramatically improve your state of health! Try some of the easy recipes below!
RAW SUMMER AVOCADO GAZPACHO
3 large tomatoes
1 red pepper
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
Blend all ingredients. Garnish with chopped avocado and fresh cilantro.
SUPER SUPPER SALAD
[Makes 2-3 servings]
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 small handful of baby spinach
1 small handful of arugula
1/2 cup red cabbage, chopped
1/2 apple, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 avocado, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 fresh tomato, cut into wedges
SUPER SUPPER DRESSING
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey or stevia liquid
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
Pinch of paprika
1/8 teaspoon Braggs Liquid Amino Acids
Place greens in a large salad bowl. Add all other salad ingredients to the bowl with the greens. Place all the dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake well. Dress salad just before serving and toss well.