Enzymes are complex proteins that act as catalysts in almost every biochemical process that takes place in the body. Their activity depends on the presence of adequate levels of vitamins and minerals, particularly magnesium. An enzyme-deficient diet has been found to over-work the pancreas and lead to illness and a shortened lifespan.
There are three classifications of enzymes:
- Metabolic enzymes - these play a role in all bodily processes like breathing, talking, movement and maintenance of the immune system. They also help to neutralize poisons and carcinogens, changing them into less toxic forms which the body can then eliminate.
- Digestive enzymes - these help to break down the bulk of partially-digested food leaving the stomach and are manufactured in the pancreas.
- Food enzymes - these are found in large quantities in many raw foods, and initiate the process of digestion in the stomach and mouth. Food enzymes include proteases for digesting protein, lipases for digesting fats and amylases for digesting carbohydrates.
Research has revealed the importance of enzymes found in raw food, particularly raw fermented food. These enzymes help start the process of digestion and reduce the body's need to produce digestive enzymes. A diet high in cooked foods is usually an enzyme-poor diet. This puts strain on the pancreas, by constantly oversimulating it to produce enzymes that should be in foods, and thus inhibits its functioning. Over time, research has found that this also results in shortened lifespan, illness and lowered resistance to stress.
Sources of Enzymes
Grains, nuts, legumes and seeds are rich in enzymes, as well as other nutrients, but they also contain enzyme inhibitors. These can put great strain on the digestive system, so they need to be deactivated. sprouting, soaking in warm, acidic water, culturing and fermenting, are all processes that deactivate enzyme inhibitors, thus making nutrients in grains, seeds and nuts more readily available. See Soak Your grains for Maximum Benefit
Most fruits and vegetables contain little enzymes, but some plant foods that have high enzyme content include extra virgin olive oil and other refined oils, raw honey, grapes, figs, avocados, dates, bananas, pineapple, papaya, kiwi and mangos.
A good way to incorporate beneficial enzymes into the diet is pickle or ferment fruits and vegetables, eat cultured dairy products, soak grains before using, and marinate meat before cooking it, all which helps to predigest the food by enzyme activity and therefore eases the digestive process.