An enzymes is a protein molecule, more specifically, they are catalysts, which means that they speed up specific chemical reactions within the body. This means that very essential reactions in the body would happen very slowly, if at all, without enzymes. Enzymes have several functions within the body, and have specific jobs such as helping us breathe, digesting food, building protein in the bones, skin, and muscles, and helping with detoxification.
Enzymes are actually involved in every metabolic process that goes on inside of the body, including digestion, the immune system, bloodstream, liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, as well as our ability to see, think, and breathe. All of these functions and systems depend on enzymes, which means that we would literally die without enzymes, and a lack of them can lead to health degeneration, illness, and disease. For example, digestive enzymes help to take the food we eat and break it down in a form that is small enough to pass through the microscopic pores in the intestines to the blood, where enzymes in the blood then take the broken down food and turn it into new muscle cells, nerve cells, blood, and glands. Other enzymes work to store sugar (glycogen) in the liver and muscles, and they also turn fat into fatty tissue. Other important enzymes attach iron to red blood cells, while other enzymes carry the male sperm to the female egg so that they sperm may enter the egg, other enzymes dissolve blood clots, while others work in the immune system to get rid of foreign invaders. While this is a short list of functions, it can be easy to see how vital enzymes are to our overall health, wellbeing, and life!
Our body has an incredible number of enzymes, but, it is amazing how each type of enzyme has its own special and unique job or function. For example, a protein-digesting enzyme can only digest protein, it will not digest fat, and vice versa, a fat-digesting enzyme cannot digest a protein. There are three main types of enzymes, which are: metabolic enzymes (which work in the blood, tissues, and organs), food enzymes (from raw foods), and digestive enzymes (help with digestion and assimilation of nutrients).
Enzymes are naturally found in abundance in raw foods, but once a food has been cooked above a temperature of approximately 117 degrees, the enzymes are destroyed and it cannot perform any of its specific function in the body. While the physical enzyme structure is still there, the 'life' of the enzyme is dead and does the body no benefit, similar to a battery that has run out of power. When this happens, the body must call upon its limited enzyme stores in order to keep the body functioning. Because enzymes are destroyed at high temperatures, any food refining or canned, pasteurized, baked, roasted, stewed, boiled, grilled, microwaved, or fried foods will contain zero enzymes.
When we eat enzyme containing foods, meaning fresh and unprocessed, we are helping with the digestive process and are decreasing the amount of stress put on the organs of the body, specifically the pancreas, liver, and spleen which would have to produce high amounts of enzymes if no enzymes were obtained from the food. Reducing the stress load on these organs helps to increase their longevity and vitality. So, if the majority of one's diet is in the form of cooked and processed foods, the digestive system has to produce all of the enzymes that are needed to be able to digest and assimilate the food. This causes the organs of the digestive system, such as the pancreas, to become enlarged. When this happens, the overall enzyme levels in the body decrease in an effort to try and make up for the lack of enzymes coming in. The result is enzyme depletion, leading to lack of energy, digestive issues, aging, diabetes, and many other illnesses and disease.
Even if a person is eating a relatively 'healthy' diet, if the majority of all the foods eaten are from cooked sources (again, even if it's healthy cooked foods), enzyme depletion still occurs, leading to organ stress and the same health consequences listed above. It is a good point to remember that we aren't what we eat, we are what we digest, and when our digestive organs are stressed and overburdened, then we aren't going to digest as well and get the same nutrition from the foods we eat. Cooked food, even when coming from healthy foods, are still digested more slowly than are raw foods. Because cooked foods move along more slowly, fermentation, rotting, and putrification are more likely to result, leading to a toxic body, gas, indigestion, heart burn, weight gain especially around the mid-section, and overall degenerative disease. Interestingly, enzymes in raw foods actually digest anywhere from 5-75 percent of the food itself without the help of the enzymes excreted by the body, which helps to conserve energy and decrease stress on the body.
It becomes even more important to be cognizant of the amount of enzymes we are intaking when you realize that enzymes are also lost every day through our urine, sweat, feces, and by digestive fluids such as through our saliva. Because of this, it makes it even more vital for enzymes to be supplied through our daily diets to ensure that our body's stress level is kept at a healthy level and that the organs of the body are not over burdened.
To conclude, it is important for our overall health and longevity to maintain a healthy balance of foods, including a large amount of raw, uncooked, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other such whole food options. By adding these uncooked, unprocessed foods more fully in our diets, we'll likely eat less food while getting more nutrition from what we are eating. The result is improved health, weight management, better sleep, mental clarity, and more energy.
General Salad Ingredients:
mixed lettuce (red or green leaf, romaine, etc), shredded
green, red, and/or yellow bell pepper, diced
carrots, sliced or grated
cabbage (red or green), shredded
green onions, sliced
alfalfa sprouts (optional)
sunflower or pumpkin seeds
Mix olive oil, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, pressed garlic, dried mustard, dried basil, water, and pepper together and pour over salad.