Why Enzymes Are Important and Where to Find Them
Earlier this week, I made a salad for my 6-year-old daughter with wild rice, nuts, pear, dried cranberries, agave nectar and a heap of cinnamon (a top favorite flavor around our house). For full disclosure, I simply needed to use up the rice and that lonely pear in my fruit basket. What’s more, I proudly looked upon my concoction as incredibly nutritious. Unfortunately, it also looked a little bit too healthful, if you know what I mean. Deep down, my maternal instinct warned me: uh-uh, she’s not going to like it.
Needless to say, she requested buttered toast for lunch instead. Buttered. Toast. Disappointing? A little. But by no means unexpected. As parents, who have to come up with multiple meals and snacks each day to fill the “hollow legs” of our growing children, we are quite used to wrinkled noses in reaction to food offerings. We can take that. We don’t fret over the time (and love) spent preparing food that then remains untouched (OK, that’s a lie. We do, a little.). What really worries us is whether our school children get sufficient essential nutrients.
Enzymes are among those nutrients our children need to be healthy.
Why are enzymes important?
Enzymes are energized protein molecules found in all living cells. They are important because they catalyze and regulate all biochemical reactions that occur within the human body. Enzymes are also an important component of digestion. They break down proteins, fats, carbohydrates and fiber, making it possible for the body to benefit from the nutrients in foods while removing the toxins.
There are three types of enzymes. Two of those, digestive and metabolic enzymes, are produced by our body as needed. Food enzymes, on the other hand, can only be consumed orally. And they don’t come on buttered toast (unless you use raw, unpasteurized butter, which I didn’t. Drat.)
Enzymes exist in all raw food. All raw foods have some enzyme activity, including meats. Processing—and that includes cooking as well—destroys enzyme activity in foods. Canning vegetables, for example, is in fact based on destroying enzymes through heating, which preserves the food. Some processed foods are cultured after cooking and do contain enzymes therefore.
List of high-enzyme foods:
Saw palmetto berries
Other cultured dairy products
Pickled vegetables (raw)
Soy sauce (traditionally made)
Vegetables, Grains and Herbs
Wheat germ (raw)
Nuts and Seeds
Coconut [but not coconut oil]
Germinated tree nuts
Sea Vegetables and Algae
Royal jelly (a honey bee secretion)
Butter (raw and unpasteurized)
Milk (raw and unpasteurized)
(Source for this list: Getting Started with Healthy Eating)