Why Enzymes Are Important
Our lives depend on enzymes. They speed up & allow (or ‘catalyse’) all chemical reactions in our body. Everything from breathing and the breakdown of oxygen to make it useful to us; to breaking down our food so that we can utilise the nutrients in it, depends on enzymes. Our arteries, for example, have countless enzymes, all with their own specific, yet co-dependent and critical jobs to perform their work. If one of them isn’t working properly, it puts the whole system under pressure.
In our body, we have digestive enzymes and metabolic enzymes. There are also enzymes in raw foods, especially fermented foods. These days, we are also fortunate enough to have supplemental enzymes available to us, focusing on specific systems of the body, for example: digestion, respiratory system etc.
Enzymes themselves, are proteins. Our digestive enzymes work at breaking down the food we eat into proteins, carbohydrates and fats to allow our body to utilise these nutrients as required. If our digestive system is not working properly, we may struggle to break down our foods into these 3 components, limiting our body’s enzyme capacity and possibly putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves.
- Proteases breakdown protein
- Amylases breakdown carbs, and
- Lipases breakdown fats.
Raw foods and fermented foods such as sauerkrauts, kefir, kombucha etc are rich in enzymes. Eating these foods takes pressure off our pancreas to make as many enzymes for digesting our foods, because you are adding them in via your diet. A good way to go about this, is to ensure you eat a salad (especially bitter salads which are excellent for boosting digestion – eg: endive, radicchio, rocket, etc) and / or some fermented vegetables or drinks with all your meals (including breakfast!).
Our pancreas is largely responsible for our enzyme production. When we include enzyme rich foods and enzyme supplements into our diet, our pancreas doesn’t have to work as hard. The simple act of chewing, acts as a production factory for amylase, the enzyme that allows us to digest carbohydrates. This allows our enzyme capacity, to be used in other areas, such as healing us from sickness and boosting all the other critical processes happening continuously in our amazing body.
Thinking of traditional diets, you’ll notice that certain food combinations were eaten together, and no doubt, due to the enzymes these combinations afforded and awarded! A lot of tropical cultures ate pork for example, and pork can be quite difficult to digest. For this reason, it was commonly eaten with pineapple. Pineapple contains bromelain – a wonderful digestive enzyme! It seems that your ham and pineapple pizza has a richer history than merely satisfying your tastebuds! The quick fix pizzas of today however, should in no way be compared to the well reared meats of traditional cultures! The pesticide laden pineapples of today are definitely not the same fruit as the organically grown ones either – sorry to rain on your parade folks!
Heat destroys enzymes. Cooked, highly processed foods are devoid of enzymes, and force us to produce our own digestive enzymes, putting a strain on our pancreas. Akin to a bank account, our enzyme ‘bank’ can become depleted over time if we are constantly drawing enzymes (‘funds’) out of it. Our enzyme capacity naturally declines after the age of 40 anyway, so eating enzyme devoid, processed foods throughout life will only empty the bank account faster. Eating raw and fermented foods, or taking supplemental enzymes act as a ‘deposit’ into this ‘account’, and also helps to relieve some of the burden off your hard working pancreas.
As a guide, if you can touch food without it burning, there should be enzymes left in it. Once it gets so hot that you cant touch it without burning or discomfort, the enzymes are deactivated. This natural ‘check point’ serves as a good reminder to cook ‘low and slow’, a method which helps to retain other beneficial nutrients including oils in foods. Cooking ‘low and slow’ simply refers to cooking things at a lower heat for a longer time, as opposed to cooking something at very high heat quickly.
Signs that you may be deficient in digestive enzymes include heartburn, constipation, flatulence, bloating etc.
We stock a range of enzymes (and beneficial fermented foods and drinks) at Saltuary. We have enzymes specific to different needs including the respiratory system, the digestive system, muscular system and more. Enzymes can help to maintain the optimum health of these systems, or give them a boost to find their way back to health after a respiratory illness, or to recover quicker after a gym workout or marathon. Come in and see us to discover more!