Enzymes? Aren’t those the supplements we take for digestion? The truth is, enzymes are a vital part of every physiological process in the body. In fact, enzymes live in every cell in your body, and we’ve discovered more than 3,000 different enzymes, each with a different function. While enzymes do, indeed, help promote a healthy digestive system, they are also influence hormones, metabolism, and other functions in the body.
Why Does Your Body Need Enzymes?
Your body requires enzymes for all of the following functions – and then some: (1)
- Energy production
- The absorption of oxygen
- Fighting infections and healing wounds
- Reducing inflammation
- Getting nutrients to the cells
- Carrying away toxic waste
- Breaking down fats in the blood
- Dissolving blood clots
- Proper hormone regulation
- Slowing the aging process
Enzyme Production and Digestion
Our bodies should make all the enzymes we need to live a healthy life. When we eat raw and enzyme-rich foods, our bodies use those enzymes during digestion. But cooking food destroys the enzymes. Therefore, when we eat cooked food, our bodies need to make digestive enzymes to digest and process those nutrients.
Do you have low energy? Feeling tired and weak? Well, many culprits can be blamed for this, including your own low enzyme production. For example, a diet heavy in cooked foods, a high intake of sugar and processed foods, and the overuse of antibiotics or pharmaceutical drugs can actually deplete the body’s enzyme supply.
So we need to think about how we can get more enzymes into our cells and activate the ones already there.
Raw foods–living foods–help us get there. Eating whole, raw enzyme-rich foods can help decrease your body’s burden to produce its own enzymes. The more enzyme-rich foods you eat, the better!
Start eating these enzyme-rich foods to improve your digestion and activate your hormones:
Seeds and nuts—in their raw, dormant state—contain enzyme inhibitors. That’s what keeps the seeds from sprouting! But when you soak them in a bit of water and let that seed start to sprout—BAM!—the seed and all its nutrients become active. Sprouts are amazing powerhouses of activated enzymes. (2)
You may not know it, but pineapples contain a compound known as bromelain, an enzyme compound that breaks down proteins. Yes! A protein enzyme in a fruit. And this compound has been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. Pineapples also contain several important enzymes, including protein-digesting enzymes known as cysteine proteases. These enzymes have the ability to help with excessive inflammation, coagulation of the blood, and even certain types of tumor growth. (3)
Avocados contain the highest amount of fat in the fruit kingdom, so it makes sense that they contain lipase, an enzyme needed to break down dietary fat. Lipase may also help relieve indigestion. The nutrients and enzymes in avocados can help reduce inflammation in the body as well. (4)
Bananas aren’t just rich in potassium. They’re also a great source of two different enzymes known as amylase and maltase. Amylase, which is also found in your saliva, is the first enzyme to begin breaking down carbohydrates. That’s what makes starchy foods taste sweet as you chew. Maltase breaks down maltose or malt sugar in the body. (5)
Papaya is rich in proteolytic enzymes, including papain. Papain plays an important role in keeping the digestive system healthy. In fact, it’s considered one of the most effective enzymes to break down meat and other proteins in the body, and it has powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, too. (6)
6. Fermented Foods
Let’s face it, fermented foods may not be on your food radar yet, but they should be. Fermented vegetables are an excellent dietary source of many nutrients, including LIVE enzymes—just make sure your sauerkraut hasn’t been pasteurized. These live enzymes are accompanied by beneficial probiotics, which makes an exceptional combination for an effective digestive process. Think sauerkraut and kimchi, and even pickles done right! (7)
More Than Honorable Mention: Bee Pollen
Bee pollen really stands in a category all its own. An amazing food source, bee pollen contains almost all of the nutrients humans need, along with a wide variety of important enzymes. In fact, bee pollen contains over 5,000 enzymes. The phytonutrients—including co-enzymes that facilitate enzyme activity—also number in the thousands. It’s a natural antioxidant that supports the immune system. You can add bee pollen to your trail mix, oatmeal, smoothies or other snacks to incorporate it into your diet. (8)
Watch the experiment in the video below to see how enzymes help your digestion: