Easter Blessings To Everyone! The day started on a sunny note, but now it's snowing . . . spring is slow to arrive here in Maine - probably the last place in the country to feel the warmth and observe the leafing of the trees! My garden is still covered in 12" of snow, so planting of spring kale, spinach, and beets (my favorite greens for smoothies), will have to wait a bit longer!
In today's blog, I'll answer the question, "What are enzymes and why do I need them?" Whenever there's a discussion of integrating more raw foods into the diet, the subject of the importance of enzymes comes up . . . so, we'll learn what they are and they they're vital to your health. If you'd like to find out more about raw food nutrition, my latest book, Raw Energy In A Glass: 126 Nutrition-Packed Smoothies, Green Drinks, and Other Satisfying Raw Beverages to Boost Your Well Being, will provide you with a plethora of valuable information as well as tasty recipes for raw smoothies, green drinks, frappes, shakes, mocktails, and raw shots.
Just What Are Enzymes? What Can They Do For Me?
Enzymes are the power of life, the life force in the cells of every living human, every creature that walks the earth, flies in the skies, and swims in the seas. They are inherent in all raw plant matter, including the raw food that you eat. Without sufficient enzymes in your diet and physical being, your life would cease to exist. Like the construction workers who build your home, enzymes make up the labor force that builds your body and is responsible for every chemical action and reaction that takes place. Enzymes break foods into blocks of molecules that can be used to fuel the body. We couldn't walk, talk, breathe, digest food, build bone, heal, process thoughts, or grow hair and nails without them - no activity would take place. Vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, and hormones can do no work without enzymes.
Enzymes can be divided into two groups: exogenous (originating outside of the body, such as those contained in raw foods) and endogenous (produced or arising from within our bodies). The more exogenous enzymes we obtain, the better. They aid in digestion, preserving energy and overall health and prolonging youthfulness.
It is said that we each inherit a certain enzyme potential at birth. In other words, we are born with finite enzymes pools or enzyme levels within our bodies. It's imperative that we preserve our stores, as this limited supply of life force must last a lifetime. There are two ways to preserve and replenish our enzyme level: by taking enzyme supplements (which are void of other necessary raw food nutrients and not really the ideal way to acquire enzymes) and by eating raw food, our main focus here.
Enzymes are not able to withstand high temperatures, such as those used in cooking. The heat of cooking destroys the enzymes in your food. Consequently, there are no enzymes left in foods that are fried, stewed, roasted, toasted, baked, pasteurized, caramelized, canned, stir-fried, steamed, refined, bleached, and processed. Does your diet consist entirely of foods such as these? If you're the average person eating the average standard American diet, then I'm sure it comes very close. In this case, I guarantee that the enzyme activity in your body is draining at this very moment, and over time, if you continue to eat this way, you will feel fatigued and unwell and, unfortunately, age prematurely. In fact, low enzyme levels are associated, with old age and chronic disease.
Enzymes are indeed the spark of life. Let me give you an example. When you consume fresh, raw tomatoes, sprouted mung beans, or crunchy raw almonds, you are ingesting live, enzyme-rich seeds, beans, and nuts. If planted in moist earth, these little storehouses of nutrient energy would sprout into living plants, capable of maturing and reproducing more edible tomatoes, beans, and nuts. Conversely, put a boiled tomato seed, canned bean, or roasted nut in the ground and it will not sprout, grow, and reproduce - all it will do is rot. The life force or spark is dead. The food has been literally cooked to death. The enzymes that must be present for a seed to produce new life are completely lost from exposure to cooking. Thus, if you eat a 100% cooked-food diet, there is no new life force entering your being, and that's not a good thing if you want to live a long, healthy, pain-free, vital life.
Eating an abundance of raw plant foods each and every day, especially combinations that have been blended together into a nutritionally concentrated beverage (such as a raw food smoothie, frappe, or shake), could very well add energetic, vibrant, and comfortable years to your life by preventing or possibly even reversing chronic diseases that plague so many of us today, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, psoriasis, osteoporosis, arthritis, high blood pressure, asthma, fibromyalgia, depression, and immune disorders. In addition, having a a resilient, healthy body helps prevent the more common acute illnesses such as headaches, PMS, and even colds and flu from taking hold. Nothing is better than waking up every morning simply feeling good all over.
Enzyme-Rich Plant Foods
The following exceptionally tasty plant foods are noted for their high enzyme content when consumed in raw, unheated form:
- Bananas, green and ripe
- Blueberries (and their cousin 'Huckleberries')
- Honey - raw, unfiltered
- Olive oil - extra-virgin, unfiltered, 1st pressing
- Papayas - green & ripe
NOTE: This blog was written by Stephanie Tourles; content adapted from her book, "Raw Energy In A Glass" (Storey Publishing, c 2014). The information is true and complete to the best of her knowledge. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of the Ms. Tourles. She disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information. It is for educational purposes only.