By Kristy Podruchny
Did you digest and absorb your lunch today? Thank all of your enzymes! Enzymes are needed for any chemical reaction occuring in your body. They are responsible for breaking down molecules to aid in digestion, detoxification and DNA replication. Our pancreas produces most enzymes we need, but enzymes from the food we eat can help with digestion and absorption–especially if your natural enzyme production is inhibited due to illness or poor diet.
We naturally produce digestive and metabolic enzymes. Our saliva contains amylase, an enzyme that starts breaking down starches and simple sugars. If we follow the process of digestion, we’ll discover enzymes along the path through our final absorption. A healthy body will produce plenty of enzymes, but food enzymes help the body digest and metabolize nutrients as well.
Papayas, asparagus, sauerkraut and avocados are all examples of enzyme-rich foods. Cooking destroys enzymes, so eating raw fruits and vegetables is the best way to add enzymes to your diet. Many store-bought digestive enzyme supplements utilize food enzymes. They help break down foods that, if left undigested, can ferment in the intestines and produce gas. We all hope our digestive enzymes are working hard on a first date!
It’s no secret that we aren’t eating enough raw vegetables as a society and the overall population struggles with obesity. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, around 70 percent of all adults in the US are considered obese.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only 9.3 percent of adults eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables per day. There is no distinction between cooked, canned, frozen, juiced, or fresh vegetables in the data. It’s important to keep in mind that eating french fries and tomato sauce fit within the vegetable category according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Also, remember that processing vegetables destroys important enzymes found in raw vegetables.
We know that inflammation plays a role in obesity. Processed foods cause inflammation in the gut that can increase intestinal permeability, i.e. leaky gut. Repairing our intestinal lining and healing our gut flora requires a change in our diet to help our bodies metabolize food properly. Enzymes from raw vegetables can help. We are learning more about how vital our gut is to our immune function and our overall health. Food enzymes are another significant piece to the puzzle of GI health.
Cooking destroys enzymes, so eating raw fruits and vegetables is the best way to add enzymes to your diet.