Food is fuel for living. It contains essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals to keep our bodies healthy and strong. However, some nutrients in raw food have not yet been widely recognized as essential to health and wellness: enzymes.
Countries in Europe and Asia, for example, are far ahead of the United States in recognizing the value of adding enzymes to not only daily dietary intake but also injury and surgery recovery regimens. 1 In the United States, nutritional references recommend eating at least five to six servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day to maintain health. What do fresh fruits and vegetables contain that canned or processed fruits and vegetables do not? Enzymes. 2
Enzymes are very large and complex protein molecules. They are very specific to what they will break down or digest. Besides moisture, they require three things to become active: the proper temperature, the proper pH (acid or alkaline), and the right substrate (or material) to break down. For example, protease—the enzyme that breaks down protein—will only work on protein, not carbohydrate.
Enzymes run the biochemical reactions in living things including humans, animals, and plants. This means that enzymes do the “work” in the body whereas vitamins and minerals, also known as coenzymes, are only building blocks. What isn’t commonly understood is how important enzymes are to digestion and to the concept of staying healthy.
Enzymes are a natural part of vegetables, fruits, grains, and other raw food. Enzymes ripen then slowly “digest” raw food. For those of us who cannot live on a farm or close to an agricultural center, our food is generally purchased at grocery stores or supermarkets where food needs to stay fresh and look appealing. Moreover, our present-day society requires food to have extended shelf life as food is shipped from country to country, coast to coast. Food enzymes may be important, but they pose a very difficult problem for the food industry. Whether food is canned, pasteurized, genetically engineered, cooked, or packaged, enzymes must be systematically removed from our food supply for economic and practical reasons. Have you ever wondered how scientists are able to genetically engineer tomatoes to stay fresher longer? The enzyme content of the tomato is reduced or slowed so it does not digest itself as quickly. We are taught that a tomato rots; in reality, it is being digested or broken down by its own enzymes.
While it is regrettable that our food supply must be so radically altered, it is clearly necessary. But, if we fortify our foods with lost nutrients like vitamins and minerals, why not replace the enzymes? No other nutritional supplement can be substituted. Supplemental enzymes are not destroyed in the stomach, as many skeptics, who do not fully understand the digestive process, claim. 3