The raw food pioneer Ann Wigmore believed "enzyme preservation is the secret to health". And she may have been on to something!
So what are enzymes? They are special types of proteins which act as catalysts, enabling our bodies to perform all of their biological processes - from the digestion of food to the sending of nerve impulses. It seems our bodies require enzymes to do pretty much everything - to mend, heal, and even think.
There are three broad groups of enzymes:
Digestive enzymes fall into three main types:
Babies, children, and young adults have more than twice the amount of digestive enzymes than older adults. Many believe we are born with a finite amount of enzymes, and that by preserving our enzymes we can remain healthy and youthful well into our 80's - possibly longer! We may be able to preserve enzymes by eating a diet high in living foods.
Fermented foods such as saurkraut, kimchi or kombucha are traditionally used to aid in the digestion of cooked foods. If you would like to improve your digestion and reduce gas then you can either try adding your own fermented foods, or alternatively digestive enzyme supplements often have a beneficial effect.
One of the most beneficial things you can do for your body is to eat only when you are genuinely hungry. By eating lightly we also preserve our bodies supply of enzymes.
Overeating even healthy foods is very detrimental to our health.
It is said that raw uncooked food contains its own food enzymes, in the right amounts to break down that particular food. These food enzymes are activated when a live food is eaten, meaning fewer of our own digestive enzymes are required to fully digest the food.
Soaking and sprouting raw nuts, seeds, and grains turns them into live foods rich in nutrients and enzymes. The soaking process removes enzyme inhibitors whose purpose is to prevent them from sprouting and trying to grow in unsuitable conditions.
Heating food above 120F is said to destroy all of its enzymes and some of its nutrients, making it less nutritious. I believe most steamed and gently stir-fried vegetables are very healthful, but are usually even better for us raw, just as long as we can digest them.
Raw food enthusiasts use juicers and blenders to preserve the high enzyme and nutrient content of raw food, while making it easier for our bodies to digest.
Raw living food can be warmed up to about 120F (warm to the touch) before enzymes start to be damaged. This has inspired the use of the dehydrator. As well as being used to make 'raw' breads, cookies, and burgers, dehydrators are a useful way to preserve summer fruits and vegetables for winter use.