An enzyme, (ěn'zīm), as defined in The American Heritage Science Dictionary is: “Any one of numerous proteins produced in living cells that accelerate or catalyze the metabolic processes of an organism. Enzymes are usually very selective in the molecules that they act upon, called substrates, often reacting with only a single substrate. The substrate binds to the enzyme at a location called the active site just before the reaction catalyzed by the enzyme takes place. Enzymes can speed up chemical reactions by up to a million fold, but only function within a narrow temperature and pH range, outside of which they can lose their structure and become denatured. Enzymes are involved in such processes as the breaking down of the large protein, starch, and fat molecules in food into smaller molecules during digestion, the joining together of nucleotides into strands of DNA, and the addition of a phosphate group to ADP to form ATP. The names of enzymes usually end in the suffix- ase.” There are over 5,000 enzymes and each with a specific job to do. Let’s take a closer look at the role of enzymes in our body’s digestion.
We know of at least 40+ essential nutrients that are required in specific amounts for the human body to function properly. The term "essential" in regards to nutrition means that the body cannot make the nutrient itself and it must come from the food we consume or by taking supplements. In addition to carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water there are at least 13 vitamins and 20 minerals required for proper metabolic function. Once consumed the foods containing these nutrients need to be digested, meaning they must be broken down and reduced to a state that the nutrients can be absorbed into and transported by the blood stream to all parts of the body. Our body's cells are designed to direct each nutrient to combine and interact with other nutrients and chemicals to create still additional chemicals and compounds. Which, in turn, are used to build and repair the bodies; cells, organs, tissues, and bone structures. This process is called metabolism. Each metabolic reaction is started, controlled, and terminated by enzymes. Without enzymes, no metabolic activity will occur. A body that does not consistently and efficiently metabolize the essential food nutrients necessary cannot maintain overall health.
Most foods, when consumed raw, contain enough natural food enzymes to be digested. When you heat food higher than 118 degrees the enzymes are destroyed and can no longer assist in the digestive process. Our body must then internally create the needed amount of digestive enzymes to handle the digestive task. The more we depend on our internally generated digestive enzymes, the more stress we put on our body's systems and organs and the less time these systems and organs have for rebuilding and replacing worn out and damaged cells and keeping our immune system strong.
Eating raw food is necessary for overall health and is an important feature of a healthy diet. But that does not mean that one’s entire diet has to be raw to be in excellent health. It also does not mean eating an all raw diet is the healthiest way to eat. It is healthier to expand your nutrient density, your absorption of plant protein and your nutrient diversity with the inclusion of some conservatively cooked foods in your diet (i.e.…steamed, stewed, & soups).
Your body’s top priority is making sure it has enough nutrients to run its systems. This means digesting food and converting it into nutrients. There is no activity more important to the body than this. This takes a lot of energy and enzymes, particularly if the body must make most or all of these enzymes because of heated or processed foods. Remember that no food can be digested without enzymes.
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