But the enzymes in raw food that are destroyed by heat are not the same
enzymes that digest a food. That raw foodists continue to harp about
enzymes just succeeds in making the raw food diet look ridiculous in
the eyes of anyone who studies how the body works.
Not All Enzymes Are Created Equal
Enzymes are proteins that function as catalysts,
starting chemical reactions without being altered in those processes
themselves. In food, plants, the soil in your garden, and every living
creature there are countless thousands of chemical reactions that get
their start with an enzyme.
In our body, there are 20 identified digestive enzymes responsible for
catalyzing the digestion of proteins, fats, and various types of
carbohydrates. These are manufactured in the body, and do not come from
the foods we're digesting. Despite what raw foodists may say, no one
has ever shown there to be a limited supply of them.
How well we digest any given type of food is at least partially
dependent on the quantities and types of enzymes the body is capable of
Humanity descended from fruit-eating anthropoids, but our species lefts
its original fruit-abundant tropical home behind for a wider variety of
terrains. Consequently, through many years of evolution, we began to
adapt to our new diets by gaining the ability to produce greater
quantities of certain types of digestive enzymes.
Starch, for instance, relies on a type of digestive enzyme called
Although our digestion is still primed for eating fruit, we now have
roughly three times the salivary amylase levels of our close genetic
relatives, the chimps, which never stopped eating fruit as their
primary calorie source (1).
Yet when we compare ourselves to the true starch eaters, such as pigs,
who dig in the ground for starchy tubers and roots, we only have a
small fraction of their amylase production capability.
So understanding digestive enzymes can shed some light on the type of
food we're equipped to eat.
But Aren't There Enzymes In The Food I'm Eating?
Yes, there are plenty of enzymes in your sunflower seeds, lettuce, and
mangoes, but they do not digest the food they're in.
If a food contained digestive enzymes, they would start digesting
themselves while they sat on your counter. Now your mango may go from
unripe to ripe to moldy through chemical processes that do involve
enzymes, but none of these can be called digestion.
Every cell of every living thing makes enzymes for its own activities,
including humans. Our glands produce enzymes for the digestive
tract After we've eaten them, the enzymes in plants do not go
into a reserve supply of enzymes or enhance our bodies in any way. The
enzymes in plants are present to serve the plant, not us, the creature
that is eating it. Plant enzymes get digested with the food and go on
to serve us as nutrients.
But What About Soaked Nuts and Seeds?
might hear that soaking a nut or seed makes it more digestible.
Sometimes people talk about removing enzyme inhibitors through soaking
as if this process helps digestion. So does it?
Once your sunflower seed is soaked, what happens? Does it begin to
digest itself, a catabolic process of breaking something down into
simpler parts? No, it begins to engage in an anabolic process of
forming a new, more complex structure - a plant. Once soaked, the seed
begins the process of sprouting.
Sure, a soaked seed is more digestible than a dry one because seeds and
nuts are almost always dehydrated from their natural state when you
find them in the store. If you harvest fresh nuts from a tree, you'll
likely be surprised by how wet most of them are. When you eat a soaked
nut, the body has to expend energy and water to digest it, which is why
dried nuts might make you thirsty.
What Digestive Enzymes Can Tells Us About Our Eating
So if the enzymes in raw food don't really matter in digestion, can we
supplement the ones we produce in some other way to help our stomachs
A number of enzyme supplements on the market promise improved
digestion. Beano is one example, providing us with the enzyme alpha
galactosidase, which breaks down the oligosaccharides and
polysaccharides found in beans and various cruciferous
lack the enzymes needed to properly break down these complex sugars,
and they will usually pass through the small intestines undigested.
When they reach the large intestine they will begin to rot, fermenting
to produce the gas and uncomfortable bloating that inappropriate food
choices bring about.
There are plenty of other enzyme supplements on the market promising to
improve our ability to digest fats, milk, and just about anything else.
Many of them will indeed help you escape the unpleasant side effects of
eating inappropriate food. But should we?
You might be able to digest fats better with certain enzyme
supplements, but that won't stop you from developing type two diabetes
and the many other diseases brought on by a high-fat diet.
Like medicinal drugs, enzyme supplements do not remove the cause of the
disease, but rather allow us to escape the symptoms brought on by those
causes. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can get away with
You do not need any supplement pills to digest man's natural food -
fruits and leafy green vegetables. We digest them with ease and don't
need any help.
So stick to the foods that bring us health and vitality and stop
worrying about enzymes.