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What Are Enzymes?

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Enzymes are proteins (complex chains of amino acids) that play a role in all chemical functions in the body including digestion, energy production, and repair of tissues, organs, and cells.

Enzymes are proteins (complex chains of amino acids) that play a role in all chemical functions in the body including digestion, energy production, and repair of tissues, organs, and cells.

More than 3,000 different enzymes have been identified in the body and there are three classes of enzymes: metabolic enzymes, digestive enzymes, and food enzymes. Metabolic enzymes catalyze, or spark, the reactions within the cells. The body's organs, tissues, and cells are run by metabolic enzymes. Digestive enzymes are secreted by the pancreas and break down foods allowing their nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream and used in body functions. Food enzymes are enzymes supplied to us through the foods we eat. They include digestive enzymes but also enzymes unique to particular foods. Food enzymes help us "predigest" foods; that is, they start breaking down foods before our bodies' enzymes begin to do so. The enzymes found in raw foods can digest five to 75 percent of the foods themselves without the help of our own enzymes.

The Benefits of Enzymes

Digestive enzymes help us digest foods more completely and utilize more nutrients (which could also mean eating less and maintaining a stable weight) and experience better health. When foods are not well digested, there is an excess buildup of waste in the colon. This fecal matter begins to decay, producing bacteria and toxins that can cause numerous health problems including constipation, bloating and gas, fatigue, weight gain or weight loss, and headaches.

The benefits of enzymes are numerous. When we eat cooked and processed foods, we could well be eating for a shorter and less healthy life. Studies have shown that a regular diet of cooked and canned foods causes the development of chronic degenerative diseases. Enzymes have been proven effective in the treatment of sports injuries and other inflammatory conditions, as well as in reducing the adverse effects caused by radiation and chemotherapy.

Eat Your Enzymes

Enzymes such as bromelain and papain are derived from plants, particularly pineapples and papaya, while the enzyme lipase can be derived from various fungi such as Aspergillus oryzae. Enzymes may be found in sprouted nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Sprouts are very high in enzymes and, in general, raw foods are a good way to get enzymes in your diet. Cooking foods changes (denatures) the shape of the enzymes so that the enzymes cannot do their respective jobs other than provide a source of amino acids.

However, we may not want a diet of nothing but raw foods, especially if we live in colder climates. There are other ways to incorporate enzymes into your diet. You can take additional supplements of concentrated plant enzymes, available at natural foods stores. The contents of the supplement capsule may be sprinkled on food or you can chew the enzymes with your meal. In this way, the enzymes can go to work immediately.

Enzymes are tools to create a healthy life so keep the life in your foods.

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