Scientifically speaking, enzymes are any substance that is produced by a living organism and acts as a catalyst in order to help bring about a specific biochemical reaction. When it comes to your diet, enzymes help to take the food you eat and break it down into the smaller nutrients that can be absorbed into the body, and used for energy and other things necessary for life.
There are many different types of enzymes, each of them with a different purpose. One particular enzyme called amylases, for example, helps to take starches that you eat, and break them down into sugar molecules. Your body produces many enzymes naturally, and in some cases, that is all you will need to successfully digest the foods you consume. These naturally created enzymes will be released into your stomach and/or intestines and help your body take advantage of everything you eat.
For many people, however, the body either doesn’t produce sufficient amounts of an enzyme, or they just want to give their digestive system a boost. When this is the case, you can eat specific foods in order to get certain types of enzymes. There are also a growing number of nutritional supplements and multi-vitamins that contain enzymes.
List of High Enzyme Foods
Getting important enzymes in your diet will help you to better digest foods, and get more nutrients out of them. Choosing foods that are both rich in enzymes and filled with essential nutrients will allow your body to operate the way it is intended to. Fortunately, many natural foods are packed with healthy enzymes
Fruits High in Enzymes
Fruits typically have a good amount of enzymes in them, but the following options are especially high and are a great addition to your diet:
- Palmetto Berries
Vegetables & Mushrooms High in Enzymes
Some vegetables and mushrooms can also contain a significant amount of enzymes. These veggies are great options for those who want to get the essential enzymes in their diet:
- Maitake Mushrooms
- Reishi Mushrooms
- Shiitake Mushrooms
Nuts, Seeds, Grains, Oils and Herbs
Some nuts, seeds, grains, oils, and herbs also contain a lot of enzymes. They can often be added to other dishes to boost up the enzyme levels of the meal:
- Aloe Vera
- Ginger Root
- Olive Oil
- Wheat Germ
- Coconut *the flesh, not the oil
- Tree nuts (when germinated)
- Unrefined Oils
Cultured Foods & Animal Products
The following foods that are either cultured or animal products (or both), and contain high levels of enzymes.
When adding these or other high enzyme foods to your diet, keep in mind that enzymes can break down over time and through cooking. Enjoying these foods raw and with as little processing as possible will help ensure you get the most benefits out of them.
Why are People Enzyme Deficient?
When talking about adding enzyme rich foods to our diets, many people wonder why it is so important today when our ancestors never gave it a second thought. As with so many other health related concerns we face today, it is because our ancestors used far less processing in their foods, and the processing they did perform wasn’t nearly so damaging to the foods.
Since our ancestors ate far more raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other natural foods, they were constantly getting a healthy supply of enzymes. In addition, they used preserving techniques such as pickling that added in additional enzymes. Today these sources of enzymes are lacking in our diets, which makes it so our bodies are unable to efficiently pull the nutrients out of the foods we eat.
While additional study is certainly needed to determine the extent to which consuming raw and unprocessed foods benefits enzymes and other nutrients, there has been some research done in the area. The most famous example of this is the Pottenger’s Cats study, which looked at more than 900 cats and the diets they were given. Some were fed all raw, natural and unpasteurized meats and milk. Others were fed meat and milk with various levels of processing and pasteurization.
The cats that were fed raw, natural foods were found to suffer from far fewer health issues and actually lived longer. This is because the animals were able to get the nutrients they needed out of the foods thanks to the natural enzymes that were found in the food itself.
Replacing processed or cooked foods with raw options that are known to be loaded with enzymes, such as those listed above, is a great way to improve overall health and well-being in many people.