I was introduced to the Ann Wigmore Health Institute in Aguarda, Puerto Rico, in December 2010 by a dear raw food friend. While I went kicking and screaming, having to leave my office for two weeks, it ended up being the best thing I’ve done. I loved it so much I returned there in the summer, and I just returned from another two weeks there this holiday season. The institute taught me so much about the living food lifestyle and its differences and similarities to the raw food lifestyle and how important they both are to us.
What’s the difference?
Living foods and raw foods both contain numerous enzymes; but in living foods, the enzyme content is much higher. For example, raw, unsprouted seeds and nuts contain enzymes in their “dormant” state. To activate the enzymes in seeds and nuts, they must be soaked in water for a period of time. Once the seeds and nuts begin to sprout, the enzymes become “active” and are then considered a “living food.”
Both raw and living foods are not heated . Any food heated over 115 degrees F destroys the enzymes in the food. Actually the degradation of enzymes begins at about 105 degrees F. All foods that are cooked are devoid of enzymes, and the molecular structure of the components of the food changes as well. So to sustain life and get the life-force energy of foods filled with high enzymatic and nutrients activities, one must eat raw foods in combination with living foods.
Why are enzymes important to us?
Enzymes assist in the digestion of food. There are three classes of enzymes:
· Metabolic enzymes, which run our bodies, organs and tissues
· Digestive enzymes, which digest our food
· Food enzymes, from raw food, which start food digestion
Enzymes are important because they assist in the digestion and absorption of food. They are catalysts that allow cells to metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They are also responsible for the respiration in cells and converting proteins into usable energy. If you eat food that is void of enzymes, your body will be undernourished and unable to utilize the nutrients from the food. This causes toxicity in the body.
Raw food is filled with multiple enzymes that aid digestion. In fact, the digestion of the carbohydrates, proteins and fats in raw food begins in the mouth at the moment that the plant cell walls are ruptured from mastication, thus releasing the food enzymes within.
Does cooking destroy enzymes?
Yes, yes and yes. As hard as it is to hear and accept because we have been cooking for centuries, this process devoids us of precious enzymes that help maintain our health. Disease and cooking originated simultaneously in the world. For instance, animals who only eat raw are healthy because their food intake in the jungle or wilderness is filled with enzymes. We have never heard of an elephant or a lion in the jungle getting a heart attack or suffering from arthritis. Better yet a gorilla getting breast cancer. Our domesticated animals eating processed food or the cooked food we give them are now facing the same disease as we are.
We know that heat destroys enzymes, but another amazing fact is that enzymes work harder at slightly warmer temperatures than they do at cooler ones. An experiment performed by Dr. Edward Howell involved soluble potato starch placed into two dishes with water and saliva added to each. Saliva contains an enzyme called amylase. One of the dishes was placed in an 80 degree F room, and the other was placed in the refrigerator at about 40 degrees F. The experiment showed that the starch at room temperature digested more quickly, while the one in the refrigerator was practically stagnant. If the room was at 100 degrees F, the enzymes would do the work at four times the rate than at 80 degrees F. The experiment showed this continued up to 160 degrees F, and then the enzymes wore out and could no longer do any of their duties. So keeping the temperature lower than 115 degrees F is beneficial but not so low as to stagnate its energy potential.
There is a fixed amount of enzyme potential in everyone. The enzyme bank account we are born with diminishes over time if it is not subsidized by incoming enzymes and can also diminish due to different conditions and the lifestyle of the individual. By eating foods with their enzymes intact as in raw and living foods, along with supplementing the cooked food being digested with exogenous food enzymes, we are able to eradicate abnormal and pathological aging.
What are the functions of enzymes in the body?
Life as we know it could not exist without enzymes. We must thoroughly chew our food so that the enzymes are able to fully work and break the food particles down into tiny structures capable of supplying our body with nutrients. Enzymes also aid in making new bone, nerves, muscles and glands. The enzymes work directly with the liver and all the other eliminative organs to store excess food. They are used for every function that goes on in the body. Eating raw and living foods is essential to our health, since nature provided them with an abundant supply of enzymes to get the job done. Last but not least, enzymes also breakdown toxins and waste material for elimination.
Some Important Enzymes
Amylase: Breaks down carbohydrates in the mouth from starches to simple sugars.
Hydrochloric acid (HCL): Found in the stomach and mainly responsible for the break down of solid food into a semi-solid liquid called chyme. The chyme then leaves the pylorus area of the stomach and enters the duodenum of the small intestines where more enzymes are released via the pancreas and bile from the gallbladder to further breakdown the molecules. If one drinks while they eat, they will dilute the HCL and enzyme activity, making digestion more difficult and less efficient.
Trypsin and chymotrypsin: Both from the pancreas, they work together to break down proteins into amino acids.
Lipase: Also from the pancreas, lipase is an enzyme that converts fats into fatty acids and triglycerides.
I hope this information is helpful to you and encourages you to have two thirds of your meals raw or living.
Photo credit: Kevin Dooley