Enzymes are weighing in once again with their health benefits. This time it’s in the area of weight management. As you are probably aware, there are three types of enzymes: digestive, metabolic and food enzymes. In short, digestive enzymes help the body break down food in the small intestine so it can be absorbed properly by the body. Metabolic enzymes are made by the body and are instrumental in heart, brain, lung and kidney function; they keep the body humming along. Food enzymes are found naturally in raw, uncooked foods and help to digest those foods so that the nutrients can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
As a matter of fact, most raw foods contain the very enzymes your body needs to assist in the digestion of that food. Food enzymes can be destroyed, however, when heated to about 115º Fahrenheit or above. That means that overcooked food can shortchange the enzyme supply in our diets.
Dr. Edward Howell, a pioneer in the study of enzymes, sums it up, “Enzymes are substances that make life possible. They are needed for every chemical reaction that takes place in the human body. Without enzymes, no activity at all would take place. Neither vitamins, minerals, nor hormones can do any work without enzymes.”
But let’s talk more about enzymes and how they can help with maintaining a healthy weight. As mentioned earlier, raw veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds naturally contain enzymes. Likewise, digestive enzymes—taken with or without meals—may support a healthy weight by improving digestion and immune function, while balancing bodily inflammation and supporting bodily recovery and repair.
Each digestive enzyme corresponds with proteins, fats and carbs in the foods we eat so that food can be broken down and absorbed properly—in other words, digested properly—and there’s the link to weight management. For example, proper digestion is necessary for your body to absorb nutrients. And without proper nutrition, you lose health and energy. Not properly absorbing nutrients can slow metabolic rate, among other things.
Poorly digested food can also “gunk up” the digestive system, which can set the stage for weight problems. In fact, Ellen Cutler, M.D., says that poor digestion of food is directly responsible for an array of weight-related problems, including excess weight and consistent overeating. Cutler explains that, since most people live on a processed or cooked foods diet, they don’t get the natural enzymes that help them with healthy digestion. That, in turn, means that they don’t get the required nutrients from foods and can leave them with intense food cravings—leading to overeating and being overweight.
Dr. Cutler, who advocates eating raw, unprocessed, organic foods, and chewing them thoroughly, also points out that when the body doesn’t get enough enzymes from food, then it borrows them from its own metabolic system. This adversely affects the bloodstream, immune system and other areas of the body and leads to what is generally known as “aging.” One of the many hallmarks of aging is losing muscle and gaining fat.
But wait. There’s more. Taken with protein (a complete, pure protein) after a workout, for example, digestive enzymes help increase absorption of branched chain amino acids—protein building blocks helping with fat burning and muscle building.
That’s a significant weigh-in from enzymes, so make sure you get enough of them.