Enzymes, cultured foods and vibrant good health

Enzymes. For many of us, the word conjures images of high school science class, when the teacher cut an apple so we could watch it turn brown. There they were—enzymes in action.

It’s likely that many of us know a little more about enzymes now—that they play a critical role in digestion, perhaps. But it’s probably news to most people that enzymes have countless, far-reaching benefits for our health and wellbeing.

The enzyme story is far bigger and more interesting than a slowly browning apple!

So, what is an enzyme?

Comprised of amino acids, enzymes are substances produced by living organisms that are essential for catalysing biochemical reactions. They are required for a dizzying array of physical processes, ranging from combating infection to energy production, removing toxins from the body and slowing the anti-aging process. Enzymes are on the frontline of your body’s biological processes—the quiet achiever that we seldom think about, but literally can’t live without.

There are three basic types of enzymes:

  • Digestive enzymes These extra-cellular enzymes (found outside your body’s cells) are responsible for supporting the digestive system to break down food and make it easier to transport and use. These are the ‘brown apple’ enzymes and are mainly produced by your pancreas.
  • Metabolic enzymes exist within your cells (intra-cellular) and are also produced by the pancreas. Their role is to support the cell to function, reproduce and repair itself.
  • Food-based enzymes These are, fairly obviously, absorbed through the foods we eat. Found in abundance in raw, cultured or fermented foods, these enzymes promote healthy digestion and are also diverted by the body’s systems to support a huge range of other physiological functions.

It makes sense then, that the more enzymes you access through your diet, the less pressure you’ll place on your body to produce the enzymes you need.

Cultured foods—a tradition of good health

Take a look at almost any traditional diet in cultures across the world, and you’re likely to find some kind of fermented food featured proudly on the dining table.

Fermentation is a traditional method of preserving food that has been traced through thousands of years of human culture and which has enormous health benefits.

Yoghurt, sauerkraut, and fermented drinks such as kefir and kombucha have been in use for generations and are now undergoing a revival due to their health promoting qualities. 

Dairy products, vegetables and fruits have been preserved by traditional cultures through the process of lacto-fermentation. This is the process by which starches and sugars are converted into lactic acid (a natural preservative that inhibits the bacteria that causes foods to rot) by bacteria known as lactobacilli. These naturally occurring lactobacilli are present in all living things, and are particularly abundant on the leaves and roots of plants that grow close to the ground. 

Apart from their preservative effect, lactobacilli have powerful probiotic qualities that promote the growth of healthy gut flora and support healthy digestive function. They also increase the absorption and concentration of available nutrients and vitamins to the body, including K2—a fat-soluble vitamin that is crucial for bone strength, heart and brain health. 

The benefits of probiotics are well-known, and have been attributed to everything from a reduction in tooth cavities in children to protection from cancers and inflammatory bowel syndrome and other digestive conditions.

Nourishing yourself with fermented foods

The typical western diet is, in general terms, woefully lacking in nutrient and enzyme-rich foods. 

Eating lacto-fermented raw vegetables is a simple, delicious and effective way to introduce more raw food in your diet, while optimising its nutrient content. Fermenting vegetables improves digestibility, enhances vitamin content and bioavailability and increases the concentration of beneficial enzymes in your body. 

Don't be misled though—many store-bought fermented foods, such as commercially-produced sauerkraut—are often fermented in vinegar rather than undergoing fermentation through naturally-occurring lactobacillus, and as such are lacking in the nutrient content that real cultured foods have in such abundance. 

Conversely, properly-prepared cultured vegetables are a fantastic source of probiotics and beneficial enzymes and acids—and they taste infinitely better. 

GPA Wholefoods offers a range of high quality fermented foods—made fresh in the GPA Wholefoods Kitchen in traditional Harsch Crock Pots with plenty of time to ferment. All GPA’s fermented foods are dairy-free, raw and unpasteurised and made from certified organic ingredients, and each batch is professionally lab-tested to ensure safe, healthy eating. The range includes:

  • Spicy-sweet Ginger Carrots—made from organic carrots, raw honey and fresh ginger.
  • Kimchi—a probiotic-rich variation on the traditional Korean dish of fermented cabbage.
  • Purple Delight—a luscious blend of organic purple vegetables seasoned with onion and garlic and brimming with antioxidants.
  • Sauerkraut Green—simple and delicious, made from organic green cabbage and packed with probiotics.  

DIY good health

You can also make your own nutrient-packed fermented foods at home with just a few simple ingredients and tools. 

GPA Wholefoods offers a selection of Pickl-It products—simple, clever tools that convert your basic jar into an anaerobic fermentation vessel, enabling you to make safe, nutrient-dense and delicious home ferments in your own kitchen. 

Ferments created in the Pickl-It jars are vastly improved in taste and health benefit if you add a good starter culture—like Caldwell's starter culture—to the salt-water brining stage. 

To find out more about our range of high quality, nutrient-rich fermented foods and cultured food products click the our products tab in the menu at the top of this page. 

By embracing the proven, traditional wisdom of including fermented foods in your own diet, you can simply and easily make a powerful (and tasty) step towards better health, nutrition and wellbeing.

In health and happiness,

Katrina 

Image by gardenmatter . com