So, what is an enzyme?
For many of us the word ‘enzymes’ conjures images of high school science when the teacher cut an apple in half so we could watch it turn brown. There they were—enzymes in action. But the enzyme story is bigger, more important and way more interesting than a slowly browning apple.
Comprised of amino acids, enzymes are substances produced by living organisms that are essential for catalysing biochemical reactions. They are required for an array of physical processes, ranging from combating infection to energy production, removing toxins from the body and slowing the 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 Found outside your body’s cells and 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 and are also produced by the pancreas. Their role is to support the cell to function, reproduce and repair itself.
- Food-based enzymes are 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.
Fermented 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. Fermentation is a traditional method of preserving food that has been traced through thousands of years and 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.
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 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 are lacking in the nutrient content that real cultured foods have in such abundance.
However, properly-prepared cultured vegetables are a fantastic source of probiotics and beneficial enzymes and acids—and they taste infinitely better.
Do it yourself at home
The great news is that you can make your own nutrient-packed fermented foods at home with just a few simple ingredients and tools. And we’re thrilled to announce we now have the Pickle Pipe do-it-yourself range on the GPA shelf. The Pickle Pipe is the world's first one-piece, silicone, self-sealing and waterless airlock. From the Basic Fermentation Kit, which is a great little kit to get started at home, to the Mega Fermentation Kit with everything you need for delicious and nutritious vegetable fermentation.
You can watch how it works in the video below.
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.
Be thankfully nourished