Why Go Raw? The Restorative Powers of Enzymes

Two months into my raw food adventure and I consistently get asked two questions from incredulous friends, family and clients; why raw? And OMG aren’t you starving???

Rest assured I am most definitely not starving. It goes against my cultural DNA to starve. I am a descendant of Cuban and Spanish people whose love of food rivals their love of dance, so if I were starving I would have stopped this long, long ago. While it is most certainly a challenge, especially while traveling or dining out with friends, I don’t find that I get hungry as often as before and am quite satisfied with what I’m eating. Don’t get me wrong, when I dined at Candle Café with a friend of mine last night and the only option available to me was a mixed salad with avocado, I did indeed look longingly at her grilled seitan in a black bean sauce with quinoa, but alas, I persevered. And I don’t even like seitan! In fact, seitan is all gluten and probably one of the worst things you can eat. But I digress…

So, why raw? Why not vegan or macrobiotic? Why take it to such an extreme? Well… because time marches on, and like Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolia’s, it is marching right across my face! Seriously though, although I think I look fit and healthy and well, there is no doubt that time is a passin’. After celebrating my 44th birthday this past March I took an inventory of my habits, my life and my goals and aspirations for the future. Hopefully, I will live as long as I’ve lived thus far, but of course it won’t feel like it.  I have a lot I want to do, and I am aware that in order to make it happen, optimal health and nutrition will be the key element that allows everything else to fall into place. So in order to make it all happen, I decided to see what all the hoopla about a raw food diet was about and challenge myself to take it on as a lifestyle for 6 months.

So, how is raw better than just strait out veganism? How is it better than Macrobiotics?  What are the benefits of a raw diet in regards to health? It is all about the enzymes.

The Restorative Power of Enzymes

Enzymes are proteins that help to speed up chemical reactions. They help us digest our food, detoxify our liver, prevent cancer cell proliferation, and prevent inflammation. Without enzymes we would not be able to survive, so as you can well imagine they are very important. In addition the enzymes created in our bodies, there are also enzymes in food. These enzymes facilitate the digestive process, insuring proper digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients. But if you cook your food beyond 118 degrees, these enzymes break down and are destroyed, placing the entire burden of digestion on the enzymes that exist in your saliva, stomach, small intestine and those secreted by the pancreas. No problem, right? I mean, shouldn’t we have sufficient enzymes in our bodies to manage that? Well, mostly, yes. Unless you are over the age of 40.

It is said that after 40 years, we have utilized approximately 60% of our digestive enzyme capacity, which doesn’t sound like a lot unless you consider that as we age we tend to eat more than we did as children and the bulk of those enzymes were probably used up between the ages of 18 and 40. Additionally, if the 40% that remains are busy digesting your food, that doesn’t leave a lot of enzyme activity left over to help heal your body, detoxify your liver, prevent inflammation and slow the aging process.  By eating food that is raw or cooked below 118 degrees, you allow for the enzymes in your food to help digest what you have eaten, allowing for the enzymes in your body to go to better use. While you will still need the enzymes in your body to pitch in, the burden is less, allowing those enzymes to scavenge around for errant cancer cells, aging cells and inflammatory cells.

Enzymes are so important that many medical doctors that treat cancer holistically (and they are out there), use them in very high doses between meals in order to help digest the coating of the cancer cells, facilitating their destruction. In and of themselves, they will not cure cancer, but combined with other holistic protocols, they have been shown to be very effective in the management of cancer.

While it is true that you can purchase digestive enzymes at health food stores that you simply take with meals to offer the same assistance to your digestion as that of a raw food diet, I will repeat what a renowned Chinese doctor once said to me: why get a chauffer when you can drive? Now, some people might really like to be chauffeured around, and there are moments that I think I’d like that too. But in life there are drivers and there are passengers. You need to decide for yourself which you’d like to be.

Check out some of my delicious raw food recipes here on this blog – I’ll be adding many more over the coming months. If you are interested in raw foodism, you may want to check out my recent blog post ‘Vitamins B12 & D on a Vegan or Raw Diet’, and stay tuned for my imminent blog post ‘Raw on the Road: California’ where I review some of the amazing raw food restaurants I visited during my recent road trip on the beautiful west coast. As always, I welcome your questions and encourage your comments!