The Enzyme Debate

The Garden Diet Yesterday, I received an email from a woman, saying:

QUESTION: What do you think of the below?

A raw-food diet provides enzymes that are essential to healthy digestion.

The Truth: “Raw foods are unprocessed so nothing’s taken away; you don’t get the nutrient losses that come with cooking,” says Brenda Davis, R.D.. But the claim by some raw-food advocates that eating raw boosts digestion by preserving “vital” plant enzymes, Davis explains, just doesn’t hold water. “Those enzymes are made for the survival of plants; for human health, they are not essential.”

What about the claim by some raw-foodistas that our bodies have a limited lifetime supply of enzymes—and that by eating more foods with their enzymes intact, we’ll be able to spare our bodies from using up their supply? “The reality is that you don’t really have a finite number of enzymes; you’ll continue to make enzymes as long as you live,” says Davis. Enzymes are so vital to life, she adds, “the human body is actually quite efficient at producing them.”

Here is what I answered:

Well, I would disagree, somewhat.

Some raw vegans would say: “A plant’s enzymes help to break it down, to ripen and then finally to rot if uneaten. But if eaten, they also help it to digest”….I think it is closer to the truth that food that is alive with enzymes happens to be easier to digest for a number of reasons.

True, plants have “enzymes” which can also be called “life force” (the ability to be alive, to ripen, to rot, to die…to go through the life/death processes). But this “life force” is more than just enzymes, though they may be the essential element. There is the water-content, vitamins, minerals, as well as electrolytes and other phytonutrients and nanonutrients that are only just beginning to be discovered with high-powered microscopes.

For some reason it seems to be easier to break down a food that is “alive” / “light” / “with enzymes or life force” than it is to break down a food that is “dead” / “cooked” / “denatured / “lifeless” / “more dense” / “without enzymes or life force”.

In Storm’s words, the enzyme question is presented like this:

There are two different kinds of enzymes: Metabolic enzymes which run every system in our body. And digestive enzymes which our body creates to break down our food. When you overwhelm your body with dead, denatured, cooked food then your body has to take energy away from the production of the metabolic enzymes and use that energy for the production of digestive enzymes. This is one reason you feel tired, warm and fuzzy after a big, cooked meal. It’s not a bad feeling, it’s almost addictive, but basically it is your body shutting down. And even though your body is working overtime to produce digestive enzymes, it is still not enough, so you will still have un-eliminated waste in your body.

Raw food however is loaded with its own enzymes and phytonutrients known and unknown. It is so easy to digest that it doesn’t interfere with the production of our own metabolic enzymes. So you have more energy after eating a raw vegan meal, and in the long term greater health. The brain, heart, liver, lungs – every organ in our body needs metabolic enzymes to function. Enzymes are the catalysts for almost every function in the body.

I try to avoid the enzyme argument because it is not scientifically validated, or perhaps even provable. “Life-force” and where it comes from may be beyond scientific comprehension.

Rather, I use the following scientific explanation for the healthfulness of eating raw foods:

Cooked food is denatured, which means that the nutrients in it have been compromised, or are no longer structured in their natural or original state. When you heat a food it generates numerous dangerous toxins within that food. The FDA states this very clearly in the toxicology section of their website. Their reason for not alerting people to this is that “there would be very little left for people to eat” (their words).

Upon heating macronutrients, carbohydrates usually become carcinogens (which means “cancer causing”), proteins can become free-radicals, and fats often become trans-fats. The list of toxins generated when heating any food is unbelievably long. Cooking generates literally hundreds of toxins. The body’s response is to treat the food as it would a virus, and your immune system kicks in every time you eat cooked food, becoming entirely overworked. This is another reason your body gets so tired after a cooked meal. (We have an ebook in our 28 day program called “The Science of Raw Food”, that references scientific studies on much of this).

Raw organic fruits and vegetables, and germinated nuts and seeds, in comparison, are bursting with undamaged nutrients and have virtually no toxins.

Would you like your food with or without the nutrients?


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9 Responses to The Enzyme Debate

  1. Linda says:

    I would like to see the answer to Sophie’s question, the Medical student. I was told the same thing by a young MD that is vegetarian about gastric acids destroying the enzymes in the food so eating cooked did not matter.

  2. Sophie says:

    I definitely feel the difference when I eat raw vs. cooked vegan food, and I love feeling the benefits of a raw diet whenever possible.
    However, as a medical student, I’m having trouble understanding what is really going on in our digestive system when we eat high-enzyme plants. First of all, stomach acid has a very low pH, and most enzymes are very specific to only activate under certain conditions (temperature, pH, ion concentrations, etc.) So, how is it that the plant enzymes don’t get digested by the stomach acid, before they can even reach the small intestine to be useful in digesting our food? The enzymes produced in our body only reach the GI tract in the duodenum, where the pH is significantly higher…
    So, wouldn’t the enzymes in our food just be broken down before they get to the place where they are most needed? I’m just trying to comprehend WHY this works, because I know from experience that it does :)

  3. Mike Joiner says:

    As someone who is new to this way of eating and life, I find this discusssion very interesting. I am in the process of educating myself more on the “science” behind eating what I call clean. However, I cannot deny that eating foods that contain a “life-force” and are not cookded have helped me become healthier by the day. Between the uplifting spirit, getting rid of my Diabetes medication and my symptoms…I am trying not to question it…but just do it. Someone once told me to “keep it simple” and I think I will do that!! thanks for the posts….

  4. Kathy says:

    The role of the digestive enzyme is to break down the foods we eat into nutrients that can be absorbed by your body. Digestion starts in your saliva and chewing starts the production of digestive enzymes in your stomach. As food enters the stomach, the enzymes work to further break it down and once the food is in your small intestine most of the absorption takes place. The result is that the foods we eat are turned into sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids, the fuel for our body.
    In today’s world of processed foods it is unlikely that the average person produces enough digestive enzymes. When we cook food we are destroying the enzymes, and the food we eat becomes enzyme deficient. Enzymes are found in raw fruits and vegetables.
    As we get older, our bodies produce fewer digestive enzymes, therefore, it is best to supplement with a daily digestive enzyme.
    Read more at:

  5. Elizabeth Cummings says:

    So glad you shared this. I remember a vegan R.D. friend of mine debunking the enzyme claim of so many raw foodists. I think it’s SO important to stick to the facts and not become unthinking dittoheads so that people who are not “in the raw realm” see raw foodism as quackery and then don’t investigate deeper as a result. Thanks for the good approach, Jinjee and Storm–and specifically for citing the FDA’s online content. I’ve been a technical writer and editor as well as a teacher, and there are few who are careful with the words they use; thanks for being careful!

  6. Fuji Harville says:

    Where can I find the information regarding the quote from the FDA. I have friends asking for the actual site displaying this quote! THanks so much for all you do.

  7. Leo M. Schwaiger says:

    Another excellent article. People interested in books will find “Enzyme Nutrition” by Dr. Edward Howell worth reading.
    On page 76 he writes “When rats are given a “factory” diet, body weight goes up and brain weight goes down.” Are we seeing that in the human population? Many people lose weight when they change to more raw food. Animals in the wild do not cook their food but food given lab animals may be mostly processed. Aren’t zoo animals given raw foods to maintain their health? Is that another reason to eat food uncooked? Breastfeeding increases intelligence over cooked and processed artificial baby formmulas.
    Thanks again for your informative posts.

  8. Danny payne says:

    Thanks jinjee.
    I was just thinking about enzymes yesterday. And even considering eating cooked food today. You see it’s still the holidays here in brazil and I am at my Inlaws where there is a constant supply of bread, panatoni, chocolate, coke, meat and such.. on the 1st of January I started a Daniel fast, to give me strength and dedication to cut out bread, meet and alchohol, but secretly have been following a raw vegan diet. I have to keep it hush hush because the brazilians still don’t understand vegetarians imagine their shock at a raw foodist!

  9. Enzymes are technically vitamins. Not all vitamins are Enzymes. Enzymes are chemical lubricants. There are 2 two types, the first are metabolic enzymes. These we produce forever as stated by Mrs. Davis. The other are Digestive which are the type Storm is referring. We are born with x amount of digestive enzymes, this dependent on mom, how healthy she was upon conception and how well she ate during pregnancy.

    The way digestion is supposed to work is our digestive enzymes start or activate the enzymes in the raw plants. Then the enzyme in the plants digest the plant for us. This saves our enzymes and our energy as the plant virtually digests itself. Once the plants are broken down into nutrients (glucose) the body reabsorbs all the enzymes that the plant contained. This insures that one will never run out of digestive enzymes.

    When we consume cooked foods the body is forced to use all of its own enzymes and energy to digest the food. This also insures that we will run out of digestive enzymes as the body cannot reabsorb its own enzymes only plant enzymes. We usually run out by age 50. Without digestive enzymes metabolic enzymes cannot be created and disease will occur. To learn more about enzymes go to and in our Digital Download section there is lecture on Enzymes called “Enzymes and your Health.” You can listen to the first several minutes for free to see if you like it. Its available (about an hour) for 5.00 and the lecture is by the the most knowledgeable person on foods I’ve ever met.



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