Enzymes make it possible for our bodies to use the food we eat.
Lunch Hour Lesson #3
Today’s topic is a little more on the nutrition science side, but I encourage you to stick with me and you’ll learn some practical information.
Last week we talked about how words that end in -ose are usually sugars. This week we learn that words that end in -ase are usually enzymes.
lactase (breaks down lactose/milk sugar), amylase (breaks down amylose/starch), lipase (breaks down lipids/fats), protease (breaks down proteins).
Think of these digestive enzymes as specialized “keys” that unlock the bonds in food molecules, allowing them to be broken down into their tiniest building blocks (digestion). These building blocks are what the body can use for growth, biochemical processes, and energy.
- Fats -> Fatty acids
- Proteins -> Amino acids
- Carbohydrates -> Simple sugars
Fatty acids, amino acids, and simple sugars are absorbed rapidly by our small intestine into our blood stream, nourishing and building our bodies.
Certain brands of milk label themselves “Lactose free”; the manufacturer adds an enzyme called lactase that breaks down the milk sugar lactose when it is ingested. This reduces the bloating and other digestive discomfort that comes from having lactose ferment in the gut due to not being broken down. Most people produce lactase enzyme on their own, which is why they can drink regular milk.
Small group class, with no more than 10 participants, ensuring individualized attention.
Unfortunately this “Lactose free” milk is ultra-pasteurized, a process which destroys protein-breakdown enzymes and damages the proteins present in fresh milk. So this type of milk is not the health-promoting food that it is marketed to be. Even though it may solve the lactose problem, it creates other issues with digestion.
At a very young age, it is important to set babies up for long-term digestive health by feeding them foods that their enzymes are ready for.
When babies are born, their bodies only make enzymes to digest the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates present in mother’s milk. Next come specialized enzymes for proteins and fats, and only much later do babies possess a complete set of carbohydrate enzymes – at about 3 years of age!
This means that feeding grains like rice, oats, and wheat to children much younger than that inadvisable. It may set them up for food intolerances later on.
Foods themselves also contain enzymes. We can drastically increase the enzyme content of foods by practicing an ancient food preparation technique called lacto-fermentation. More on that next week when we talk about homemade yogurt.
Salivary amylase is the first enzyme to be released when we chew. It starts the breakdown of starches. Practice chewing each bite of food this weekend at least 20-30 times before swallowing to activate this important enzyme. 🙂
Lunch Hour Lessons with Allison
Watch this week’s Facebook LIVE – Lunch Hour Lesson #3: Respect the Enzyme!. Each week I bring you a topic related to nutrition and health that I think is interesting, and give you a lesson to take with you into your daily life. Watch Live on Facebook, Wednesdays, 12:30pm PST!
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