When you are first learning about the benefits of a raw food diet, you will come across some terms that you may never have heard of before. Words like ‘phytonutrients’ and ‘food enzymes’ can be baffling and confusing. So this article will shed a little light and add some clarity so you can gain a better understanding of what they are and why they’re important.
Phytonutrients are organic compounds that are only found in plants – ‘phyto’ comes from a Green word that means ‘plant’. Scientists recognize that certain vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins are necessary to sustain life. And although they don’t consider phytonutrients to be in that group, research continues to uncover ways that phytonutrients contribute to and protect our health in a big way.
For example, flavenoids are found in fruits, tea, berries, wine and soybeans. Studies are showing that they may be effective anti oxidants and lower the risk of heart disease.
Carotenoids are found in carrots, broccoli, pumpkins, peaches, tomatoes, citrus and other fruits. And there is increasing evidence that they can protect against macular degeneration (an eye disease associated with aging) and some cancers.
Phytonutrients simply haven’t been directly studied by scientists the way that vitamins and minerals have. So research findings are still tentative. But the research is pointing to the evidence that phytonutrients play important roles in boosting our immune systems and helping vitamins and minerals do their jobs.
‘Food enzymes’ is another raw food term that may be new to you. Basically, our bodies use enzymes in every natural chemical reaction that occurs inside it. For example, enzymes are used to break down food during the digestive process. Other enzymes break down fats so they can be used for energy.
Raw foods contain their own enzymes which help them to break down to provide us with nutrients and fuel when we eat them. But cooking and processing destroy the enzymes that are naturally occurring in raw foods, so it’s harder for our bodies to digest and metabolize cooked foods.