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Is your food alive?

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When we are thinking about eating “healthy” it is common to think - how many calories? Is there too much sugar? Is it organic? Am I getting a balance of protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients?

…. but how often do you think about you food being “Alive” or “Dead”?

Eating a diet rich in raw and other “live” foods may be the single most important thing you can do to live a long, healthy and happy life.

We can think of “Live” Food as food that is fresh, raw and/or in a condition as close as possible to their original, vibrant, living state. Think about a fresh tomato off the vine compared to a bottle of tomato sauce, or a fresh cob of corn compared to a box of cornflakes or microwave popcorn.

One way of looking at whether a food is alive or dead is if it contains living enzymes. Enzymes are amino acids that act as catalysts to allow chemical reactions to happen in your body (that would otherwise not be able to occur at the temperature of our bodies) essential to proper digestion, absorption, elimination, immunity and health. 

They literally allow magic to happen and are vital for maintaining life.

Here are just some of the things that enzymes are important for:

  • Digestion
  • Energy production
  • Absorption of oxygen
  • Fighting infections and healing wounds
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Getting nutrients into your cells
  • Carrying away toxic wastes
  • Breaking down fats in your blood, regulating cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Dissolving blood clots
  • Proper hormone regulation
  • Slowing the aging process

Where do enzymes come from?

The pancreas produces enzymes to support these processes, and in addition we receive a bountiful supply of enzymes when we consume raw, living foods. Enzymes from food play an important role in the digestion process, helping to take food, break it down and transform it for the body to absorb and use, or for elimination. Enzymes also help ensure that the nutrients in the food are fully utilised.

Enzymes from fresh raw food can even help with the digestion of processed and “non-live” food that we eat. Without the live foods helping move along the “dead” foods, these harder to digest foods can turn toxic in the intestine, causing the body harm.

Is the food you eat still alive?

Enzymes are delicate structures that are easily harmed, so food that has been exposed to heat through cooking or commercial processing are unlikely to retain many if any live enzymes.

Cooking food can enhance some nutrients, or indeed render food edible - in general high quality “whole” food cooked from it’s fresh raw state still adds nutritional value to the diet, but to really benefit your health an abundance of fresh raw foods in addition to cooked foods is vital.

Looking at commercial processing, most foods on the supermarket shelves have been processed to stop or slow down the decay of the food so it lasts longer on the shelf. Enzymes work in food to ripen produce and also in the decay of it. 

In the body this is important as it is the breakdown of the food that is necessary in the digestion process to reap the benefits of the food. However, on the shelf the natural “breakdown” of food is undesirable so steps are taken to stop this process. This keeps the food “stable” as it is no longer in a process of breaking down, but it leaves the food inactive and dead (so somewhat unfamiliar for the body which was designed to process fresh, natural, wholefoods) - and therefore inhibits the natural breakdown process of the food when it gets eaten.

Whats happening to processed food?

In terms of slowing down the enzymatic activity in produce (as well as killing bacteria, mould and so on that can also decay food) this is often done through pasteurisation - either through heat or high pressure. In terms of juice (our passion) … the juice on the supermarket shelf that is unrefrigerated has been heat pasteurised, which kills most of the nutrients and all of the enzymes (leaving you with flavoured sugar water that will probably last for a few years).

And our pet peeve - the juice in the refrigerator that is being marketed as “cold pressed and raw” but has in fact gone through a process called High Pressure Pasteurisation (HPP). In this process the juice has been cold pressed, but then it is bottled in plastic and sent through a machine that puts it through incredibly high pressure (rather than heat so it can still be marketed as “raw”), that kills bacteria and anything “alive” that will allow it to decay at it’s normal rate, so there is a drastic reduction in enzymes from the process (and also some nutrient loss, but less significant than in heat pasteurisation).

The reason it’s a peeve for us is because we hate deception and realise that so many people buy it for themselves or their children thinking they’re getting the “real deal” when they’re actually not! (… although it still far surpasses coca cola or heat pasteurised juice!!)

So where to from here?

People that include plentiful “live” foods in their diet often report better energy, greater mental clarity and general improved health. One of the easiest ways to boost your diet is to have a green smoothie or fresh fruit for breakfast, and start each meal with a fresh leafy green salad. The fresher the better, so try to get your produce from farmers markets or similar where you know the produce has been picked very recently (or even grow your own?!?). Look for produce that is crisp, full of colour and fresh looking (rather than that sad limp spinach leaf).

You might like to try sprouts or activated nuts - these foods are truly alive as they are actively in a “live” growth phase. You might also like to try fermented foods, as these are alive in a different way with probiotic activity.

Some rules of thumb for choosing products:

  • Look for the use by date, if it is longer than a few days it has been processed in some way so isn’t truly fresh and vital.
  • Choose products packaged in glass where possible.
  • At the supermarket choose products from the fridge instead of the shelf as these will have been less intensely processed.
  • Check the ingredients and avoid preservatives.

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