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What Are Enzymes – And Why Are They So Important?

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Many of our articles focus on the importance of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients like proteins— and rightfully so. These compounds are, after all, what keeps you alive and ensures your body with the nutrients it needs to produce energy and function properly. But how does your body put those nutrients to use, anyway? The answer: Enzymes. Let’s explore what enzymes are and why these often overlooked compounds are so essential for our health.

 

What the heck IS an enzyme, anyway?

An enzyme is a special type of protein which acts as a biological catalyst. What this means is that they can speed up the rate at which chemical reactions take place in the body. An enzyme targets a particular type of molecule called a substrate, and converts into a product.

Enzymes help necessary chemical reactions occur to make chemical compounds more useful. Enzymes are used in digestion (which we’ll get into in a second) and also in commercial applications like household cleaning products which help break up food residues. Another example are proteases, a type of proteolytic enzyme which can act as a meat tenderizer by breaking up the peptide bonds between the amino acids in meat, resulting in a more tender meat that is easier to chew.

 

Different Types of Enzymes

There are three primary types of enzymes, each serving different purposes: food enzymes, metabolic enzymes, and digestive enzymes.

 

1. Metabolic Enzymes

Metabolic enzymes are produced endogenously (meaning inside the body) and help regulate essential functions in the body like the growth of new cells, and maintaining proper function of blood cells, organs and tissues.

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