Real Food Quote Monday – “Enzyme Nutrition” by Dr. Edward Howell (third visit with him)

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Coming up on Monday, December 14 – the Gallery of Christmas Cookies – get ready to share your real food cookie recipes! And Tuesday Twister is tomorrow!

Every Monday, I pull out a meaningful quote from one of the great books or articles I’m reading and share it with you. I invite you to look for inspirational words in what you read and share them each week in the comments.

This week’s quote (just like twice before – here and here) comes from “Enzyme Nutrition” by Dr. Edward Howell.

We’ve been wanting to know which foods are richest with enzymes – so as to include them in meals, ensuring that most or all of the digestive enzymes necessary to digest that meal are present. The significance of this is huge. If we would consume enough digestive enzymes, we free the body from doing so, and allow it to manufacture a full measure of disease-preventing metabolic enzymes.

Surprisingly, a typical vegetable salad provides an abundance of minerals and vitamins, but not enough food enzymes (“though every little bit helps” according to Dr. Howell) to help the body in digesting the main part of the meal, such as cooked meat, potatoes, and bread.

What foods are endowed with enzymes? This is what he tells us:

Examples … are bananas, avocados, grapes, mangoes, olives from the tree, fresh raw dates, fresh raw figs, raw honey, raw butter, and unpasteurized milk; germinated, inhibitor-free raw cereal grains and seeds; and germinated, inhibitor-free raw tree nuts.

I would add cultured dairy (kefir, yogurt, raw cheese, etc.) and lacto-fermented foods to this list – they supply digestive enzymes, too. But I don’t know how much compared to the foods listed by Dr. Howell.

Now, what about these terms – “germinated, inhibitor-free raw cereal grains and seeds” and “germinated, inhibitor-free raw tree nuts”? This has to do with proper preparation. And the following quote will show you why this is essential.

Tree nuts and other palatable seeds, beans, and grains contain superb protein and fat intended by nature for the perpetuation of their own species. To fulfill this duty, seeds must be endowed with a relatively rich enzyme heritage, far more than other parts such as leaves. But because enzymes are restless, active entities, nature had to put a rein on them and make them dormant until such a time as the seed could fall to the ground and be adequately covered with soil. These reins are called enzyme inhibitors and are inactivated by the seed’s enzymes when moisture from rain is absorbed by the seed as it finds a suitable niche in soil and begins germinating (sprouting) to form a seedling.

It is obvious the enzyme inhibitors are needed only in the seeds and not in other parts of a plant. But what is required for the well-being of seeds poses problems for animals and humans wanting to eat the seeds for food. … It was determined that germination (sprouting) of seeds neutralizes or inactivates enzyme inhibitors.

So, as-is, all seeds (grains, beans, nuts and what we think of as seeds, like sunflower seeds) contain enzyme inhibitors. Germination neutralizes these. If we consume them when raw, but germinated, they offer significant amounts of enzymes to aid with our digestion, as well as calories to fill us up.

Nourishing Traditions teaches how to make crispy nuts and seeds; nuts and seeds that are soaked in salt water and then dehydrated. The soaking (but not the salt, which is for taste) starts germination, which neutralizes enzyme inhibitors. The dehydrating at low temperatures allows us to return the nuts to a crispy, yummy state for eating. These can also be used in recipes this way, or ground into nut/seed butters.

For grains, when we intend to eat them raw, they should be germinated (sprouted) to neutralize the enzyme inhibitors. Sprouting also takes care of neutralizing the phytic acid, which would interfere will mineral absorption if unchecked.

Germination (sprouting) is not necessary if we intend to cook our grains, as we often do. We lose any enzyme benefits, but the cooking does eliminate the enzyme inhibitors. However, unsprouted grains still contain phytic acid – a mineral absorption blocker – and must be properly soaked or fermented (with an acid medium or by sourdough) prior to cooking to neutralize the phytic acid.

So… here’s my mission: include enzyme-rich foods with every meal. In addition to that, I want to come up with enzyme-rich portable foods. They’ll be easy to grab and go, while supplying enzymes, calories and dense nutrition.

What do you think? Are you surprised as I was, about vegetables not offering that many enzymes? Have you read anything interesting lately?

Note: The book link in this post is an affiliate link to If you choose to buy the book via my link, I’ll earn a commission. But I don’t care about that too much. The point of this post is for us to share inspirational words. That’s my sincere disclaimer. Thanks for reading.

Did you know? My Resources page shares sources for cultures, starters, books, healthy foods, and kitchen equipment.

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!


  1. says

    Hi Wardee, where does gluten fit into the cooking, sprouting and soaking of grains? Does it break down and go away when sprouted? Is it better digestible after soaking? I’ve been sharing my insights with people and a lot of them ask me about gluten and what the soaking and sprouting does to it. Can you help? Perhaps at least point me in the right direction? Thanks! :)

    P.S. I’m so excited to understand how cooking does affect the enzyme inhibitors and does not affect the phytic acid. Thank you!
    .-= gilliebean´s last blog post… DUNCAN CHRISTOPHER GETS SERIOUS =-.

    • says

      gilliebean – None of these methods (sprouting, soaking, sourdough) eliminate gluten, but they do partially break it down, which helps digestion. The most effective at this is sprouting, and the soaking/sourdough treatments being the next most effective. It seems to me that sourdough is a bit better than soaking, but I haven’t confirmed this with anything I’ve read. With my daughter (who is gluten sensitive), all of these work to keep her symptom free when having gluten grains. The grain discussion in Nourishing Traditions and also the introductory chapters in Sprouted Baking provide more specifics for what I just summarized.

  2. says

    wow! i am surprised! i always include a fresh salad with our dinner, mainly for the enzymes…
    it makes sense that raw milk would be on this list, but i’m still surprised. i need to get this book!
    .-= mandi´s last blog post… greening up christmas =-.

  3. says

    Thanks Wardee for reminding me about this book. It just amazes me how we can take for granted the diversity of food we have. Perhaps vegetables have less enzymes than certain other foods, but I would not discount veggies at all. Anything we eat that is living (thus raw) would have enzymes to break itself down – and I would stay away from any fake foods that don’t go bad because they aren’t real! I’ll still enjoy my salad with some good-quality olive oil, raw apple cider vinegar, and some black pepper to help absorb nutrients the best way possible.

  4. Lisa says

    Fascinating! It seems salads are the thing for adding minerals and vitamins to the diet, then accompanied by a small portion of lacto-fermented food to help the body absorb those minerals and vitamins. It is traditional to follow a meal with a salad (or precede it in America), and then to wash the meal down with cultured milk, a bit of fermented cabbage or beets, or fresh figs and dates(as in the middle east). Makes good sense and sounds delicious, too. I used to sprout years ago, but several moves later, I found myself too tired and distracted to keep it up. However, older children (5 and up) can do this, providing food for their family and performing nature experiments as well.
    Thank you for this reminder! So very timely.

  5. says

    I thought this was interesting on the gluten:

    and this one :

    Some great food for thought. I need to go start those broccoli sprouts I’ve been meaning to start…

    What are everyone’s favorite sprouts to eat? I’ve tried the chia sprouts but they are so slimey I always throw them away.
    .-= Sustainable Eats´s last blog post… Giving the Gift of Self Sufficiency =-.

    • says

      Sustainable Eats – my favorite sprouts are lentils and red clover. Radish sprouts are good too, but they can be strong. I’ve never liked broccoli sprouts, but probably because I can’t get them to work without spoiling and so associate the spoiling smell with them. I will read through your links – thanks for sharing them!

  6. Elena says

    Wardee,thank you for such an informative post. I have a question about MSG sensitivity and sprouts. I read that sprouted grains,nuts and seeds should not be consumed by anyone sensitive to MSG. Do you have any information about this issue? Thanks again

  7. Elena says

    Wardee,regarding MSG sensitivity and sprouts. I read this on web site in the article “sprouting”. I don’t know how reliable this information is but they provide references at the end of the article. Several people in my family are sensitive to MSG and I am trying to be very careful when cooking for them. People with MSG sensitivity can react even to natural foods that are high in free glutamate (e.g. mushrooms,over-ripe tomatoes,parmesan cheese,etc.)

    • says

      Elena – I’ll take a look at that. I have read that some foods naturally have free glutamate. I would be sad that sprouts are one of them. But I suppose it is possible. Thanks for telling me where you read it.

  8. Jay Allyn says

    Dr. Howell was right but one important point is that in today’s world the soils are so depleted that you cannot count on any mineral content in the soil and therefore YOU CANNOT COUNT ON ANY MINERALS, VITAMINS, OR ENZYMES IN
    90% of the food you eat. I have known people who ate nothing but organic food for 25 years and still gotten serious illness. I have however, found a nutritionist who has cured people of virtually every disease known to man using whole food supplements made from plants grown in MINERAL RICH soil, and enzyme and mineral supplements made from the same. (

  9. Patricia says

    My husband has diabetes 2 and so I do a lot with sourdough starter to reduce the glycemic value. My question is can I soak corn (to make corn tortillas, chips, etc.) in the sourdough starter to accomplish the same and if so, would I soak the corn, or the corn meal after grinding?

    Thanks and I love your site!

    • says

      Patricia — Corn is a special case and requires soaking in lime water to make it fully nutritious. I do use corn in sourdough recipes, but I choose to buy non-gmo masa harina. Masa harina is corn flour from corn that was pre-soaked in lime.

      The risks with corn are not so great nowadays that we have good sources of protein in our diets. In history when people ate alot of corn and little else, they developed pellagra (a vitamin B3 deficiency). If you eat alot of corn, it would be best to soak the corn in lime water prior to using it in recipes. See the recipes and explanation in Nourishing Traditions beginning on page 454.

      When soaking the whole corn, you’ll have to adapt recipes for “wet corn” — because typically you’d soak the whole corn in lime water, then drain it, then grind it up (in a food processor). Then use it in your recipes. Probably all that’s necessary is to reduce the other liquids to account for the wet corn.

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