Hydrochloric Acid

Do you have enough of it? Many people don’t.

Hydrochloric acid is produced in the stomach and is critical in the digestion of food, primarily protein and fat. It prepares food for digestive enzymes. Enzymes are needed to break food down into basic nutrients so they can be absorbed into our cells. Stomach acid is also our first line of defense against foreign substances entering our body, such as bacteria, viruses and parasites.

When we are eating too many processed foods, taking a lot of medication, consistently stressed, or aging, the hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes in our stomach experience decreased production (called hypochlorhydria). Food is not broken down properly before being sent to our intestines. This can lead to symptoms such as gas, bloating, or general stomach discomfort after meals. Long-term, it can lead to iron deficiencies from iron malabsorption; osteoporosis from calcium deficiencies; food allergies and sensitivities; gallstones; irritable bowel syndrome; B-vitamin deficiency which can lead to anxiety and depression; chronic fatigue; and an increase of bacteria and yeast within the intestines.

All of these symptoms are representative of a body out of balance and more susceptible to disease. Remember, sickness and disease can only form in a body out of balance.

What can you do about it?

The symptoms of someone with too much hydrochloric acid can be extremely similar to those of someone with not enough. Therefore, doctors will often hear these symptoms and suggest antacids (which neutralize stomach acid). If that person really has a hydrochloric acid deficiency, which is more often than not the case, the antacids will lead to further problems. Some MDs and most natural health doctors can test your hydrochloric acid levels and identify whether or not you are deficient.

A simple home test: Gently push on your lowest rib, about 1 inch out from your midline. If it is sensitive to the touch, you may be low in hydrochloric acid.

If you suspect you may be low in hydrochloric acid, you can increase it in the following ways:

• Maintain a diet of mostly fresh, whole foods and try to avoid processed foods

• Reduce stress level (I will elaborate on this next week…)

• Digestive enzymes can help if you are not breaking down food properly

• Drink warm water with lemon juice 30 minutes before a meal to help stimulate hydrochloric acid production

Thanks for all your great questions and comments this week. They help me come up with ideas for the blog, so keep them coming! Next week I will talk about Fight or Flight and will also show you how to make your own nut butter at home - much healthier and can save you tons of money!!!


Homemade Ketchup

I know some of you have been anxiously awaiting the homemade ketchup recipe… so here it is! The discussion on my Facebook page about high fructose corn syrup led me to try this out, and it turned out great! I served it with Boulder Sausage bratwurst, homemade sweet potato fries (recipe found here) and sautéed kale with ginger and garlic.


6 oz can of tomato puree

½ cup carrot puree (wash carrots, cut into chunks, steam for 10 minutes, and puree in blender or food processor – add water if needed to puree)

¼ cup water

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp raw organic honey

½ tsp dry mustard

½ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp cumin

¼ tsp cinnamon

Add all ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat slightly and simmer until ketchup is reduced by a third to a half (it took me about 14 minutes).

I doubled the recipe and froze 2/3 of it in individual ziploc bags. It will only keep in your fridge for a few days, so freezing some is a good idea.

This recipe is extremely easy. The carrot puree can be left out if needed – just replace with extra tomato puree. You can use canned tomato puree or make your own with fresh tomatoes. I used canned to save time. If you like your ketchup sweet or are making this for kids, I’d add another 1-2 tbsp of honey.

Give it a try and let me know what you think! Ed is a bigger ketchup fan than I am so he got to be the judge. He and our friend Reid thought it was great! I believe they described it as “a party in my mouth”. I ended up mixing it on my plate with some spicy ground mustard and that was delicious with the brats and sweet potato fries.

Ed had it again this morning on his eggs. It’s really not that much work if you’re willing to make a big pan of it and then freeze in single servings. High fructose corn syrup is in so many foods we eat, so if we can make little changes like this, we are doing ourselves a big favor.


Smoothie Wall!

Growing up, my dad would make smoothies for us as dessert a couple nights a week. We’d get our pajamas on while he made them (he usually did a dance while the blender was running, which we thought was hilarious), and then he’d tell us to sit at the “smoothie wall”, which was up against our fridge. And we’d just sit there and drink our smoothies. Back then, his ingredients were mainly ice cream, fruit, and ice.

Smoothies have evolved. I make them in the mornings for breakfast, or for a quick lunch. I love to experiment with new ingredients. So far, I have tried the following in our smoothies:

-fresh or frozen fruit (peaches, bananas, blueberries, pears, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, avocado, watermelon, mangos, blackberries, nectarines…)

-fresh or frozen veggies (spinach, collard greens,
kale, cucumber, zucchini, red pepper, yellow pepper, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, green beans)

-nuts (usually raw almonds or walnuts)

-dairy (yogurt, milk)



-juices (orange, apple or pomegranate)

-organic ground flaxseed (whole flax seeds can be tough to digest)

-Acaí berry pureé

If adding veggies to your smoothie makes you a little uncomfortable, just try it once before making up your mind. You may be surprised by how good they taste!

I usually pick 1-2 fruits (almost always a banana for a dose of potassium), 1-2 veggies, and some protein (yogurt, any type of milk, tofu, etc.). Nuts and organic ground flaxseed are staples. The fiber and protein are important for helping you stay full until a mid-morning snack. POM pomegranate juice has also become a staple, because of its powerful antioxidants. And then of course, you need ice.

I recently discovered the acaí berry pureé smoothie blocks – they are frozen blocks of organic acaí berry that add not only antioxidants but also essential omegas (6 & 9) and amino acids. You can get them in the freezer section of most health food stores.

Smoothies are so much better than premade breakfast bars or cereals, because you get all the nutrients without the extra sugars and flavorings. They are made from 100% whole foods, so you know exactly what is going into your body. And they are a perfect way to get two servings of fruits and vegetables before you even leave the house in the morning. Kids will love them too - they love colored drinks and they love using straws. Involve them in the process so they can be amazed by all those good foods turning into a tasty drink. Studies have shown that when kids get to help with food preparation and make some decisions about what they are eating, they are more likely to eat the meal.

One thing we talk about in school is the importance of varying your meals. I realized I was eating almost the same smoothie for breakfast every morning, so I started to integrate the gluten-free grains (posted yesterday) and also some eggs into my breakfast routine. It is good to have a few different healthy options for breakfast, and smoothies are great if you are in a hurry. Just buy some plastic straws and take it to go.

My dad still makes me smoothies when I go home for a visit. But now they are packed with organic blueberries, spinach, nuts and ground flaxseed. I suspect he occasionally sneaks a little vanilla ice cream in there too… but they taste delicious, and I just don’t ask!


Hot Cereal with Gluten-Free Grains

As the weather gets colder, I start to think about hot cereal. I used to love those frozen Minnesota mornings when I came down for breakfast and my mom had a big pot of Cream of Wheat on the stove. She would mix it with just the right amount of fresh milk and sugar… yum. But times have changed! Cream of Wheat isn’t a terrible option, but there are better ones to explore.

I have been experimenting with gluten-free grains lately because we talk about them so often at school. The grains I typically use in my hot cereal are steel-cut oats, amaranth and teff. Occasionally I will add quinoa as well.

Steel-cut oats: Full of beta-glucan,
which is a fiber that can help lower cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease; also a great source of manganese (helps your
body utilize key nutrients), tryptophan (elevates mood), magnesium (good for muscles, bones and circulation) and protein.

Amaranth: 15-18% protein content due to high amounts of lysine (lysine is an essential amino acid; it cannot be made by the body and must be obtained from food); also high in calcium, fiber, other amino acids, iron and vitamin C.

Teff: 9-15% protein content; good
source of fiber and high in amino acids; great source of minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium and iron.

The Recipe

1/3 cup steel-cut oats
1/3 cup amaranth
1/3 cup teff
3 cups water (or milk)

Bring water or milk to a boil. Add grains slowly and stir. Lower heat, cover and cook 20-40 minutes. You may need to add a little extra water about 15-20 minutes in to help grains completely soften. The longer grains cook, the sweeter they taste.

This cereal is warm, satisfying and tastes even better than Cream of Wheat or plain oatmeal. Sometimes I make a big pot and store the extras so we have it throughout the week. Top with things like warm milk, raw organic honey, seeds, nuts, fruit or cinnamon.

Babies and kids will even like this, and it is a good source of protein and other nutrients for them. The gluten-free grains can be gentler on their digestive systems when they are really young.



High Fructose Corn Syrup

I hope everyone had a great Halloween! The best costume I saw was from Where the Wild Things Are: Max and a Monster. It was homemade and looked just like the characters in the book!

By request, I am writing about high fructose corn syrup today (as everyone is munching on their Halloween treats…). This may be a refresher for you, but it never hurts to remind ourselves why we want to consume foods with HFCS in moderation. Check out the Discussions tab on my Facebook page for a running list of common foods containing HFCS (some may surprise you!) and feel free to examine the food in your cabinets and add to the list. We can all help each other become more aware!

HFCS is used as a sweetener and preservative in many foods. It is cheaper than sugar and extends shelf life of foods, so why wouldn’t people use it? HFCS is sugar derived from corn. HFCS usually has between 42% and 55% fructose, although some contains up to 90% fructose. The rest is made up of glucose. It is important to understand what these two types of sugars do inside of our bodies.

When glucose enters the body, insulin levels are increased, which allows the glucose to be transported to cells where ATP (energy) is needed. Glucose can also be stored in the liver as a carbohydrate, which later is converted to energy. In addition, production of the hormone leptin increases, which helps regulate appetite and food storage.

Fructose, on the other hand, does not stimulate leptin production inside the body, and can lead to overeating. It is rapidly metabolized in the liver, where it chemically changes into a component of triglycerides and also adds to fat storage there. Increased triglyceride levels are associated with obesity, diabetes, gout, hypertension and other diseases. Fructose can also lead to magnesium imbalances, which affects bone density. Fructose from HFCS also changes into body fat more quickly than any type of sugar.

Fructose is not only found in HFCS. It is in healthy, whole foods too such as many fruits and vegetables. However in fruits and veggies, fructose is not modified at all. Plus, fruits and veggies also have fiber, pyhtochemicals (chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants), minerals and vitamins, all things that help with proper digestion.

The problem with HFCS is that it is used in so many products that people sometimes don’t even know they are consuming it in large quantities. Many “kid” foods are full of HFCS, which is one reason we have such a problem with child obesity. It is the overconsumption of HFCS that leads to these diseases. Also, foods made with HFCS tend to be the foods that are lacking in other nutrients. Again, it goes back to the importance of a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods.

Later this week I will show you how to make your own ketchup, free of HFCS. It is much tastier and really easy to make. Many kids are picky eaters and like ketchup with everything they eat. If we give them homemade, natural ketchup, they are not only protected from the long-term dangers of HFCS, but are also getting other nutrients that will help with their digestion, growth and overall health!