Thursday, June 18, 2015

Eat By Color - Red

Image result for red color palette

This series is featured by Erin Denise Esthetician at  Your best skin is a combination of what you eat and your skin care regimen. Follow the link for a free skin care consultation and individualized skin care plan focused on natural skin rejuvenation! 

Hi everyone! I hope your first weeks of eating by color included some tasty dark purple foods. This week, we are going to take a look at those dark red foods our bodies will thank us for eating.

The health-promoting compounds that give dark red foods their color include anthocyanins and lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid phytonutrient and like anthocyanins, it functions as an antioxidant in the body.  Lycopene has recieved attention for its cancer-fighting properties, particularly in the case of prostate cancer.  That said, the underlying mechanisms of these processes are still largely unknown.

Research on lycopene and other key nutrients confirm what Greek physician, Hippocrates, said over 2300 years ago, "let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food." Dark colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and plant oils, consumed over the course of our lifetime, function as medicine to suppress the emergence of all diseases. This is not to say all diseases can be treated with diet and lifestyle alone, but consumption of the proper foods will give our bodies the best chance to overcome environmental factors and genetic predispositions.

In addtion to anthocyanins and lycopene, dark red foods contain varying concentrations of fiber, vitamins C and A, potassium and folate, and more. Vitamins C and A are common in the skin care products we use and that is because scientists are singling them out for their roles in collagen formation.  Here are some of the dark red foods we should treat our ourselves to:

Cherries                       Red bell pepper
Pomegranate                Beets
Tomatoes                     Raspberries
Ruby red grapefruit     Cranberries
Watermelon                 Red apple

You'll notice that seven of the eleven foods singled out here are fruits. As we touched on previously, try to eat fresh fruit in the morning. When you wake up, your body has been fasting for several hours and will benefit from a pop of fresh fruit. Don't worry about sugar when you are eating whole foods. Fruits, in their whole food forms, are loaded with fiber which slows the metabolic process and reduces the glycemic load of the food. That means the fiber delays the entry of sugar into the bloodstream, leading to a gradual increase in blood sugar as opposed to a sharp spike. *If you are diabetic, consult your physician and monitor your blood sugar based on their recommendations and your tried and true methods.


Having said that, enjoy the natural sweetness of these foods as dessert.  Of-course we get to enjoy dessert when eating by color! The dessert possibilities are endless when we're talking about foods like strawberries and cherries.  For the sake of this post though, lets talk about dessert with watermelon. Watermelon, even though its almost 92% water, is loaded with health promoting nutrients including but not limited to: lycopene, vitamin C, pantothenic acid, copper, vitamin A, potassium, biotin, magnesium,vitamin B6 and vitamin B1.  Yes, watermelon is nutrient powerhouse, that hydrates and has very few calories.

The juicy texture of watermelon lends itself perfectly to granita, popsicles or sorbet. If you've said you don't have time to eat healthy, I'm about to make you look really silly. Sorry! If you live in a hot climate, you should have popsicle molds. You can find these all over at places like Target, World Market, etc. Simply cut up the melon (preferably seedless) into chunks, blend or whirl in your food processor, fill your popsicle molds and place in the freezer.  Done.

Granita is just as easy, but instead of pouring your blended melon into popsicle molds, add some fresh squeezed lime juice and pour into a 9 x 13" baking dish and freeze.  When frozen, remove from the freezer and scrape with a fork. It ends up looking and tasting like a slushy, which kids will love as much as adults. Here's the step by step how-to from "The Pioneer Woman Cooks." .

Next, let's talk about beets. Beets could have been included in last weeks dark purple foods post, but since they come in many colors I've included them here. It's probably more likely that I forgot to include beets because I tend to avoid them. Borscht anyone?  Borscht doesn't sound good to me most days and therefore, is just not a practical addition to my diet. (More power to you borscht lovers!!) But beets are a very important dark-colored food that I'd like to encourage you (and me) to consume more of.
Beets, with their bold dark color have quite an exceptional nutrient profile. They are high in the minerals - potassium, magnesium, iron, and manganese, and an exceptional source of the B vitamin, folate. As with other dark red foods, they are a good source of vitamins A and C, fiber, all the while containing very few calories.

So why, with so many health promoting nutrients, do I avoid beets?  On my less motivated days they seem like a big project. They've got soil all over them, leave a bloody mess on my counter tops and what to do with those greens!  For these reasons, beets are not a regular food for me, but I try to eat a few times a month.  We all have those foods we simple enjoy more and that is to be expected.  The goal of Eat by Color is not to incorporate every dark food we discuss, but to find those we love and eat them regularly, and challenge ourselves to experiment with those foods we've never tasted or have aversions to. Save the foods that challenge you for your most motivated days.

Having said that, I feel motivated already.  Let's all try to eat beets this week! Now that you have your beets, start by removing the greens and scrubbing them. If you have a steamer, I recommend trimming the ends and tossing them whole into the steamer. This frees you up to do other things in the meanwhile.  Prick the beets with a fork to see if they are soft after about 20 minutes and add time if they are not quite done. When soft all the way through, take them out from the steamer and let them cool.  When cool enough to handle, peel them. You can accomplish the same result by roasting or boiling your beets. Whichever cooking method you chose, leave the skins on to minimize nutrient losses.

Your beets are cooked and ready to eat, so here are a few was to enjoy them. If you've used up all your time for cooking, simply chop, salt and pepper, and include them as the vegetable side for your main course, or add to any salad.  For those over-achievers out there, this beet, carrot and pomegranate salad by foodiecrush can't be beet (beat I mean!). This salad combines two of our dark red foods, beets and pomegranate seeds, in addition to carrots, which will show up later when we talk about superior orange foods. This dish is real stunner for gatherings with friends and family.

At the very least, we can all throw a dark red apple into our purse before leaving the house every morning. Don't judge yourself if that is all you can do.  Let every new action you take, however small or large, inspire and motivate you on your quest for optimal health.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing what's working for you!

Katie Fugnetti

Friday, May 29, 2015

Backpacking Havasupai

The Grand Canyon is so massive there is no vantage point you can stand and see the entire thing. It's splendor is world renowned, drawing visitors to look-out points to snap photos and selfies in an attempt to capture the feeling of being there. It's tricky though, the feeling of our tiny humanity is difficult to capture on film.  (I'm realizing this while looking through some 600 photos from the trip and none of them looked like what if felt like to be there.) I read somewhere that if the canyon were inverted it would be the tallest mountain range in the world.  If this is true the hike to the canyon floor may be more than I bargained for.
photo credit -  Mariusz Jeglinski -
It's Sunday and the ant-people down below are trying to scale the canyon before sunrise. Some tell us they left at 2 a.m. to make the journey in the cool of the early morning.  My friends and I are late as it nears 7 a.m. before we hit the trailhead. We start the descent into the red rocks at sunrise with enough gear on our backs for four days.  Our destination  - the Havasupai Indian Reservation, ten miles down from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  As we traverse the steep canyon walls, welcome rain drops fall from a thick cloud cover overhead. Once past the first switchback, the canyon unfolds, twisting and turning with boulders once attached to the canyon walls now the dirt beneath our feet.
photo credit -  Mariusz Jeglinski -

My bag feels heavy and as pack mules charge by carrying the coolers and backpacks of fellow hikers. There no warning other than the the loud sound of a stampede coming from behind.  With so many overloaded mules, it seems like we are the only ones carrying in our supplies.
I didn't weigh my backpack, but it must be close to 40 lbs.  My knees creak like they need to be oiled.  As I walk, I'm thinking about the contents of my bag.  Our trip leader is strong at six-foot-four and sporting a thick red viking beard.  He seems to walk with ease as his broad shoulders look like they were made to carry a heavy backpack. That and I'm sure he only brought the necessities. He tells me that experienced backpackers go so far as to cut off the handle of their toothbrush to save weight.  Great...I not only have a full-sized toothbrush, but a thick wooden-handled hair brush in my bag.  Should have read that gear list! I don't see any trash cans so I'm stuck with my luxury goods all the way down and back up. There's nothing I can do about it now I tell myself as I look up to realize we have reached the canyon floor. With red rocks stacked to the sky in every direction we continue on to the Havasupai Village.

The Havasupai, or "people of the blue-green waters," have inhabited the Grand Canyon for hundreds of years, surviving Spanish and Mexican invasion and establishing a reservation in 1880 (  They have succeeded at surviving in this rugged desert terrain which European explorers did not think was possible.  The Grand Canyon National Park encircles the reservation, and however small it may be, the native Havasupai regulate tourism on their land, by limiting the number of visitors, charging for campsites, and offering mule and helicpoter transport in and out.  Today, travellers come to experience the sacred waterfalls of the Havasupai and learn why these ancient peoples chose the Grand Canyon as their home.  As young Havasupai horsemen ride past leading mule trains, I sense a love-hate relationship between them and the visitors who have come to respresnt their income.

My greetings to the horsemen are rarely returned. There is no disdain in their faces, only focus on the job of driving their mules up and down the canyon trail.  In the creation story of the Havasupai, they emerged from this canyon and within the walls are pathways and corridors containing the legends of their forefathers.  They live off the grid and the canyon provides a natural barrier between themselves and the modernity of the outside world. I don't know the entire history of the Havasupai, but I do know their religion is their surroundings and the surroundings are what we have all come to see.

We did not arrive at our camp soon enough. Ten miles down plus an addition two miles to put us in a better position for the following day's hike. My backpack fell to the ground like a sack of rocks, and for the first time in six hours I can stand upright. We made a temporary home for three days, setting up tents and stringing hammocks between the trees. Just then, my daydream of lighting up the stove for some dehydrated lasagna fades when the group assembles for a hike to the nearest waterfalls. Another hike?  How could this be?  Some of the other hikers we'd seen on the way down were opening cans of beer and taking a load off, but not my group. Not wanting to miss out on anything, and to the objections of my feet, I force my hiking boots back on and set out to explore the waterfalls of the Havasupai.

Havasu Falls, AZ
Nearest our camp is Havasu Falls, perhaps the most famous of all Havasupai water falls. The mineral-rich water drops down some 90 feet to a turquoise-colored pool below.  The water gets it's color from high levels of calcium carbonate and travertine formations. Our trip leader has been here before and knows that below the falls and accross the creek there is a cave and he is taking us there to explore. As we near the creek, we roll up our pants and remove our hiking boots to make the river crossing. I can feel the heavy mist from the waterfall on my face as I dip my toes in the creek. It is late April and the water is refreshingly cool.  It feels therapeutic for my legs, so I take my time time crossing. As the last in the group make it accross we re-dawn our boots and continue on to the cave.  We arrive at a small hole in the side of of the canyon wall about 20 feet up. While carefully selecting my handholds on the way up, my mind flashes to the canyon rim and I'm reminded how far we've come since we started the day.

Inside the cave it's completely dark and we rely on head lamps to see where we're headed. Specks of quartz glimmer all around and shine through the darkness.  This must be an old mine. After some exploration, we emerge from the cave to the setting sun, and under the light of the moon, cross back over the creek and hike back to our camp for the night. Ahhhhhhhhh......lasagna. Finally. You taste every bit as good as I'd imagined you would.

I'm surprised by the sharp pain in my knees the next morning. It is reassuring to see others walking funny too.  We hobbled around in the early hours of morning careful not to waste too much time. I sense we are on a schedule.  Not before a hearty breakfast though. Our group leader was tracking his calories burned as well as mileage.  Subtract a thousand calories to account for our difference in size and I was burning somewhere near 4000-5000 calories a day.  We needed to fuel up as we would not have hot food again until dinner.  Being a nutritionist I derive great pleasure from eating and talking about food, so I was impressed with the food choices of my commrades. Homemade dehydrated eggs with corn, tea and coffee, dehydrated granola with berries, and oatmeal with almond butter and dried fruit, and spam.  I'm sure that spam tasted like roast beef! But, I wasn't that desperate. When fueling for long days of extreme physical exertion there are no limits on how much you can eat. Instead we must be careful to consume enough calories to cover our expenses.  If I had known what lied ahead, I would have eaten much more.

 Mariusz Jeglinski -
Mooney Falls, our first destination, is a very short distance from our campground. It was also the most exciting to get to as we had to crawl through a rock tunnel and down a vertical stretch, bracing ourselves with ropes, chains, and man-made wooden ladders.  Nearing the bottom, my clutch on the thick chain tightens as the route becomes wet and slippery with mist from the towering waterfall. Arriving at the bottom, I am pumped to have made it down even further into the canyon, and of-course, to have avoided a disasterous fall. From there, we follow a trial on the side of the creek for about three miles to Beaver Falls, a confluence of relatively small, wide waterfalls, cascading into swimming pools. Here we would make some time to swim in the turqoise-blue waters of the creek while the more daring in our group do some cliff jumping.

photo credit -  Mariusz Jeglinski -

It is after noon before we prepare to leave Beaver Falls and I'm not sure what is next. Our group leader is rallying us to continue on the same trail in the opposite direction from our camp. There had been some talk of trying to make it to the Colorado River, but since it was so late in the day, we surely didn't have time to get there and back before night fall and the maps had proven unreliable. We'd see as far as we could get. The trail past Beaver Falls is infrequenly travelled which is evident from the overgrown shrubs and the near impossiblity of keeping track of the trail. After a mile, we lose one hiker who decides to head back to camp. If he hadn't been speaking in Polish, I might have understood what was going on and made the same decision, but again, miss the adventure..... I don't think so! We walk on under the hot sun, climbing rock outcroppings and crossing the river back and forth to stay on the trail.

With footsteps approaching from behind, we look behind to see two women running the trail in the same direction. We move over to let them pass and they tell us they are trying to make it to the Colorado River before dark. One of the women is wearing an iron man shirt. We all agree, if the Iron Women can move at that pace, so can we! Our desire to make it to the Colorado River intensifies as we continue. We start meeting river people (white-water rafting guides) who have hiked up the canyon from the Colorado River.  Half drunk and sun-burned they tell us we are getting close, but provide differing accounts of the actual distance ahead of us. One mile, a mile and a half, two miles. Whatever it is, we're too close to turn back now, and we're starting to take this challenge personally. We made sure to bring our head lamps which we would definetly need to get back to camp. (I would need a piggy-back ride to get back, but I keep that to myself.)

photo credit -  Mariusz Jeglinski -
After two more hours of hiking and with the last mile and a half seeming to go on forever, we catch up to the Iron Women. They are sitting on a rock in the creek. "Which way?!," we yell and ask if they made it to the river.  They throw up their hands in an indication they have lost the trail and evidently the will to go on. The trail cuts off leading into the narrows, a very sheer, winding section of the canyon. I took the opportunity to refuel with some dried apricots while those more able-bodied scramble up the sides of the canyon in search of the trail.

It was only a few mintues after the Iron Women point to their watches and start running back in the direction of the camp, we find the trail on the opposite side of the river, high up in the cliffs. A few yards around the bend, we glimpse the green rapids of the Colorado River. Hallelujah! To finally arrive at the elusive Colorado River was a sweet relief. The victory gave us all a burst of energy and then just as we had hoped, the river people gave us six beers - one for each of us.  Suffering from dehydration, I was sure the PBR was going to help in more ways than one. We gave ourselves the length of time to finish our beers to revel in our victory before facing the 11 mile hike back to camp. (For hikers attemting this, be sure to bring enough water, and pack water filtration to re-fill at the river.)
photo credit -  Mariusz Jeglinski -

Colorado River at Havasu Creek
We did 22 miles of hiking that day, and ended with the vertical ascent of Mooney Falls in the dark. Throughout our four days in Havasupai, there were many moments where I determined that I should probably turn back and rest my legs for the hike out. Somehow I'd ended up with a group of super-backpackers and however fit I perceived myself to be, it just wasn't enough.  But with each step forward, my limits were called into question. If I truly can't go any further then how am I continuing to walk forward?  My mind was capable of going much farther than my body and with that I knew that short of complete muscle failure, there were no limits. In this fashion, just putting one foot in front of the other, we would cover nearly 55 miles of trails in four days.  The conversations we had at the end of the big Colorado River hike were delerious looking back as each one of us were living in a place beyond our limits, laughing and at the same time on the verge of tears (in my case).
photo credit -  Mariusz Jeglinski -
By the end, I was sure my knees were permanelty damaged, and no amount of omega-3's and arnica would help. Maybe I'm crazy, but I would do it again to experience the Havasupai Reservation to the extent we did. We photgraphed everything and tried to capture the magical feeling of the lagoon-like waterfalls, but it was the tactile experience of the canyon that gave me an appreciation for this landscape and the people that live there. Climbing the rocks, working together to pass through quick-moving waters, swimming and finding underwater grottos, star gazing, and through all that remembering we have no idea what we're capable of. These experiences have left a lasting impression on me. That and, the insane switchbacks the last mile out of the canyon! Mules are a cop out. Carry your bags, learn to pack light, go beyond limits, and always......always leave a six pack of beers in the car for the after-party!

Thank you Mariusz and co. for the incredible adventure :)


WILL POWER! - photo credit -  Mariusz Jeglinski -
PAIN!  -  photo credit -  Mariusz Jeglinski -
EUPHORIA!  - photo credit -  Mariusz Jeglinski -

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Eat By Color - Intro

Eat By Color

Eating by color is an intuitive way of looking at food and a guide to making healthy food choices. Sure food is made up of enzymes, vitamins, proteins, fats, phytochemicals etc., but most of us don't understand how these compounds promote health or disease in our bodies. Further complicating matters is an endless barrage of advertisements, diet books, and airbrushed celebrities telling us how to make our skin glow and look young forever. With so many do's and dont's, we are overloaded with nutrition information and confused about what to eat. That is why I love the simplicity of eating by color. It states, within a balanced whole-foods-based diet, choose those foods containing the deepest colors on the spectrum. Make your plate into a rainbow of color and re-wire your brain to associate these colors with health.

Dark Purple is our first color!
Science tells us that within those deep pigments are concentrations of nutrients. (There are exceptions to this rule as in the case of white vegetables such as turnips or daikon radish which we'll come back to later on) Many studies have been published correlating a healthy diet to skin health and the reduction of disease states.  We know about the benefits of Vitamin E and antioxidants for reducing cellular damage from free radicals.

Nutrition science has come a long way in identifying the metabolic pathways with which nutrients promote health in our bodies. However, when science collides with marketing and mass media, food and supplement companies end up promoting fad diets and a "magic pill" mentality in an attempt to sell their products.  This is the idea that you can keep your current diet and incorporate one all-encompassing health-promoting food (or supplement) to meet all your health goals. Like, if I just eat these goji berries, I'm going to prevent cancer.  Go for it on the goji berries if you enjoy them, but let's add to your miracle foods a foundation of healthy eating that will far exceed the benefits of any one food.

The truth is, antioxidants are amazing, but so are thousands of compounds in fruits and vegetables that science has not yet identified.  It's the antioxidants in combination with these unknown compounds that work synergistically throughout the metabolic process to impact our health. By piecing together the isolated scientific outcomes, we see that health promoting nutrients are present in all whole foods, especially those darkest in color.  So in this series, we are not going to spend a ton of time singling out nutrients. Instead, we are taking isolated scienfic outcomes, combining them, and concluding that a balanced plant-based diet, rich in dark colored fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of any health plan.

Throughout the next series of posts, we will break down the color wheel and identify those dark colored foods that are must-haves in the diet. If they are not already present in your diet, it's time to make some space and squeeze them in. I will provide simple recipes and methods to incorporate one or all of the foods we discuss, so that you can give them the taste test. In most cases, by using food substitution, you can take your favorite recipes and substitute the deeper colored vegetable in the place of a like food.  The idea is not to focus on the elimination of problem foods, but on the incorporation of optimal foods. Really try to add one or more of these foods five days a week. It works for me to eat optimally during the week and allow for special desserts, drinks, or eating out on the weekends, but you will find your own routine. Ultimately, it's what you do the majority of the time that impacts your overall health over the course of your lifetime.

The foods we eat will go on to become our cells

Whatever your goals are, keep in mind results are not instant. What is required is time, will-power, and dedication to the establishment of new habits.  According to British researchers, it takes approximately 66 days to form a new habit. (  Within a whole-foods Eat-by-Color diet, weight loss is only a side effect of the adoption of your new diet and lifestyle. So let's commit to trying the new foods we talk about for 66 days and see if we are not more energetic, happy, healthy, and radiant after 66 days!

I look forward to your feedback as we move forward. Please feel free to email me with your questions or comments. Also, if there is a food you would like more information on, please let me know.


Katie Fugnetti

This series is being featured by Erin Denise Esthetician at  Your best skin is a combination of what you eat and your skin care regimen. Follow the link for a free skin care consultation and individualized skin care plan focused on natural skin rejuvenation! 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Foodie Fads

What's going on with That Iron String Blog??  I haven't posted anything in quite a few weeks now, but it's not for a lack of inspiration. Things are in the works. I admit, it's slightly easier for me to write when I'm on the road experiencing new sites and scenes so to being stationed here in my hometown does not always seem so exciting. I'm looking past the obvious however, going on mini-trips and approaching Orange County like a visitor.

Today, my destination is the Anaheim Packing House, 440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, CA 92805. This restored citrus packing plant is now a two-story community gathering space and eatery, developed by the folks who brought us the Lab and the Camp in Costa Mesa.  It's got a similar vibe, with outdoor bars and a grassy courtyard, and includes 20 some specialty food vendors. Fresh, locally sourced food is in right now. Finally a fad I can truly endorse.

It's not all health food here though.  In the spirit of the Brits, The Chippy Fish & Grill sells fish and chips and a wide variety of craft beers. There is a old-world butcher downstairs, making fresh cuts for sandwiches on a selection of crusty breads and sauces. Noodles, sushi, pizza at an outdoor bar, and a speakeasy that I've only heard about, Cafecito Organico for extra strength coffee, and fresh fruit popsicles.  This center is one of many new food-centric community gathering spaces to emerge in Orange County in the past few years, and consumers are eating it up.

I know you're all thinking of your favorite new word. The one commonly used to describe the resurgence of bearded men?  Never fear Orange County-ians, the scene is as diverse as the food and furnishings in the place.  I have to praise Lab Holding in cooperation with the City of Anaheim for the vintage restoration of the building and for bringing Orange County slowly and painfully out of the strip mall.  The man behind the vision is retail developer, Shaheen Sadeghi, former fashion designer and president of Quicksilver (Woo, Michelle; OC Weekly).  Though his vision is undoubtedly fresh for Orange County standards, his methods have been criticized by some who call him a "greedy land-owner" who raises rents beyond what small businesses can afford (Woo, Michelle; OC Weekly).  In business, there will undoubtedly be naysayers and those unhappy with the means with which change happens, but it's the change itself that can powerfully shift culture.

So go see for yourself! And if you happen to find the tell! I can keep a secret.

Meet Shaheen Sadeghi, The Lab Man

Ready for a new culinary walkabout? Anaheim Packing House is here

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Get More Brainz by Reading my Cousin's Blog!

Following is a link to a blog written by my cousin, Steven Vrooman.  He is a professor of Communications at Texas Lutheran University and author of The Zombie Guide to Public Speaking.

I highly recommend taking a look at his post from December 12th entitled, "I don't know what I want to do with my life."  I can relate to this sentiment as one who wants to experience nearly everything before turning back to dust.  This outlook, though not for lack of inspiration, can be equally as stifling as not knowing where to start.  I find your advice comforting, cuz, "to do what comes next. To find something you hate less than the other things and get ready to shove."

The Zombie Guide to Public Speaking: "I don't know what I want to do with my life."

This also brings to mind a recent speech given by comedian Jim Carrey at the 2014 Maharishi University of Management commencement ceremony.  In recalling how his father made the safe decision to work as an accountant rather than a comedian, and was eventually fired, Carrey profoundly states, "you can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."  Wait for it because Carrey is all jokes until this statement about his father at 11:20. After this moment in the speech he has some very insightful things to say about love, fear, the ego, and daring to be seen by the world.