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Anna’s Journey – Travel Log – Part 3

Please let me know if you have more questions about the why, where and what of this 30-day, US Rail Pass, train trip that this senior citizen with cancer is striving to accomplish. I tried to answer all the questions in ‘Part II’ that I received from the readers who looked up my website: . Thanks. I was glad to hear from so many kind folks.

As September 1 popped up on my calendar, I truly felt like my planning days were running out. Fortunately I still have a few more weeks to look at all the dates and times I get on the train, get off the train, get a taxi or Uber, check in and out of motels, and do all the fun things I hope to do as I enjoy seeing the country.

Yes, I am both excited to go and scared that things won’t go well. I’ve been told I am brave by some folks and crazy by others. I’ll take both since I think I need to be both in order to think of doing this, jumping in with both feet and doing this while praying that the Lord carries me through all of it. I also admit that with all the weather crises that have been hitting the country – hurricane, tornadoes, floods, fires and so on, I’ve also been praying for good weather throughout my trip. I pray I don’t come face-to-face with anything even close to Hurricane Harvey, but also that the train doesn’t run into huge forest fires in the northwest or snow in the far north. I do know that it will be what it will be. I hope I’m ready for it.

In checking the temperature histories of my stop in Texas, I’ll be expecting 85*F. On the flip side, however, the temps in Montana and North Dakota average about 60*F or lower during that same period of time. WOW~! How many clothes do I take!? Winter and summer in the same trip! Yikes! This is an added stumbling block in my efforts to pack as little as possible.

One of the last things on my check-off list was preparing my medications. Yes, as a patient on chemotherapy, that involves a couple of pills. Add to that my heart condition and I must add another four pills each day. With a couple other medical problems, I add a few more prescriptions and I begin to feel like I’m a walking pharmacy. However, I know from past experience that trying to cut down or skip this pill or that medication results in my body doing really weird, strange and deadly things. So, to insure I don’t run into that problem, I’ve discussed all my medications with my primary care and then also with the pharmacist. I even asked about which pills can be packed in one bottle instead of two. Whew! I think I have all that sorted out and ready to go.

As I mark off the days to “D-Day” (a.k.a. Departure Day), I get a little more excited. I’ve been looking over the itinerary until it is burned into my brain – times, train names, accommodations, etc. I’ve tried walking myself through each day’s activities to see if there is any possibility that I have forgotten something. I put my foot down and said that I will stop doing that daily walk-through as of Saturday, September 9, unless I find that I keep finding things I’ve forgotten or overlooked. For sure I need everyone to pray for me as I embark on this huge-bucket list item that perhaps should have been ignored. Time will tell!

Thanks for continuing to follow this Travel Log as I begin one of my last big planning tasks… trying on clothes to insure what fits and what I plan to wear where!

PS: Anna Renault does have a page to help insure I accomplish this goal without selling my soul to the devil! Thanks for any support you care to provide. Or, feel free to buy one or more of my books from Amazon. Thanks again to all who visited my website ( Hugs…

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Anna’s Journey – Travel Log – Part 2 Answering Questions

As I outlined some ideas for this blogging effort, I had some titles that didn’t match. I had some topics that jumped a bit from one place to another. Then, I posted “Part 1.” Surprisingly, I had not planned a post that would follow by answering questions from the readers. However, I try to be flexible when it comes to my writing so here goes with the alternate Part 2 to let the readers know I saw their messages they sent through my website. WOW!

Question #1: Who’s going with you?
The most frequent question I get when talking about my goal to accomplish a 30-day, US Rail Pass, train trip around the USA is who is going with me. The simple answer is “No One!” Unfortunately, I don’t have a spouse or significant other. I also do not have a family member or friend who has the luxury of taking thirty days for a trip for no special reason… not for medical care… not for a family emergency… not for a funeral… and not for any work related reason. So, yes folks, I will be traveling alone with a train full of people I do not know.

Now, I must admit that – at least a little – that is scary. However, on the other hand, it is awesome. There will be no one else that I will need to entertain while sitting for a couple days at a time on the train… no one to interrupt what I want to do when I want to do it. For some of my family and friends, they would say “trapped on the train.” For me, this will give me time to watch the scenery, take some pictures, do some reading, and do a ton of writing. To me, this sounds like an ideal situation.

Question #2 – Have you ever done this before?
Oh how I love the way people think! No, I’ve never taken a thirty day trip. I’ve never had the opportunity or the luxury of leaving home for thirty straight days. I can recall when it was nearly impossible to take a two-week vacation… to plan all the little details like food and clothing, directions and gasoline stops along with a host of other things that could deep-six a vacation trip. For that matter, there were times when a four-day-weekend trip could be very complicated when there might be a small child or a pet involved. So, while I’ve never taken a 30-day trip, I have taken lots of trips that required lots of planning.

Now, I also have to be honest! In October 2016, I flew to California; crossed paths face-to-face with an internet friend and her husband for the very first time; then drove nearly three hours south to Monterey, CA to attend a cancer conference as their keynote speaker. However, following that conference, more excitement was had when I hopped a train for my return home. That two-week train travel included a side-trip to New Orleans for a mini-reunion with some old friends from my working-days! Those two weeks on the train reignited my love of traveling by train, seeing parts of the USA that I had not seen before like the awesome scenic wonders of Wyoming.

I did a ton of planning for that short trip last year. Perhaps that will help you to understand the mammoth experience I am having this year planning this trip that will be twice as long and ten-times more complicated.

Question #3 – Why are you taking this trip?
There are several different reasons why I decided to take this trip. I mentioned in Part 1 that I truly wanted to have the opportunity in this life to see all 50 states within the USA, especially Alaska (where my parents and brothers went twice!) and Hawaii (where my brother was stationed at Pearl Harbor for seven years). I doubt that I will get to Alaska, but then one never knows! I feel certain that Pearl Harbor is definitely not in the cards for a visit, but I will continue to live virtually with friends sharing their experiences in that tropical paradise.

But beyond the ‘want to just see the country,’ I have a real love of fall colors. I’ve been to New England once about thirty years ago. The colorful scenery was magnificent. In 2015, when things looked rather dire for my survival, my granddaughter and her husband took me on an awesome trip to Shenandoah National Park. The fall colors were at their peak and we had an awesome time. Now, with this opportunity of being able to see what fall looks like in the south, on the west coast, all across the northern territories, and of course all around the Mid-Atlantic States with Mother Nature’s colorful array in full bloom, it will feed my love of fall colors.

And still there is another reason. As an author of three other books that chronicle my life, I want to write yet another “Anna’s Journey” book. This new book will be about the actual journey and what it is like traveling with a deadly diagnosis, chronic illness, and a bit about all the planning and effort such an adventure requires. Hopefully the book will also encourage and inspire others not to die before they are dead!

Yes, there is still another reason for the trip too. I also write the “Mitzy, the Butterfly Series” and a “Francine, the Butterfly Series” of books for young children. (More on those another time!).

Please let me know if you have more questions about the why, where and what of this 30-day, US-Rail-Pass, train trip that this senior citizen with cancer is striving to accomplish.

PS: I do have a page to help insure I accomplish this goal without selling my soul to the devil! Thanks for any support you care to provide. Or, feel free to buy one or more of my books from Amazon. Thanks again to all who visited my website ( Hugs…

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Anna’s Journey – Travel Log (Part 1)

Hello to all Wellness 101 participants,

This “Anna’s Journey – Travel Log” will be an ongoing story about Anna Renault (me), a metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patient. I have a long and complicated cancer history which has culminated in a diagnosis of MBC in March 2015.  With the cancer raging at that time, my end-of-life seemed quite near. The doctors thought, as I did, that I had only a few months or less to live. The cancer seemed to be rather aggressive. The pain level was extremely high. My usually high level of hope for success was hitting rock bottom.

The Lord had other plans. Through my strong faith in the Lord and with the assistance of a fantastic oncologist who had treated me through other bouts of cancer, the correct combination of prayer and chemotherapy battled back against the rapid reproduction of cancer cells. The tide slowly turned. Instead of Christmas 2015 being the end, my present that year was a new beginning.

>The drugs were working.
>The body was rebounding.
>Hope began to flourish.
>Prayer chains around the world increased.
>My productivity also improved.

With the chemotherapy working, I made a bucket list – a wish list of things I wanted to do before the chemo stopped working, before the body gave up the fight and my life would in fact end. With renewed energy, I took on the challenge of my life!

At the top of that bucket list is a wish to see more of the beauty God has given us through Mother Nature all around the country (USA). I had the awesome opportunity to do a little traveling throughout my life to get a glimmer of what was available.

As a child, my family took summer vacations – camping up and down the east coast from Florida to New England with a little stop over into Canada. I had the opportunity to see beaches as well as mountains. There were small towns and huge cities – everyone unique. I developed a love of nature and a goal to see as many of the 50 US states that I could possibly see.

As an adult, I continued to do some traveling (still doing some camping). I joined a single parent organization, the union at work as well as the professional development organization at work. Each group hosted local, regional and national conferences. I did more traveling. Just before retiring, as the president of a division of my professional organization, I attended eight conferences. I went a day early and stayed a day after so I could see something of the places I was visiting. I promised myself I would do more traveling and see the places I had never been after I retired… but life got in the way… cancers came and went… a heart episode occurred… and thus not much traveling!

NOW, in 2017, with things looking “stable,” I’ve consulted my primary care physician (PCP) and my oncologist along with a couple of specialists that I see. The word is “I AM FIT TO TRAVEL!”  And so, bucket list item #1 is in progress. I will be traveling by Amtrak train to see several states that I have not yet seen. I will be enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery (some of which I have seen) the USA has to offer. With this unique trip, I will have visited 46 of the lower 48 (and maybe 47)! To help insure this happens, I’ve asked family and friends and lots of others to support me by buying one or more of the books I’ve written (all are on Amazon). However, some family and friends said we already have your books why don’t you start a gofundme page. Taking their advice I did that…

So if you are a mind to support my efforts to travel around the country… and yes, I mean all the way around… from the Mid-Atlantic to the south to Texas… up the Pacific/West Coast… and across the far north (Montana and North Dakota)… before coming down to Chicago with a side trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan… all before returning the state of Maryland… please visit the gofundme page. I doubt that I have years to pay off a large credit card debt and so every little bit will help insure I don’t have to use a credit card at every stop along this route.

Now, this blog will also be asking you to follow this journey as I take hours looking at the train route, planning out stops along the way (I’m allowed 12); and, all the little nitty-gritty planning efforts I’ve made or will be making to insure this trip runs smoothly despite the fact I have MBC.

If you have questions, feel free to ask. If I get lots of the same questions, I’ll respond in a blog post. If it is something more personal, perhaps I’ll simply return your message.

Does this sound like a crazy plan? Some days I think I may be totally crazy to try this, but the train ticket is bought and paid for. “I AM GOING!”


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Dieting Fears…How to Keep Satisfied

I know that when some people think of eating healthy or going on a diet, the first thing that comes up is the fear that they will be hungry. I know, that is what I use to think.  It is not true at all.  You can eat as much as you want.  You just have to eat the right things.starve, hungry, diet mind tricks, tips for dieting

Healthy Foods to Add to Your Diet

One tip to get started on the journey is to add more vegetables and healthy fats to your plate in addition to what you are used to eating…but eat the vegetables and the healthy fats first. Add double portions of your favorite vegetables drizzled with coconut or olive oil and a side of avocado, or before you get ready to eat, have a handful of raw almonds.  If you eat broiled or grilled lean meats and fish, loads of veggies and good fats, you will not be hungry. Once you have followed this for a few weeks, you can increase the vegetables even more and decrease the fats and proteins.  You will get enough protein from vegetables…trust me. Some of the healthiest athletes are vegetarians. I am not trying to turn you into a vegetarian, but in my opinion, they are the best food on the planet, next to fruits.  Remember, you do need to eat fruit. The sugars in fruits are good for your brain!

Additional Tips for Not Going Hungry

Start slow and add additional vegetables to your plate and eat that first.  One key is to make sure that when you start to feel full, just stop eating and save the rest for the next meal or the next day. It is always nice to have a little extra left over in the refrigerator for those times you don’t want to start from scratch.
Planning ahead is always helpful. Make a schedule for your week ahead and make sure to add the extra healthy fats and proteins to your meals. This helps you to add variety to your diet and to prepare some of the foods in advance.  You can soak beans over night in the refrigerator and put them in smaller containers the next day for two to three meals that week.  Beans come in many varieties and are an excellent source of protein and very filling.  You don’t need to eat a lot of beans to feel full.  Another trick is drinking warm water with cinnamon and honey…it keeps the hunger pangs away.

Pia Civiletti, The Sassy Italian Lady

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Awesome Summer Salad

When it’s hot out there, you want to eat food that is refreshing. Well, try this one out.  It is tasty and refreshing and easy to make.

Watermelon Cucumber Salad


One 7-8lb. seedless watermelon, chilled

1 large cucumber

1/2 cup olive oil

3 limes or lemons or a combination of limes and lemons juiced

1 cup of fresh chopped mint leaves

11/2 cups crumbled or cubed feta cheese (do not use goat cheese in this recipe, it just waters down to nothing)

11/2 tsp. salt


Cube the watermelon and place in a large bowl.  Drain as much of the liquid from the watermelon as you can.  Slice the cucumber in half long ways and then slice it to your preferred thickness. Add feta, olive oil, lemons/limes, mint leaves and salt.  Mix well and keep in refrigerator until it is ready to serve. If you have left overs, you might want to drain it the next day and maybe add a bit more lemon/lime, olive oil and salt before eating it.  I thought it was great the next day as well, but it did get watered down some.

This makes a great before or after a meal salad or even on its own.  It is the perfect combination of sweet, savory and sour.

Happy Eating…Pia Civiletti, The Sassy Italian Lady

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Maybe Tomorrow?

delay, diet, healthy eating, start today, procrastinate

I know I have done this before, have you?  I am going to start eating healthy tomorrow and so today I am going to eat whatever I like.  Then tomorrow comes.  Oops, what happened to starting to eat healthy?  I know, I know…something came up. You did not have enough time to get something prepared so you ended up with a big ole burger and fries.  Maybe you can blame it on your kids because you forgot they had so many activities that you had to buy dinner out at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Whatever the reason, something stops you from starting that healthy eating thing everyone is talking about.

I know that there are fears around changing the way you eat. One of them is that you won’t be able to eat what you want so it is going to be torture. I can’t deprive my kids of their favorite foods and how will I not eat the same thing they are eating? I want to go eat out with my friends and family, but how will I eat healthy in a restaurant? I have a few parties and events to go to in the next couple of weeks, it does not make sense to start now so I might as well wait.  All of these roadblocks are going to be the reasons that you never start eating healthy because there will always be something going on and you will probably always be busy.

What Benefits Will You Get if You Healthy Anyway?

  • The Ongoing Benefits: The list of benefits is long.  Basically, if you eat healthy, you are providing better fuel for your body, thus allowing you to think clearer, move more, have more energy, get rid of aches and pains and feel better all over.  You will lose weight, get into those skinny jeans and your triple chin may reduce to a double chin or even just a single chin which I am sure most people prefer. People have seen improvements or even elimination of diabetes. How about lowering your cholesterol or even blood pressure?  Eating healthy can even help people with depression. The sum of this is that healthier foods contain the nutrients your body needs to function well. The benefits really warrant a whole article in itself because there are so many things you can improve by eating healthy.
  • Endless List of New Recipes:  You get to try new foods and recipes and think of unique ways to make your favorite dishes. You will also find new foods that you have never tried before and since your taste buds will change there will be foods that you did not like before that will now taste great.  Vegetables will even taste better after you stop eating a lot of processed foods.
  • The Gift of Sharing:  As you become more educated on healthy eating, you can share this new found knowledge with your friends and family. Invite your friends over for a healthy meal. Talk about what you did to change the recipes to make them healthy. Get your friends involved by creating a “healthy get-together” and rotate where the get together is hosted. Getting together will have new meaning when you are supporting each other to eat healthy.

Tips on Starting Today

  • Tell a Friend: Tell a friend that you are starting to eat healthy and you could really use their support.  Tell people at your work place so they know that when they want to go out for lunch, they keep in mind that pizza might not be the best choice.
  • Go Shopping: Before you go shopping, pick out some healthy recipes and put the ingredients on your shopping list.  Shopping is an educational field trip. Read the labels of everything you buy.  If the ingredient list is really long, then it probably has many chemicals, preservatives and ingredients you really don’t need.  Simple is better.  Buying basic proteins, vegetables, fruits and legumes is best and you can spice them up on your own.  When you purchase packaged foods, you are sure to get some stuff that you really don’t want.
  • Gradual Change: Start out with two to three meals the first week.  You don’t have to go full out the first day.  Start integrating a healthy side dish and increase the swaps of unhealthy sides for a healthy side at each meal.
  • Clean it Out: The best way to start a new way of eating is by cleaning out the old way of eating. Go through all of your cabinets and your pantry and get rid of the products that support unhealthy eating. If you live with others and don’t have control over all the kitchen space, then set aside a space for just you and make sure that area only contains healthy foods.
  • Get More Support: There are groups all over the place that you could join to get support for a healthy eating lifestyle.  Search on for healthy lifestyle, weight loss or healthy cooking groups.

When it comes down to changing the way you eat, you need to just start. Not tomorrow…now! Start in any way you can and be consistent and evolve each week in making better choices. There are so many fast, easy and healthy recipes out there that taste great too.  Trust me, you will notice the difference.

Pia Civiletti, The Sassy Italian Lady

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Salad…The Perfect Meal

Oh how I love salads.  I recently taught a cooking class where we focused on salads one day.  When preparing for the class, I was reminded of how perfect salads are.  There are thousands of variations of salads; so many that I could not possibly fit them all into a two-hour class.  I just love how you can virtually use whatever you have in your refrigerator; throw it into a bowl, toss it up with a yummy dressing and your taste buds are smiling for the rest of the day.

Because of the variety, you can put a different salad on your weekly menu several times without getting bored.  One of the best things about salads is the opportunity to create a balanced meal, in nutrients and flavor.  You can get fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein all in one bowl and it is not a lot of work and it’s fast, easy and healthy.  You can’t beat that!

Take a look on the internet and look up some salad recipes.  You will find salads for every occasion, every dietary restriction, taste preference or any other requirement that you may have.  And don’t forget the dressing.  There are amazing recipes for dressings that will totally change the taste of a bowl of the same ingredients. You can have cold or warm dressing, spicy, savory, light and refreshing or heavy chunky dressing.  That is what is so great about dressing. I think recipes for salads and dressings are like a wardrobe. You dress according to your mood, an occasion, culturally or just because it is the only thing left in your closet.  Recipes offer the same freedom to choose how you want to dress your salad and what is being dressed.  Sometimes you just have to open your refrigerator, pull out a bunch of stuff and see what you can create.

So I guess the best way to leave this is to provide one of my favorite salads.

Sonoma Chicken Salad. YUM!




  • 1 cup Vegenaise (I usually use the soy free)
  • 4 tsps. apple cider vinegar
  • 5 tsps. honey
  • 2 tsps. poppy seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper (optional)

Mix all the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to combine it with the salad.

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup pecan pieces (I use raw pecans, but you can also use toasted)
  • 2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
  • 3 to 5 stalks celery, thinly sliced (depending on the size of the stalks of celery)

Cut the chicken into bit size pieces.  I make it easy on myself and buy a pre-cooked organic chicken.  Combine all the other salad ingredients and mix it up.

Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.  Keep refrigerated until you are ready to eat it.

This salad is very filling, so this recipe can feed six people easily.

Thanks for reading and I hope you try this recipe.  My husband said to me, ‘You can make that anytime.’

Pia Civiletti, The Sassy Italian Lady

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Green Foods

There are dozens of diets that promise better nutrition and rapid weight loss. But the simplest way to improve your health is to make like Kermit & go green.

By: Jenna Blumenfeld, New Hope Network


They take a little effort to crack open, but pistachios are worth it, as they contain the important brain nutrient vitamin B6 and 18 percent of your daily requirement of thiamine (vitamin B1). Try adding chopped pistachios to chocolate desserts—brownies, ice cream or tarts for color, crunch, flavor and nutrients.

Use in a recipe: Warm Pistachio, Chicken, and Hearts of Palm Salad

Pumpkin seeds

Full of zinc, antioxidant phytonutrients and protein, pumpkin seeds (sometimes called pepitas when they are out of their shells) have a nice crunch and a soft, chewy inside. Try roasting raw pepitas with olive oil, salt, ground coriander and pepper for an easy snack.

 Use in a recipe: Pumpkin Spice Trail Bars

Collard greens

These large, leafy greens are loaded with important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, folate and vitamin K—a nutrient important for blood and bone health. Try sautéing chopped collards with diced onion, garlic and bacon for a simple side.

 Use in a recipe: Quick Collards Sauté


Add a handful of raw spinach to salads, soups and smoothies, and you’ll earn an extra dose of vitamins A, C, K and E, as well as minerals vital to muscle function, such as potassium and magnesium.

 Use in a recipe: Spinach-Goji Berry Waldorf Salad


Seaweed contains lots of protein and is one of the few non-animal sources of B12, making it an excellent food for vegetarians. Theory has it that it’s great for weight loss, too. Wakame is a type of brown seaweed of ten used as a flavoring in soups and salads. A brownish pigment in wakame, fucoxanthin, promotes weight loss. That’s what scientists concluded when obese rats lost 5 to 10 percent of their body weight when fucoxanthin was added to their diet.

 Use in a recipe: Seaweed Salad with Bean Sprouts and Tofu


Asparagus is a source of the soluble fiber inulin, which can suppress your appetite. There’s also an array of B vitamins in this popular vegetable, including B1, B2, B3 and B6. It also encourages digestive health and contains vitamin K, which acts as a natural diuretic.

 Use in a recipe: Roasted Asparagus with Creamy Dill-Chervil Sauce


Creamy, packed with potassium and folate, and delicious on toast, this tropical fruit is a great way to add more healthy monounsaturated fats to your diet, which may lower harmful levels of cholesterol. For a simple riff on guacamole, try mashing  an avocado with salt, pepper, hot sauce and a squeeze of lime.

 Use in a recipe: Wild Salmon with Wasabi-Avocado Sauce

Green bell pepper

If you’re tired of eating oranges for a heavy dose of vitamin C, look to green bell peppers, which provide almost 120 milligrams of vitamin C in one cup (chopped). That’s well above the recommended 75 to 90 milligrams. Plus, you’ll be getting 2.5 grams of fiber.

 Use in a recipe: Sweet Pepper and Black Bean Salad


A half cup of edamame provides almost 8 grams of protein, which helps to stave off hunger. It’s a great staple of a low-calorie diet with only 95 calories per half cup.

 Use in a recipe: Watercress, Edamame, and Fennel Salad

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Blue Corn Benefits

New research suggests that anthocyanins, the nutrients that give the corn its lovely blue color, may also help protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

By: Shara Rutberg, New Hope Network 

Blue corn has been popping up as an ingredient everywhere from tortilla chips to breakfast cereal. Intriguing new research suggests that anthocyanins, the nutrients that give the corn its lovely blue color, may also help protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. The study raises interest in using blue maize as a component of functional foods and nutraceuticals, foods that contain a medicinal benefit.

The study was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food. Researchers from Universidad Veracruzana, Instituto Tecnologico de Veracruz and Unidad Oaxaca/Calle Hornos in Mexico, fed rats a high-sugar, high-cholesterol diet. The group of rats that also ate blue maize extract had a significantly smaller increase in abdominal fat compared to rats that didn’t get the blue maize extract. The rodents that were given the blue maize also showed significant improvement in systolic blood pressure, high density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride levels, compared to the rats that didn’t get the extract.

“Anti-obesity food materials are always in demand, and this study brings out not only the importance of blue maize in controlling adipocity, but also the potential role of cholesterol in the development of obesity,” Journal of Medicinal Food Editor-in-Chief Sampath Parthasarathy, MBA, PhD, Florida Hospital chair in cardiovascular sciences and interim associate dean, College of Medicine, University of Central Florida, said in the publisher’s release about the study.

Apparently, the Hopi people were way ahead of the scientific curve. In their tradition, blue corn represents a long life. Hopi men ate blue corn before leaving on long journeys, believing it gave them great strength.





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