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Raw Health Expo, Sugar Plum Vegan & Shopping

Posted Aug 01 2010 4:48pm

Whew, yesterday was a loooong day! But an awesome day full of adventure and a lot of driving. It started with my sister and I going to the Raw Health Expo , a festival of living and raw foods in Sonoma County. We opted to go for just one of the two days because we both had such busy weeks and did want to spend money on a hotel right now. And I was worried that 2 days may have been info overload looking at the packed schedule of lectures for each day.

Truthfully after such a nightmare-ish week at work, I wasn’t looking forward to getting up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday and driving for 3 hours to get to the little town of Sebastopol where the fest was held, but I’m glad I did. By some miracle, we managed to arrive exactly at 11 AM, when the festival stated, not hitting any traffic weaving through the bay area which is rare. But they were still getting things ready and it took about 15 minutes for me to get through a short line to trade my ticket in for a festival badge, then another 10 for the doors to the main exhibit hall area to be opened. No biggie, it was a good opportunity to people watch and I wasn’t expecting everything to run perfectly since this is only the 2nd year of the festival. As you can imagine, there were some interesting attendees at this festival including men and women sporting dreads down to their rears and women lacking of certain under garments, a character from South Park came to mind for one that my sister and I couldn’t help but giggle at every time we saw her. And because the festival wasn’t that huge, we saw her a lot.

We’d planned to grab a little lunch before the first lecture at noon, but the food stations weren’t ready to serve yet and we ended up snacking on Kaia Foods samples and grabbing a tea to tie us over through the first one.

I got the Mate’ Mint Cooler, very good.

I ended up buying a bag of the Cocoa Bliss mix it was so good and several other hungry arriving guests snatched up these samples then purchased too.

One of the main reasons I really wanted to check this expo out was to hear Cherie Soria speak in person, she and her husband are the founders of Living Light Culinary Arts Institute . I was first exposed to this institute at my first raw class just over a year ago, the instructor recently completed a program there and had amazing things to say about it. I know Cherie wasn’t young and had been into raw foods for a long time, so I really wanted to hear her lecture on Staying Young Longer and it was very worth it. When she first came to her podium, I almost didn’t recognize her from the pictures I’ve seen – she looked much younger and petite, but lovely in a blue gown and matching accessories – a little over dressed compared to the average attendee. A minute into her lecture, she dropped a bomb that caused many of the attendees to gasp, including me – she’s 63 years old. I wouldn’t have guessed more than 40, her face was void of wrinkles and she had the body of someone half that easily with nothing sagging or wrinkling, her skin seemed smooth and firm, void of age spots, sun sports, visible veins and other fun things that seem to happen with age. I’ve read a lot of impressive stories of lasting youth in Get Fresh! and other raw publications, but it was much more amazing seeing in person and hearing her talk about her lifestyle and what has really contributed to her vitality.

There were so many interesting points from her lecture that I could write for hours on the 50 minute lecture alone once I sort out my chicken-scratched notes. A few interesting points she stressed was controlling the amount of partial fats in your diet, like hemp oil, olive oil, etc. and opt for full fats instead – nuts, seeds, avocados. The reason is partial fats are full of calories low in nutritional value that fill you up and make you crave less nutritionally dense foods, like fresh veggies and fruits. I imagine it’s pretty similar with processed fatty foods too. She also stressed that food is only a piece of the healthy lifestyle equation and attitude was another huge piece. Things like fear, stress, resentment, anger, guilt and any negative thoughts or negativity in life in general were huge contributors to aging and a decline in health. That really hit home with me as I work on improving my overall outlook and manage stress and ill-thoughts better, it was great fuel for that journey.

She also mentioned that she is not 100% raw, but generally is when she preparing food for herself at home. In fact she doesn’t use the oven in her house except for extra storage and the stove top as an extension to her counter space. But when eating out, she will eat cooked vegan dishes and is very careful of her salt intake, even asking to sample certain vegan dishes when eating out before ordering and refusing it if too salty. She stressed the importance of careful ordering when eating out, even requesting to see salads and dishes before ordering and not to be shy about requesting things not on the menu. That’s something I can’t see myself doing a lot of, I’m pretty paranoid weight staff at a restaurant might be happy to add their own extras in retaliation for being such a high-maintenance guest – I’ve seen Waiting.

She also noted she’s not big into raw desserts, sweets are an occasional treat for her as they should be for any raw foodie, something I agree with even though I like a regular chocolate fix and could use improvement in that area. She also drinks alkaline water at home and lemon-added water when on the road, has blue-green algae everyday and loves her huge green monster smoothies with Vitamineral Green . And she tries to blend her nuts with probiotics, rarely eating dried, un-soaked nuts due to the digestion challenges – something I need to research more.

After the lecture, we took an hour break to have lunch and thoroughly explore the exhibits in the main hall. I arrived at the festival with $60 in cash determined not to spend more than that and it would have been easy to do so with all the exotic ingredients, books and gadgets being sold.

Heh, think I need this to improve my horrid nori wrapping skills.

I did have two major splurges though to add to my collection of author-signed books.

Cherie Soria’s Angel Foods and The Raw Food Revolution Diet – which contains much of the lifestyle info from her lecture. True, I could have gotten these much cheaper on Amazon, but Cherie was there signing and chatting with attendees, the buying experience was part of the value. And because it was around noon, she and her husband were sharing a large, sprout-loaded salad out of a home-packed container while chatting and signing. I also have two signed books from Jennifer Cornbleet and would love to get a book signed by Ani Phyo if she’d ever do a book signing near me!

Anyway, we then headed to the food booth for lunch. With fun raw choices like tacos, pizzas and pesto noodles, we had trouble narrowing down our selection and finally decided on the raw raviolis. For $8 and a 10 minute wait, this is what I got:

Don’t get me wrong, these were amazing with sesame bread sticks, creamy macadamia nut filling and probably the richest raw marinara sauce I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t exactly the most filling plate. Good thing we snacked on raw granola and this meant we had room for a raw dessert after the next lecture.

For the next lecture, I selected Dr. Michael Klaper’s Vitamin B-12 and Other Nutritional Concerns with Raw Food Diets. Dr. Klaper is a 30-year vegan and a trim, vibrant and energetic looking guy for his age. Listening to him talk, I got the feeling he was very passionate about veganism and keeping people out of the hospital. His 50-minute presentation pretty much focused on vitamin B-12, getting enough of it and signs of B-12 deficiency. As a new vegan, this was very informative to me and hammered that being deficient is a serious thing that no one should gamble with.  A surprising thing I learned is that sea vegetables are not a good source of B-12 because while they may be high in it, it’s not a form that our bodies can really use and should never be relied on as a single source. Also dairy products and eggs are not a good source for B-12 for vegetarians who consume them as a source. Going back in history, vegans on a strict plant-based diet would probably be okay in B-12 because of the micro-organisms found in water, produce and other plant sources. But not so much today thanks to modern food sterilization and he hammered that vegans must supplement today and the two recommended sources are a regular intake of nutritional food yeast (nooch) and a cyanocobalamin B-12 supplement, he recommended using both. He went as far as to suggest vegan women who are trying to get pregnant, pregnant or nursing would be considered reckless for not supplementing to ensure they and the child gets enough B-12. Wow.

Anyway, signs of B-12 deficiency include fatigue, memory problems, confusion, vision problems, personality changes, a smooth and sore tongue and numbness and tingling in the hands and feet and there’s a high-probability that symptoms could be misdiagnosed as something else and can take years to surface. He recommended that vegans check for deficiency once a year either with urine or blood tests and home urine kits can be ordered from . Since I’m still pretty new to the vegan diet, not something I’m too worried about now, but may try one of these tests down the road.

Another interesting thing he mentioned is many vegan foods can claim they’re a good source of B-12 on the label while not being a highly usable/reliable source, so he recommends looking for a Gold Standard label meaning studies have been done to confirm the source.

The final lecture I went to for the day was Dr. Rick Dina’s Avoiding Raw Food Nutrition Pitfalls: The Irrational Consumption of Fruit! This was another excellent one for me because I eat a lot of fruit, there’s always a large serving of it in my breakfast smoothies, I snack on it throughout the day and usually eat it for dessert after dinner. And I’ve been criticized for the large amount of carbs I intake from fruit. But after Dr. Dina’s lecture, I felt much better about it. I guess there are a number of raw foodies that avoid eating a lot of fruit in fear of the sugars/carbs in them and much of this lecture was to debunk those myths with actual patient case studies, including his own with blood work numbers, where lots of fruit is consumed compared those who avoid a majority of fruits targeting those with a fear of healthy carbohydrates.  Many of the studies he quoted from suggested higher fiber intakes, especially from raw plant foods, show a significant decrease in diabetes cases.

He went on to discuss that typically low-carb diets are high in long chain saturated fats and can contribute to an insulin resistance and contain a high amount of dietary AGE’s which can cause the same issue that glycation from high blood sugar can. And about the high water and fiber content in fresh fruits dilute a lot of fructose which was much easier for me to understand. :-) It was another great lecture.

The three very informative lectures, many demonstrations and lots of new exposure was a lot in just 4 hours, so we browsed the main exhibit hall one last time for anything we missed and hit the road at about 4:30 PM for the long drive home. Overall I was very impressed with the Raw Health Expo and plan to attend more of it next year. For a small-scale expo only on it’s 2nd year, there was a lot of informative lectures and demonstrations offered. I had a great time chatting with raw food enthusiasts of many different levels, learning about new products and feel I gained a lot in just a few hours.

Thankfully traffic was a breeze on the way home also and we found time and energy to stop at the Dixon Fruit Market to check it out and stock up. For years I’ve been meaning to stop by and remind myself every time I pass on my to and from the bay area, but have never had time or energy. It’s a cute little fruit market right off of 80 just west of Davis, not far from Sacramento. Walking in, I instantly spotted a watermelon I had to have and we left with fresh pistachios, pistachio butter, cashew butter, watermelon, cherries, and a honeydew melon.

Since it was still early in the evening and we still had energy, my sister and I decided to try a new place for dinner that I’ve also been meaning to check out for awhile – Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe .

Only getting there was a bit of an adventure because the street it’s on was blocked off for a classic car show and we had to park two blocks away and walk to it. Most of the shops and restaurants in midtown Sacramento are old houses, giving them all unique looks and floor plans. This one has a cute little patio in front of the house and a beautiful patio behind it with misters and wonderful artwork. We opted for the front patio to watch the car show spectators walk by, funny that guys were totally into all the restored cars taking pictures and chatting it up with the owners while most of the women with them were looking a little bored.

We had a hard time narrowing our choices down on the menu, literally everything looked good.

When I lived in Florida, my husband and I had great memories of a Mexican place we went to across the street from the beach were we got huge plates of loaded nachos then went for a walk on the beach – totally not healthy, but good memories. Unfortunately that restaurant and the entire shopping plaza it was in got bull-dozed a few years ago to make room for high-rise condos. Anyway, when I saw the Fire Roasted Corn & Black Bean Cheesy Nachos on the menu, I just had to have them.

It hardly looks vegan coated in Daiya-like cheddar shreds, cashew cream, guac with plenty of beans, corn and kick. It was an amazing plate that took me back and something I must drag hubby back for soon. I also splurged on a new beverage I’ve never tried.

Yum, tasted like root beer with more flare. My sister got the flaxbread pizza, an amazing raw vegan dish with side salad.

The pizzas were crumbly and messy to eat, but very good with a spicy guac, mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes and sprouts. Definite thumbs up for this place and I can’t wait to go back and enjoy the patio some more! It was a long, Ferris Bueller-style day of fun that we must do again soon.

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