Healthy Living Expo: Whole Foods, Plant-Based


Do you want to look radiant and slim? Or would you rather feel radiant and alive? The solution to both of your concerns lies in the food you eat. One group of enlightened doctors are raising the clarion cry about what they consider to be the perfect food for humans which is a whole foods diet based on plants.

At my first Healthy Living Festival in Valencia, I sat down with a group of strangers during the vegan buffet offered on the opening night of the conference. The colorful and wholesome food on my plate was made without animal products or oil.

As I took my seat and settled in, I turned to the man next to me and inquired, “Are you vegan?” Somewhat put off by my remark he said, “I’m more than that.” Surprised I said, “Then you’re raw?” He stated that he wasn’t a raw foodist so I asked, “What’s more vegan than raw?” and he said, “I’m whole foods, plant-based,” to which I replied, “Isn’t that vegan?” His answer was that vegans could eat Oreos and junk food but people into the whole foods plant-based diet didn’t eat processed food.

Evidence-Based Nutrition

The Healthy Living Expo is held at the stately Hyatt Regency in Valencia for three days every October. Hosted by Veg Source founders Jeff and Sabrina Nelson, the conference features alternative health doctors like John McDougal, Caldwell Essylstein, Neal Barnard, Michael Gregor and T. Colin Campbell to name just a few luminaries who have presented at the Expo in the past.

All these doctors present research on food including how food can be addictive and why we want to be careful about what we put into our body.

The conference began Sunday morning with a cooking class by Chef AJ who taught particpants how to make a lovely quinoa pilaf using herbs, currants, and lime juice. She also demonstrated a recipe for raw brownies that she pressed into a silicon brownie pan from which they popped out shaped like brownies.

The first speaker was Dr. Craig McDougal who is Dr. McDougal’s son. Craig lives in Portland and practices at his own healing center called Zoom. As a testament to the type of doctor he is and what he focuses on, he informed us that his office is a kitchen.

All Calories Are Not Equal

In Zoom’s teaching kitchen patients see an array of same-sized jars featuring what 400 calories looks like in different foods. For instance, 400 calories of potato almost fills the jar, but 400 calories from cheese covers a thin section at the bottom of the jar.

This means that when you eat 400 calories of potatoes you are filling your belly to feel sated. But when you eat the cheese, since its such a little bit, you aren’t satisfied and have to add other foods to the cheese and pretty soon you are expanding out of your jeans.

After Craig’s presentation we heard from Dr. Alan Goldhamer from True North Health center in Santa Rosa who spoke about the benefits of water fasting to wean people off unhealthy diets of processed junk food, helping them lose weight and feel great.

All My Relations

Presenter Dr Neal Barnard talked about cheese and how dairy fat contributes to problems for people such as plaque deposits in the arteries and obesity. He also noted the suffering that goes into taking a baby calf away from the mother and how the mournful lowing of the moms and babies back and forth across the feedlot haunts the neighboring community.

Dr. McDougal presented about colonoscopies and said they should be avoided due to more harm than good being done through the screenings. He suggested easier alternatives such as sigmoidoscopy which is not an operating room procedure.

On the last day the speakers who presented over the fact-filled weekend then reconvened on stage at the end for a final Q & A session fielding questions from the audience.

One women asked about how diet could help her bi-polar disorder and Dr. Barnard answered it saying lithium is a brain salt and he didn’t know if there were any naturally occurring dietary sources for it. He suggested she take her medicines.

Vegans need to supplement vitamin B12 which comes from animal foods. Vitamin B12 deficiency is characterized by nervous system disorders. Upon considering that question and pondering some recent states of anxiety, I promptly returned home from the conference and bought a big jar of sublingual B12 to start supplementing my diet.

Healthy Maintenance

The conference is a great resource for people interested in the notion that food is the most powerful medicine we have. Making food from scratch and eating mostly plant based while avoiding processed food and simple carbohydrates like white flour and sugar will help you feel better.

We are advised to eliminate all trans fats such as anything with the word hydrogenated in it and also avoid common bottled vegetable oils such as soybean oil and replace those bad oils with cold-pressed oil or extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.

Avoid dairy fats but supplement healthy plant based fats as important sources of Omega 3 oils which include avocado, olives, walnuts, cold pressed hemp and flax oil as well as hemp seeds, chia seeds and flax seeds. These oils are also important for healthy brain function.

I am grateful for the opportunity to revive my commitment to a whole foods plant-based diet and will be following up again next year so stay tuned. If you have any comments about this please post them and I will do my best to answer your questions.





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