"Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)"
Jan. 27--A decade ago, there wasn't much going on in Southern California in the way of raw food. But the uncooked, organic plant-based diet movement has burst onto the scene in recent years.
There are restaurants and juice bars, "cook" books and specialty products, as well as retreats.
"Raw food is not a fad," says Nomi Shannon, the San Diego-based author of "The Raw Gourmet" and raw food coach. "It's all over the country -- it's worldwide too."
The Raw Living Expo coming to the Hyatt Westlake Plaza in Thousand Oaks next weekend is yet another offshoot of the growing movement. It aims at introducing the raw-curious to the many facets of the raw food lifestyle. As people converge on the event they'll learn about body-cleansing elixirs, how to add more raw food to their diets and the health benefits of going raw, which is hotly debated.
"People don't like us using words like 'cure,' but when you put in the foods that allow the body electric to run well without obstruction, you're going to achieve health," says Laura Chiraya Fox, founder of the Raw Living Expo.
One theory suggests that enzymes are destroyed when food is heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit -- a magic number among raw foodists. Consuming cooked food forces the body to deplete its enzyme resources resulting in dehydration, signs of aging and other downfalls, while eating a large porportion of raw food replenishes the body. At least, that's what raw food proponents say.
"There's less scientific evidence for raw food than there is for other things, but the experiential thing is why so many people are doing it," says Shannon, whose been leading a raw lifestyle for the last 26 years. "It just feels so good."
Some people even insist eating raw foods confers sexual abilities.
"When we start eating natural foods in their natural state -- what we were designed to eat -- then circulation is just one of the many things that comes to us and benefits us," says Steve Factor, a Los Angeles-based certified holistic health coach and Whole Foods' official Pure Energy Chef. "I like to say in my talks to all the men, 'And guess what? Circulation works all over.'"
So what does it take to boost the libido and retain a more youthful glow?
The key is having each day's meal be at least 50 percent raw, which can include fresh product, nuts, seeds and grains. Raw foodists often partner uncooked foods with quinoa, steamed vegetables and vegan cafe food.
"It's really what you do most of the time that matters," says Shannon, who suggests switching out a meal for a raw smoothie like her Vanilla Bliss designed for bodybuilders, nursing moms or anyone looking to gain weight.
The high-powered blender drink consists of 3/4 cup water, a fresh or frozen banana, 1 to 4 tablespoons of raw tahini and a splash of vanilla extract. Not sweet enough? Throw in a date.
Salads dressed with raw seeds is another easy alternative.
For salads, she likes drizzling on a dressing made by combining one teaspoon of tahini and the juice of half an orange in a bowl and then stirring. Add curry, crushed kaffir lime or any spice you like to taste.
Home style or gourmet, there will be a variety of raw food demonstrations to tempt the palate during the weekend expo. Think appetizers, soups, savory entrees, desserts and green smoothies -- a blender drink that's traditionally 40 percent fruit and 60 percent greens plus water.
For those chilly nights, Shannon plans to demonstrate warming foods.
"One of the biggest questions people have is 'How do I stay warm in the winter?' One answer is cooked food, a lot of people have hot soup or a cooked dinner and eat raw the rest of the day," she says. "But another way you can do it is by eating heavier foods."
One of the recipes she'll be sharing is marinated mushrooms.
"It's fabulous because you make it two or three days before you eat it, and you can't discern the difference between them and cooked mushrooms."
Spices such as cinnamon, cumin and garlic also turn up the heat.
Factor will prepare Pesto Zugetti, which he describes as a zucchini that's been turned into noodles using a hand spiralizer. The zucchini noodles are served with a pesto sauce made of basil, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts with other spices for zing.
"We're all scared of never cooking again but raw is the best food in the world," Factor says. "There's so much flavor in the rawness of it all. It's amazing."
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