Humans are creatures of habit. We establish routines in our daily lives and generally stick to them.

We're told by TV commercials and celebrities that in order to grow up strong and be strong, we need calcium. Not just any calcium though, but calcium that comes from milk, cheese and yogurt. We're told familiar adages: “Got milk?” and “Eat 3-a-day of milk, cheese and yogurt for healthy bones.” Yet, calcium is a mineral absorbed by plants as they grow out of the earth. In other words, it doesn’t occur naturally in animals. So why do we go to animals for this nutrient?

This is one of the arguments made by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau in her lecture, “Debunking the Myths and Celebrating the Benefits of Vegan Living,” at the 2018 Sedona VegFest last weekend.

“We’re told we have to go through the animal to get the nutrients that the animal got because they ate plants,” she said. "We live in a world that, in many ways, embraces animal exploitation and abuse and looks upon those who oppose these things with suspicion and sometimes with derision." 

Patrick-Goudreau is an acclaimed speaker and host of several podcasts discussing the culinary, social, ethical and practical aspects of a vegan lifestyle. She's also the author of several books exploring the health benefits of a plant-based diet.

”We don’t have diseases of deficiency; we have diseases of excess,” she said, before asking the audience if anyone had scurvy or rickets. Those gathered in the auditorium of the Sedona Performing Arts Center laughed.

On the other hand, when discussing high blood pressure and diabetes, most of the audience members indicated that they knew someone with the condition.

This was the second year Sedona VegFest was organized by Healthy World Sedona, a nonprofit group that aims to improve life—planetary, human and animal. Co-founders Don Fries and Bev Bow said they wanted to bring in presenters who have credibility and a national presence, as well as incorporating some local Arizona experts.

Some of the other speakers included Keegan Kuhn, co-director of documentaries "Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret" and "What the Health;" Jane Velez-Mitchell, an animal rights proponent; Brenda Davis, registered dietician; and a keynote Sunday morning by Dr. Michael A. Klaper, a researcher who has found that people with cardiovascular disease who adhere to a plant-based diet avoid further major cardiac events.  

Around 600 VegFest attendees came out each day to hear from dietitians, chefs and other experts in the health field while also enjoying samples from vendors.  

Booths were set up offering vegan and cruelty-free skincare products, dairy alternatives, handmade tea blends and more.

Virgin Cheese drew a near-constant crowd of people looking to sample its artisanal cheese alternatives, while Heather Foods, a Las Vegas-based dessert shop, ran out of their salted caramel “cheese” cakes. Both vendors utilize cashews in their recipes. The nut’s mellow base can take up and highlight the flavors of other ingredients.

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 “The Sedona VegFest emerges each January, a time of year that speaks strongly to renewal,” explained Fries and Bow in the festival program. “Let’s embrace that spirit of renewal together as we explore a lifestyle that promotes physical and emotional wellness, provides ethical alignment with our fellow terrestrial and marine animals, and fosters vibrant planetary health.”

Such festivals are popping up across the state as interest rises. There was one happening concurrently with the Sedona VegFest in Scottsdale this past weekend, one in Phoenix is coming up at the end of February and then another in Scottsdale in March.  

The popularity of the events is evidence of a growing trend of people leaning toward a whole food plant-based diet. According to the 2017 Top Trends in Prepared Foods report, 6 percent of the U.S. population identifies as vegan, up from  1 percent in 2014. And in 2016, a report from global market research firm Mintel showed that the plant-based food sector reached $3.5 billion, an 8.7 percent growth from 2014. With more options for meat and dairy alternatives, it’s becoming  easier for people concerned about the environmental and health impacts of eating meat to make the switch or at least eat less red meat and dairy.  

Looking to the future, Healthy World Sedona plans to continue providing information about healthy diets and hosting cooking demos to help those interested in making a change get started.

For additional information, visit www.HealthyWorldSedona.com

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