The header at the top of Esosa Edosomwan’s website, Raw Girl Toxic World, features a cartoonized version of herself dressed as a caped crusader on a journey toward educating people about better health. After chatting with her, you realize how true to character that symbolism is. Most recently, you may have seen Edosomwan as “Ngozi,” a naïve and virginal young woman navigating the dating scene in Accra, Ghana on YouTube’s popular series, An African City.
When she’s not traveling, acting, modeling, writing or directing, she’s most likely consulting and sharing her knowledge of health, wellness and the benefits she has reaped from her mostly raw food vegan lifestyle (improved energy, clear skin, etc) with the world. EBONY.COM caught up with the Nigerian-American rising star to chat about the diet that sustains her busy lifestyle and the importance of knowing what works for your body.
EBONY: Explain what raw veganism actually is.
Esosa Edosomwan: Raw veganism is eating food that has not been heated above a certain temperature usually around 118 °F in order to retain the most nutrients, enzymes, and life force. I am not 100% raw all the time. I fluctuate depending on travel and season, but I generally remain very high raw and have a long list of foods I can't bother eating because my body has become very sensitive. I've been vegan for over 10 years.
EBONY: How did you discover raw veganism and what lead you to becoming one?
EE: My fabulous cousin was raw vegan when I was in college. She was in her thirties but everyone thought she was in her twenties when I went to visit her. I was amazed at how youthful she was. She taught me the basics of how to prepare some raw meals and got me thinking about taking on the lifestyle. It wasn't until years later when I had a bit of a health crisis which included persistent acne and feeling fatigued very often that I jumped into the raw lifestyle and never turned back.
EBONY: Did you go cold turkey or was the transition gradual? What steps did you take to clean up your diet and get used to the diligence of food prepping?
EE: I was already vegan so the hardest part was already done. It's not like I had to give up meat or cheese, which can be straight up addictive! The hardest thing for me was giving up bread. I went cold turkey but had a few relapses until I finally had to stop because I felt so much better without it in my diet. When I first started, I did a lot of juice fasts to clean out my system, and I also got used to preparing a wide range of salads. Later I learned more about dehydrating food but I'm still super busy these days, so I prefer to keep my meals quick and simple.
EBONY: Speaking of not eating bread, are you entirely gluten free? Where does that play a role in improving your health?
EE: I sort of am. I don't do breads or grains any longer because they don't agree with me. I found out later through allergy testing that my body is somewhat allergic or has an aversion to wheat. I know everyone is on the gluten-free craze right now because celiac disease has raised awareness about it; but gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean healthy. Gluten free foods are usually made with ingredients like rice, corn, potatoes, sorghum, tapioca, and millet, which are all higher in carbohydrates and have less nutritional value than wheat flour. It's best that before you jump on any fad including gluten free that you know your body and discover what works for you.
EBONY: Lifestyle changes can be hard when the people around you don't get it. So, how did you deal with naysayers and negative reactions?
EE: You have to do you and focus on how great you feel and revel in the sometimes huge or sometimes tiny transformations in your health, skin, and energy. My family poked loving fun at my veganism for years and then at some point I came home for a visit and there was almond milk and tofu in the fridge. People pay attention and if you stick to your convictions, sooner or later they'll be asking you how you do it. I really don't believe veganism is right for everyone because we are all so unique; however there were people who told me I was wrong for choosing a veggie lifestyle. Perhaps because they didn't understand it, or in some cases because they were genuinely concerned for my well-being. In those conversations, instead of getting defensive I learned to just smile and nod, and saunter away, vegetable juice in hand.
EBONY: How do you maintain your lifestyle while on the road?
EE: It's hard. You always have to be prepared. You can never go to the airport, train station, or anywhere on the road without snacks in tow because you never know if anything suitable will be around. I've learned to always have something so that I am not stranded and hungry.
EBONY: Can someone be a raw foodist but not be vegan?
EE: There are raw foodists out there that still eat meat products. Specifically, I know of raw foodists that consume organic raw dairy. That doesn't work for me because I am lactose intolerant but more power to the people who realized what their body needs, and chose to find the purest form of dairy to consume.
EBONY: What are some of your favorite things to eat?
EE: I absolutely love avocados and coconuts. Arugula and kale are definitely my favorite greens. Mangos make me happy. I love grapefruits, pineapple, raw cacao, spirulina, and eggplant, in no particular order. And of course I love gourmet raw dishes when they are done right; some of my favorite dishes ever have been at Karyn's Raw in Chicago, Rawvolution in LA, and Pure Food and Wine in NYC.
EBONY: One concern some people seem to have about veganism is getting enough protein. How do you make sure your diet is balanced and what are your top protein sources?
EE: Oh, the protein question! I get my protein from vegetables. They do have protein! [Also], sprouts, grass powders, nuts, etc. The best way I learned to balance my diet is to rotate food choices often, and incorporate super foods and powders that are packed with nutrition into my smoothies and juices. I also take a few supplements in addition to those, for good measure.
EBONY: Over all, what advice do you have for someone looking to incorporate more raw food in their diet or even to transition completely?
EE: Just do it! It's fun in the beginning to go the grocery store and start trying fruits and vegetables you have never included in your diet before. Whatever goal you set, keep increasing the foods you do want and slowly but surely you'll start to weed out what you don't. Make sure that you are easy on yourself and release the pressure to be 100% or go vegan overnight. Slow and steady wins the race.