Name: Afya Ibomu
Occupation: Celebrity Nutritionist, Certified Holistic Health Counselor
Location: Atlanta, GA
How long have you been vegan? And what inspired your journey?
I have been a vegetarian for 21 years, and vegan for 15 years. I became a vegetarian because I had asthma, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic dehydration as a child. After awhile, I became tired of taking numerous pills and medications per day. I knew there had to be another way to deal with my illnesses. When I was 15 years old, my mother found an allergy specialist that suggested that the food I was eating could be the cause of my problems. This was the first time that I connected food to health, and simultaneously, the rapper KRS-One had a song out called “Beef”, which discusses vegetarianism, health, and the food industry. Armed with all of this information, I became a vegetarian at age 15. My health improved somewhat, but it did not completely get better until I became a vegan.
Has veganism enhanced your health? Why or why not?
Yes! I no longer suffer from any of my previous illnesses. However, my 10 year old son was raised vegan, but he has food allergies to soy, gluten, and berries. Although allergies run on both sides of his family, I was hoping that my lifestyle and breastfeeding would stop him from having allergies similar to mine as a child. Now, he’s a pesca-vegan, and this was a lesson for me. Vegan and vegetarian diets do not solve all things, although living a veggie lifestyle definitely is helpful and reduces the risks of many diseases. I’m sure that if he was eating a poorer quality diet his symptoms would have been worse.
In retrospect, how do you feel about meat? Or do you have any thoughts on America’s meat industry?
As a holistic nutritionist, my views on meat have evolved over the years. Meat is high in iron, protein, and B12. And while these nutrients are important, most also exist in vegetable sources. I think the negative effects of beef, pork, eggs and poultry outweigh the positive effects. Can someone eat meat in moderation and still be healthy? Yes. The main issue is really the type and amount of meat that are eaten. Large portions of meat, along with nonorganic meat, increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke. 1-3 ounces of organic free range chicken, wild tilapia, or salmon per week plus large amounts of fruits, veggies, water and exercise, would be the optimal way of consuming meat.
Was there a community of black women that helped you along your meatless journey? And if not, what are you doing to change this for others?
Queen Afua was definitely an inspiration in my journey. Her book, Heal Thy Self, helped me to become a HEALTHY vegan. I am attempting to follow in the footsteps of the holistic healers and educators that came before me. I have a book called A Vegan Soulfood Guide to the Galaxy. My website, Nattral, promotes holistic living. I am a nutrition educator for the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program, and I also teach classes and do cooking demonstrations throughout the country.
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