“I felt like I needed a detox from my life,” Yovana Mendoza explains early into our visit to the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market, moments before cracking open a ‘White Genoa’ fig in the most gorgeous way imaginable. “I was always a really big party girl. Alcohol, not eating right, calorie restricting — very unhealthy patterns. [So] I went to the Optimum Health Institute here in San Diego. It’s a detox place where you go and eat raw food and do juice cleanses. I was initially going for a week but I decided to stay two weeks because I loved it. I loved the feeling of eating raw.”
That was last January, when Yovana was still living in Mexico City. Raised in San Diego and matriculated in Paris, Yovana moved back to SD last summer; today she’s better known across the internet as Rawvana, one of the leading voices (in both English and Spanish) championing the low-fat raw vegan diet known as 80/10/10.
In the 80/10/10 diet, 80 percent of one’s diet consists of carbohydrates from fruits, 10 percent from protein found in greens, and 10 percent from fats found in nuts and avocados. Alcohol, coffee, foods prepared over 118 Fahrenheit, and (of course) animal products are contraindicated.
The upshot? Yovana reports feeling “more energy, more vitality, and very clear-minded. Some people think that you’re not getting enough protein, or that you’re going to be weak if you eat this way, but it’s the other way around.” (We’d also like to add that her skin is radiant.) You’ll notice that same energy electrifies her Instagram feed, a kaleidoscope of bisected watermelons, lustrous grapes, smoothies and dragonfruit snapped against forest backdrops and city skylines.
Magnetic and cheerfully knowledgeable, Yovana met up with us at the Sunday farmer’s market in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego. As we wandered in and out of the vendor tents, we talked smoothies, sniffed peppers, marveled at serpentine Armenian cucumbers, and shopped for the raw vegan feast that Yovana would make for us later that day.
And silently we wondered, Were we hanging out with the future Nigella Lawson of raw vegan movement?
“Most of the day I’m eating fruit, three to four pounds depending how active I am,” says Yovana. A typical daily menu might look like this: First thing in the morning, she drinks two liters of water infused overnight with lemon, oranges and mint; about 30 minutes later, breakfast might be half a watermelon or a whole honeydew (“something really refreshing and hydrating”); a post-gym smoothie includes four bananas blended with celery in the Vitamix.
Lunch is often a “monomeal” — that is, “I pick one type of fruit and eat that until I’m satisfied. The other day I had 10 peaches for lunch so I took a picture of that and put it up.” More fruit precedes dinner, and dinner itself might be a yummy zucchini pasta on a bed of greens and topped with a spicy tomato dressing, the same dish we would prepare that afternoon.
Read on for the recipe!
Yovana buys most of her produce wholesale from Specialty Produce, which gives her a discount because she buys “in boxes, in bulk.” Her favorite fruit? “Papaya, but it’s not that easy to find here, especially organic.” Her more recent fruit discoveries? Figs and melons, which she hadn’t liked while growing up, but now “I love.”
She started blogging last spring, which eventually led to her popular YouTube channel featuring videos in both English and Spanish. (“Raw vegan” translates to “crudivegano.”) The idea to go public with her lifestyle — including the “Rawvana” name — was kindled at a wedding in Mexico City.
“Society from Tijuana and San Diego is really small, so everybody knows everybody,” she says. “So at that wedding everybody noticed that I wasn’t drinking. Like, ‘What, Yovana, you’re not drinking?’ I started telling them about my new lifestyle that I’m only eating raw fruits and vegetables and that I’d decided not to drink. As soon as I arrived at the wedding everybody [was saying], ‘Oh, you look so good, you look amazing. What are you doing?’ Because I’d lost a little bit of weight. One of my best friends started calling me ‘Rawvana’ at the wedding.”
Despite that enthusiasm (and over 10,000 followers on Instagram), Yovana says she doesn’t “have that many friends here who follow my lifestyle.” When she goes out to eat, “I might bring dates in my bag. Sometimes even a banana.”
Her dedication to the cause doesn’t end there; last summer Yovana attended the Woodstock Fruit Festival (with daily lectures, fitness classes, and a 24-hour, all-you-can-eat fruit buffet) and hosted a “fruitluck” for local pomiculture enthusiasts. She’s gotten certified in raw food nutrition at the Living Light Institute in Fort Bragg, and is studying to be a health coach at the Institute for Integrated Nutrition. During our interview, she was preparing to leave for an internship with Dr. Douglas Graham, who literally wrote the book on the 80/10/10 diet.
Thankfully, before she left for Washington, Yovana made a spectacular lunch for us, a tribute to her current interest in dressings and everlasting love for pepper: “I always use serrano. That’s my staple — because I’m Mexican, and we love spicy,” she says.
Here’s the recipe! Plus, in the video below, Rawvana herself shows us how to make the dressing:
Zucchini ‘Spaghetti’ With Greens and Spicy Tomato Dressing
3 bunches of leafy greens
3 soft, ripe heirloom tomatoes (reserve 1 tomato for salad)
5 basil leaves
½ very small red onion
¼ serrano pepper
1 Reiss avocado
1. To create noodles, run zucchinis through a spiralizer.
2. Combine 2 tomatoes, basil, onion and pepper in a blender or Vitamix until blended
3. Serve zucchini “pasta” on top of beds of greens, accompanied by avocado and slices of reserved tomato.
4. Spoon sauce over pasta.
5. Serve to your hungry friends!
In the video below, Yovana shows us how to make the sauce. And in the photos below, we eat a delicious lunch in her backyard!