Is The Dr. Sebi Diet Healthy? A Functional Medicine Perspective

mbg Editorial Assistant By Eliza Sullivan
mbg Editorial Assistant
Eliza Sullivan is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She received a B.S. journalism and a B.A. in english literature from Boston University.
The Dr. Debi Diet Explained

Image by mbg Creative / Various, iStock

The long and complicated history of the Dr. Sebi diet added another chapter this year, when it hit No. 2 on Google's search trends for diets. 

Its traffic peaked in early April of 2019 following the death of rapper Nipsey Hussle, who had previously reported that he was working on a documentary about Dr. Sebi. Some people linked Hussle's work on the documentary to his death, saying it "wasn't a coincidence." 

In the interview about the documentary, Hussle himself raised questions about the circumstances of Dr. Sebi's death. It seems that the diet wasn't necessarily trending in searches for application but rather as a result of curiosity about the related conspiracy theories. 

What exactly is the Dr. Sebi diet?

The plant-based diet is a form of alkaline diet, which was designed to help cells repair themselves through a combination of restricted diet and supplements.

"Dr." Sebi, whose real name was Alfredo Darrington Bowman, was born in 1933 in Honduras. He was not a doctor, medical or otherwise (though his site calls him a "pathologist, herbalist, biochemist, and naturalist"). He passed in August of 2016.

During his life, his diet had a number of celebrity fans, like Michael Jackson, but also was surrounded with controversy. He was sued by New York state after claiming he had "cured AIDS" in 1993, and he was told to stop making medical claims about his diet's benefits. 

The diet prescribes a strict form of veganism and is based on the concept that all diseases have to do with a localized failure by the body's mucus membranes. Based on this, by creating an alkaline environment, one can eliminate the cause of disease.

For those looking to try the diet, it starts with registering online. Creating a login on the Dr. Sebi website will allow access to the "Nutritional Guide," which provides a list of foods you're allowed to eat (it's specific), along with some other guidelines. 

The diet also advises taking Dr. Sebi Cell Food supplements. The "All-Inclusive Package" (for which there are gendered options) costs $1,500, while the "Advanced Package" is $750. Individual products can also be purchased on the website. 

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Rules of the diet:

1. If the food isn't in the "Nutritional Guide," it is not recommended.

2. You should drink one gallon of natural spring water per day.

3. Any Dr. Sebi products should be taken an hour before "pharmaceuticals."

4. All Dr. Sebi products can be taken together without interaction.

5. Strict adherence to the "Nutritional Guide" (complete with supplemental products) gives the best results for reversing disease.

6. No animal products, hybrid foods, canned fruits, seedless fruits, or alcohol may be consumed.

7. According to Sebi, using the microwave will "kill your food," so avoid using it.

What does it mean to alkalize the body?

An alkaline diet is based on the premise of controlling your body's pH with the foods you eat. Because the foods our body uses leave behind metabolic waste, the idea is that the waste can possess a pH varying from alkaline to acidic.

The human body has different pH levels in different areas, with organs like the stomach being more acidic while blood is more alkaline. One of the bodily products that is directly affected by the foods we eat is urine, which is a controller for managing pH in the blood.

The broader group of "alkaline diets" is based on the issue of metabolic waste, and the Dr. Sebi diet is one of many. They are healthy enough in that they encourage eating more healthy plant-based foods. There is no research, however, behind alkalinizing the body, and science does not support the claims made.

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The bottom line on the "Dr." Sebi diet.

While it makes big claims, the diet is not proven. It may result in similar benefits to an alternate plant-based diet, for which the benefits are more well researched, but the strict diet plan does seem to lack protein sources.

When it comes to alkalinizing, Wendie Trubow, M.D., told mbg, "The claims, without research, should not be relied upon."

If you're thinking about trying a plant-based diet, there are plenty of benefits to look forward to. Here are some tips for starting your plant-based journey.

And if you're curious, here's the complete list of foods allowed on the Dr. Sebi diet:

Vegetables
  • Amaranth greens
  • Avocado
  • Bell Peppers
  • Chayote (a Mexican squash)
  • Cucumber
  • Dandelion greens
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Izote (Cactus flowers/leaves)
  • Kale
  • Lettuce (but not iceberg)
  • Mushrooms (but not shiitake)
  • Nopales (Mexican cactus)
  • Okra
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Sea vegetables
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes (only cherry or plum varieties)
  • Tomatillos
  • Turnip greens
  • Zucchini
  • Watercress
  • Purslane (verdolaga)
  • Wild arugula
Fruits
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries (but not cranberries)
  • Elderberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Currants
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Grapes (if seeded)
  • Limes
  • Mango
  • Melons (if seeded)
  • Orange (Seville or sour is best)
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Prickly pear (cactus fruit)
  • Prunes
  • Raisins (if seeded)
  • Young coconuts
  • Soursops (if you can find them) 
  • Tamarind
Grains
  • Amaranth
  • Fonio
  • Kamut
  • Quinoa 
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Tef
  • Wild rice
Oils
  • Olive oil (only uncooked)
  • Coconut oil (only uncooked)
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Hempseed oil
  • Avocado oil
Nuts and seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Raw sesame seeds
  • Raw tahini
  • Walnuts
  • Brazil nuts
Seasonings
  • Basil
  • Bay leaf
  • Cloves
  • Dill
  • Savory
  • Sweet basil
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Achiote
  • Cayenne
  • Onion powder
  • Habanero
  • Sage
  • Pure sea salt
  • Powdered seaweeds
  • Pure agave syrup
  • Date sugar
Teas
  • Burdock
  • Chamomile
  • Elderberry
  • Fennel
  • Ginger
  • Raspberry 
  • Tila

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