We Looked Into the Trendy Dr. Sebi Diet and, Well, You'd Better Read This

It's a new year, and diets are all the rage, from the keto diet to the Mediterranean diet. You may have heard of the Dr. Sebi diet and wondered what the heck it's all about. And who is Dr. Sebi anyway? (Spoiler alert: He's not a doctor.)

We looked into the trendy new Dr. Sebi diet, and while it’s certainly a healthier way to eat than the nutritionally lacking, fast food-heavy standard American diet, there are some aspects that seem concerning. Intrigued? We’ll go over those here, so you can make an informed decision before you decide to follow the Dr. Sebi diet. Here's the scoop—including what you can and can't eat on it.

What is the Dr. Sebi Diet?

Dr. Sebi, as we mentioned, is not really a doctor at all, but rather an herbalist and healer from Honduras. He created this diet based on the tenet that maintaining an alkaline environment in the body is the best way to cure and prevent diseases. According to the guidelines set forth in the diet, the best way to achieve that is by eating mainly plant-based foods, and avoiding most other foods, including processed foods and alcohol. Abdul Bowman, the late Dr. Sebi’s son, touts the diet as a way to bring about better health for everyone: “Anyone can follow his diet. No one is excluded. In addition to its disease healing benefits, it particularly works for people simply trying to lose weight and to get back into health,” he says.

Related: 100 Types of Diets

What foods do you eat on the Dr. Sebi Diet?

The Dr. Sebi diet food list includes:

  • leafy greens like kale, arugula and romaine

  • bell peppers

  • mushrooms

  • avocados

  • cucumbers

  • squash

  • zucchini

  • tomatoes

  • okra

  • chickpeas

  • olives

  • amaranth

  • quinoa

  • wild rice

  • rye

  • apples

  • bananas

  • blueberries

  • cantaloupe

  • peaches

  • prunes

  • walnuts

  • hemp seeds

  • dates

  • agave syrup

The diet also has you drink one gallon of natural spring water daily, but prohibits a ton of foods, including meat, dairy, fish and alcohol.

Alkalizing (or achieving an alkaline environment) is a big part of the Dr. Sebi diet. He believed that keeping your body in an alkaline (rather than acidic) state would cause toxins to be removed from the body as the bloodstream becomes neutralized. To do this according to his specifications, you must take herbal supplements that cost up to $1,500. The diet claims these herbs support organ cleansing, gut health and low blood sugar. And while that may be true, it’s important to note that these claims aren’t based on any sort of scientific research, nor have they been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Related: Prebiotics vs. Probiotics—What's the Difference?

Dr. Sebi Diet vs. a vegan diet

With all the plant-based foods on the approved Dr. Sebi food list, it’s understandable to consider this just another repackaging of a vegan diet. But, there are some key differences between the Dr. Sebi diet and a vegan diet—vegan diets allow soy products, as well as beans and legumes of any type, while none of these exist on the Dr. Sebi food list. Clearly, the exclusion of beans and legumes makes it incredibly difficult to take in adequate amounts of protein on the Dr. Sebi diet, and this is a concern for anyone who follows the diet for the long term. And while typical vegan diets allow for any kind of fruit and vegetables, the Dr. Sebi diet restricts those that it considers to be too acidic. As such, most people are likely to find this diet entirely too restrictive, says Amanda Kostro Miller, RD, LDN.

Related: 10 Nutrients to Make Sure You're Getting If You're Following a Vegan Diet

Benefits of the Dr. Sebi Diet

Still, there are some benefits of the Dr Sebi diet which bear mentioning. Kostro Miller says, “This diet focuses on lifelong changes to healthier eating, rather than being a fad diet. It emphasizes plant-based eating, which does show positive benefits to overall health.” And the American Heart Association agrees, stating on their website that eating less meat decreases the risk of stroke, heart attack and Type 2 diabetes, as well as a host of other maladies.

Drawbacks of the Dr. Sebi Diet

Many people are of the opinion that anytime a particular diet hawks its own products, it’s one to be wary of. And even though there are some clear benefits to adopting a plant-based lifestyle (either full or part time), there are some drawbacks of the Dr. Sebi diet that bear mentioning.

1. It's not based on research.

This diet, right down to its name, tends to be a bit misleading. “Dr” Sebi was not a doctor at all, and ran into legal trouble for calling himself one. That’s reason enough to tread lightly when it comes to deciding whether to follow the Dr Sebi diet.

2. It can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Because of the highly restrictive nature of this diet, it’s easy to become malnourished if you follow it for the long term. There’s a good chance you would need to take supplements on this diet.

3. It makes claims that may be false.

Kostro Miller says, “This diet makes ‘too good to be true’ claims that you can eliminate disease by following it, which is simply not always the case.”

4. It can be expensive.

Like we mentioned earlier, the supplements that are part of this diet are quite expensive, and often aren’t researched enough before hitting the shelves.

The bottom line is, there are things about this diet that are great; overall, there’s a good chance it’s healthier than your current diet. However, we caution you to skip the supplements, since eating healthy foods should be enough to boost your life expectancy and overall health. Regardless, the best thing to do before starting this or any diet is to consult your physician or nutritionist so they can guide you and help you make the best choices for your body.

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  • Amanda Kostro Miller, RD, LDN

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