The Dr. Sebi diet, also called the Dr. Sebi alkaline diet, is a plant-based diet developed by the late Dr. Sebi.
It’s claimed to rejuvenate your cells by eliminating toxic waste through alkalizing your blood.
The diet relies on eating a short list of approved foods along with many supplements.
This article reviews the benefits and downsides of the Dr. Sebi diet and whether scientific evidence backs up its health claims.
This diet is based on the African Bio-Mineral Balance theory and was developed by the self-educated herbalist Alfredo Darrington Bowman — better known as Dr. Sebi. Despite his name, Dr. Sebi was not a medical doctor and did not hold a PhD.
He designed this diet for anyone who wishes to naturally cure or prevent disease and improve their overall health without relying on conventional Western medicine.
According to Dr. Sebi, disease is a result of mucus build-up in an area of your body. For example, a build-up of mucus in the lungs is pneumonia, while excess mucus in the pancreas is diabetes.
He argues that diseases cannot exist in an alkaline environment and begin to occur when your body becomes too acidic.
By strictly following his diet and using his proprietary costly supplements, he promises to restore your body’s natural alkaline state and detoxify your diseased body.
Originally, Dr. Sebi claimed that this diet could cure conditions like AIDS, sickle cell anemia, leukemia, and lupus. However, after a 1993 lawsuit, he was ordered to discontinue making such claims.
The diet consists of a specific list of approved vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, oils, and herbs. As animal products are not permitted, the Dr. Sebi diet is considered a vegan diet.
Sebi claimed that for your body to heal itself, you must follow the diet consistently for the rest of your life.
Finally, while many people insist that the program has healed them, no scientific studies support these claims.
Summary The Dr. Sebi diet emphasizes consuming foods and supplements that supposedly decrease disease-causing mucus by achieving an alkaline state in your body.
The rules of the Dr. Sebi diet are very strict and outlined on his website.
According to Dr. Sebi’s nutritional guide, you must follow these key rules:
- Rule 1. You must only eat foods listed in the nutritional guide.
- Rule 2. Drink 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water every day.
- Rule 3. Take Dr. Sebi’s supplements an hour before medications.
- Rule 4. No animal products are permitted.
- Rule 5. No alcohol is allowed.
- Rule 6. Avoid wheat products and only consume the “natural-growing grains” listed in the guide.
- Rule 7. Avoid using a microwave to prevent killing your food.
- Rule 8. Avoid canned or seedless fruits.
There are no specific nutrient guidelines. However, this diet is low in protein, as it prohibits beans, lentils, and animal and soy products. Protein is an important nutrient needed for strong muscles, skin, and joints (1, 2).
Additionally, you’re expected to purchase Dr. Sebi’s cell food products, which are supplements that promise to cleanse your body and nourish your cells.
It’s recommended to buy the “all-inclusive” package, which contains 20 different products that are claimed to cleanse and restore your entire body at the fastest rate possible.
Besides this, no specific supplement recommendations are provided. Instead, you’re expected to order any supplement that matches your health concerns.
For example, the “Bio Ferro” capsules claim to treat liver issues, cleanse your blood, boost immunity, promote weight loss, aid digestive issues, and increase overall well-being.
Furthermore, the supplements don’t contain a complete list of nutrients or their quantities, making it difficult to know whether they will meet your daily needs.
Summary The Dr. Sebi diet has eight main rules that must be followed. They mainly focus on avoiding animal products, ultra-processed food, and taking his proprietary supplements.
While Dr. Sebi’s diet is not designed for weight loss, you may lose weight if you follow it.
The diet discourages eating a Western diet, which is high in ultra-processed foods and loaded with salt, sugar, fat, and calories (3).
Instead, it promotes an unprocessed, plant-based diet. Compared with the Western diet, those who follow a plant-based diet tend to have lower rates of obesity and heart disease (4).
A 12-month study in 65 people found that those who followed an unlimited whole-food, low-fat, plant-based diet lost significantly more weight than people who did not follow the diet (5).
At the 6-month mark, those on the diet had lost an average of 26.6 pounds (12.1 kg), compared with 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) in the control group (5).
Furthermore, most foods on this diet are low in calories, except for nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils. Therefore, even if you ate a large volume of approved foods, it’s unlikely that it would result in a surplus of calories and lead to weight gain.
However, very-low-calorie diets usually cannot be maintained long term. Most people who follow these diets regain the weight once they resume a normal eating pattern (6).
Since this diet does not specify quantities and portions, it’s difficult to say whether it will provide enough calories for sustainable weight loss.
Summary The Dr. Sebi diet is not designed for weight loss but is very low in calories and limits processed food. Therefore, you may lose some weight if you follow this diet.
One benefit of the Dr. Sebi diet is its strong emphasis on plant-based foods.
The diet promotes eating a large number of vegetables and fruit, which are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds.
Furthermore, most people are not eating enough produce. In a 2017 report, 9.3% and 12.2% of people met the recommendations for vegetables and fruit, respectively (10).
Moreover, the Dr. Sebi diet promotes eating fiber-rich whole grains and healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, and plant oils. These foods have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease (11).
Finally, diets that limit ultra-processed foods are associated with better overall diet quality (12).
Summary The Dr. Sebi diet emphasizes eating nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats, which may decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer, and inflammation.
A major downside of Dr. Sebi’s diet is that it restricts large groups of food, such as all animal products, wheat, beans, lentils, and many types of vegetables and fruit.
In fact, it’s so strict that it only allows specific types of fruit. For example, you’re allowed to eat cherry or plum tomatoes but not other varieties like beefsteak or roma tomatoes.
Moreover, following such a restrictive diet is not enjoyable and may lead to a negative relationship with food, especially since this diet vilifies foods that are not listed in the nutrition guide (13).
Finally, this diet encourages other negative behaviors, such as using supplements to achieve fullness. Given that supplements are not a major source of calories, this claim further drives unhealthy eating patterns (13).
Lacks protein and other essential nutrients
The foods listed in Dr. Sebi’s nutrition guide can be an excellent source of nutrition.
Only walnuts, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, and hemp seeds are permitted, which aren’t great sources of protein. For example, 1/4 cup (25 grams) of walnuts and 3 tbsp (30 grams) of hemp seeds provide 4 grams and 9 grams of protein, respectively (16, 17).
To meet your daily protein needs, you would need to eat extremely large portions of these foods.
Though foods in this diet are high in certain nutrients, such as beta carotene, potassium, and vitamins C and E, they’re low in omega-3, iron, calcium, and vitamins D and B12, which are common nutrients of concern for those following a strictly plant-based diet (18).
Dr. Sebi’s website states that certain ingredients in his supplements are proprietary and not listed. This is concerning, as it’s unclear which nutrients you’re getting and how much, making it difficult to know whether you’ll meet your daily nutrient needs.
Not based on real science
One of the biggest concerns with Dr. Sebi’s diet approach is the lack of scientific evidence to support it.
He states that the foods and supplements in his diet control acid production in your body. However, the human body strictly regulates acid-base balance to keep blood pH levels between 7.36 and 7.44, naturally making your body slightly alkaline (19).
In rare cases, such as ketoacidosis from diabetes, blood pH can go out of this range. This can be fatal without immediate medical attention (20).
Summary The Dr. Sebi diet may promote weight loss but is very restrictive and low in many essential nutrients, such as protein, omega-3, iron, calcium, and vitamins D and B12. It also ignores your body’s natural ability to regulate blood pH levels.
Dr. Sebi’s nutrition guide details specific foods allowed on the diet, including:
- Fruits: apples, cantaloupe, currants, dates, figs, elderberries, papayas, berries, peaches, soft jelly coconuts, pears, plums, seeded key limes, mangoes, prickly pears, seeded melons, Latin or West Indies soursop, tamarind
- Vegetables: avocado, bell peppers, cactus flower, chickpeas, cucumber, dandelion greens, kale, lettuce (except iceberg), mushrooms (except shiitake), okra, olives, sea vegetables, squash, tomatoes (only cherry and plum), zucchini
- Grains: fonio, amaranth, Khorasan wheat (kamut), rye, wild rice, spelt, teff, quinoa
- Nuts and Seeds: Brazil nuts, hemp seeds, raw sesame seeds, raw tahini butter, walnuts
- Oils: avocado oil, coconut oil (uncooked), grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, olive oil (uncooked), sesame oil
- Herbal teas: elderberry, chamomile, fennel, tila, burdock, ginger, raspberry
- Spices: oregano, basil, cloves, bay leaf, dill, sweet basil, achiote, cayenne, habanero, tarragon, onion powder, sage, pure sea salt, thyme, powdered granulated seaweed, pure agave syrup, date sugar
In addition to tea, you are allowed to drink water.
Plus, you may eat permitted grains in the form of pasta, cereal, bread, or flour. However, any food leavened with yeast or baking powder is banned.
Summary This diet has a very strict list of allowed foods. Foods that are not included in this list should be avoided.
Any foods that are not included in the Dr. Sebi nutrition guide are not permitted, such as:
- canned fruit or vegetables
- seedless fruit
- red meat
- soy products
- processed food, including take-out or restaurant food
- fortified foods
- sugar (besides date sugar and agave syrup)
- yeast or foods risen with yeast
- foods made with baking powder
Furthermore, many vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds are banned on the diet.
Only foods listed in the guide may be eaten.
Summary The diet limits any food that is processed, animal-based, or made with leavening agents. Certain vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds are not allowed.
Here is a three-day sample menu on the Dr. Sebi diet.
- Breakfast: 2 banana-spelt pancakes with agave syrup
- Snack: 1 cup (240 ml) of green juice smoothie made with cucumbers, kale, apples, and ginger
- Lunch: kale salad with tomatoes, onions, avocado, dandelion greens, and chickpeas with olive oil and basil dressing
- Snack: herbal tea with fruit
- Dinner: vegetable and wild-rice stir-fry
- Breakfast: shake made with water, hemp seeds, bananas, and strawberries
- Snack: blueberry muffins made with blueberries, pure coconut milk, agave syrup, sea salt, oil, and teff and spelt flour
- Lunch: homemade pizza using a spelt-flour crust, Brazil-nut cheese, and your choice of vegetables
- Snack: tahini butter on rye bread with sliced red peppers on the side
- Dinner: chickpea burger with tomato, onion, and kale on spelt-flour flatbread
- Breakfast: cooked quinoa with agave syrup, peaches, and pure coconut milk
- Snack: chamomile tea, seeded grapes, and sesame seeds
- Lunch: spelt-pasta salad with chopped vegetables and an olive oil and key lime dressing
- Snack: a smoothie made with mango, banana, and pure coconut milk
- Dinner: hearty vegetable soup using mushrooms, red peppers, zucchini, onions, kale, spices, water, and powdered seaweed
Summary This sample meal plan focuses on the approved ingredients included in the diet’s nutritional guide. Meals on this plan emphasize vegetables and fruits with small amounts of the other food groups.
The Dr. Sebi diet promotes eating whole, unprocessed, plant-based food.
It may aid weight loss if you do not normally eat this way.
However, it heavily relies on taking the creator’s expensive supplements, is very restrictive, lacks certain nutrients, and inaccurately promises to change your body to an alkaline state.
If you’re looking to follow a more plant-based eating pattern, many healthy diets are more flexible and sustainable.