What You Need to Know about the Rastafarian Diet

Jamaica is an increasingly popular holiday destination among tourists from all walks of like. If you have been considering it for your next vacation, then you should know from the start that sampling the food is a must. The country’s cuisine is one of the most telling elements of its culture, and the Rastafarian diet is an integral part of that.

Although it makes use of many of the land’s popular ingredients, the Rasta way to prepare and combine them is very different than tradition would dictate. You can check this source for more information on the topic. Here is what you need to know about the Rastafari Ital method, complete with advice on how to apply its principles in your own kitchen.

What You Need to Know about the Rastafarian Diet

About Rastafarianism

Nowadays, people tend to associate the Rastafari religion with Jamaica so much, you’d think it is an ancient system of belief of the land. However, the movement is a rather new one on the map of the world. It developed in the 1930s in the country, and it is an Abrahamic monotheistic faith centered around the worship of Jah, the single God.

The pivotal figure of Rastafarianism is the former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie the First, whose reign started around the same the creed was born. He ruled the country from 1930 to 1974, and he is believed to be the Second Coming of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Jah. According to BBC, Rastas don’t have churches and prefer to carry out their worship at home.

The food they eat is a big part of the culture as well. Their meals don’t consist of the typical jerk meat dishes the Caribbean island has become popular for. Instead, the Rastafari diet is characterized by the Ital way of cooking food, which is an interesting take on minimalism and vegetarianism that is in sync with their faith.

The Ital Rastafari Diet

Ital, also spelled I-tal in some cases, is a word that has been derived from the English “vital” by removing the first letter, which is “v”. There is a common saying among the Rastafari that claims, “Ital is vital”, which shows not only how the diet got its name, but also its monumental significance for the religion and culture of Jamaica.

Rastafarians are adepts of eating clean and organic food that comes directly from the Earth. This is believed to strengthen their bond with nature, which is a pillar of the religion. For this reason, dishes are heavily focused on fresh vegetables prepared in deliciously simple ways. The Rasta don’t use the word ‘cook’, as that would involve butter, refined oils, or salt.

Instead, they rely on natural coconut oil. In Jamaica, the food is as pure as they come. What is more, Ital is also seen as a way to avoid the intervention of Western medicine as much as possible, which is another strong conviction they hold. As Ital caterer Daniel “Nashamba-I” Crabble explains to National Geographic, the food should be one’s doctor.

Most Rastafarians are vegetarian, with stricter worshippers choosing to go the full mile and become vegan. This is because they believe eating dead animals turns the body into a cemetery, when it should be a vessel for a religious awakening. While many of them make an exception for fish, they steer clear of seafood due to limitations imposed by the Old Testament.

Adepts of the religion avoid alcohol, milk, and coffee. Instead, they are huge fans of herbs, which they use to make tea. They also drink plenty of fruit juice, and eat the raw stuff as well, provided it hasn’t been peeled beforehand. All in all, the Rastafari diet is naturally delicious and detoxes the body from refined junk.

Eating Ital at Home

To emulate the Rastafarian diet from the comfort of your home, you first need to gather all the customary herbs and spices. The most widely used ones are paprika, cayenne, oregano, garlic, onion, scallions, black pepper, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice made from the pimento berry. Adding them in various quantities adds wonderful flavor to the plainest foods.

As for the main Ital ingredients, focus on tropical fruits and vegetables. Mangoes, pineapples, papaya, guava, avocados, and bananas all make great choices. If you want to feel like a true Jamaican, you can also try ackee, the national fruit of the country. And don’t forget about coconuts, as they are integral to the Rasta diet. Every single part of them is used in dishes.

If you’re craving something a bit more copious, you can’t go wrong with sweet potatoes, yams, and Yucca bread. And as previously mentioned, you can also cook dishes with fish. However, Ital food steers clear of anything longer than 12 inches, so you might want to consider that as well when putting the meals together.

Final Thoughts

Unlike traditional Jamaican cuisine, the Rastafarian Ital way of cooking food is focused around connecting with nature. Due to this, fresh and organic fruits and vegetables are essential, and little to no animal products are consumed. Still, with the right spices and preparation process, some of the savoriest dishes on the island emerged.


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