The Dr. Sebi diet, also called the Dr. Sebi alkaline diet, is a plant-based diet developed by the late Dr. Sebi. It’s said to rejuvenate your cells by eliminating toxic waste, which is purportedly accomplished by alkalizing your blood.
The diet relies on a short list of approved foods alongside many supplements.
However, you may wonder whether its claims stack up to scientific evidence — and whether it’s healthy.
This article reviews the benefits and downsides of the Dr. Sebi diet.
DIET REVIEW SCORECARD
- Overall score: 1.2
- Weight loss: 2.5
- Healthy eating: 0.25
- Sustainability: 1
- Whole body health: 0
- Nutrition quality: 2
- Evidence based: 1.5
BOTTOM LINE: The Dr. Sebi diet is a plant-based eating pattern that encourages you to take branded supplements. Given that it promotes baseless health claims and is very restrictive, expensive, and lacking in nutrients, it’s best to avoid it.
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 buildup in any area of your body. He claimed that pneumonia is caused by a buildup of mucus in the lungs, while diabetes is triggered by excess mucus in the pancreas.
He argued that diseases cannot exist in an alkaline environment and begin to occur when your body becomes too acidic. His diet and proprietary costly supplements purport 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 cease such claims.
The diet consists of a specific list of approved vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, oils, and herbs. As animal products aren’t 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.
The Dr. Sebi diet emphasizes foods and supplements that supposedly decrease disease-causing mucus by achieving an alkaline state in your body. However, no studies support these claims.
The rules of the Dr. Sebi diet are very strict. According to his website, they are:
- 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 1 hour before medications.
- Rule 4. No animal products are permitted.
- Rule 5. No alcohol is allowed.
- Rule 6. Avoid wheat products and only eat 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, meat, and soy products. Protein is an important nutrient needed for strong muscles, skin, and joints (
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.
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.
Yet, the supplements don’t contain a complete list of nutrients or their quantities, making it difficult to know whether they’ll meet your daily needs.
The Dr. Sebi diet has eight main rules that you’re supposed to follow. They mainly focus on avoiding animal products, steering clear of ultra-processed food, and taking proprietary supplements.
While Dr. Sebi’s diet isn’t designed for weight loss, you may lose weight if you follow it.
The diet discourages following a Western diet, which is high in ultra-processed foods and loaded with salt, sugar, fat, and calories (
Instead, it promotes an unprocessed, plant-based diet. Compared with the Western diet, plant-based diets promote lower rates of obesity and heart disease (
A 12-month study including 65 people found that those who followed an unlimited whole-food, low fat, plant-based diet lost significantly more weight than those who didn’t follow the diet (
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) among those in the control group (
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 doing so would result in a surplus of calories and lead to weight gain.
However, very low calorie diets usually cannot be maintained in the long term. Most people who follow these diets regain the weight once they resume a normal eating pattern (
Since this diet doesn’t specify quantities and portions, it’s difficult to say whether it will provide enough calories for sustainable weight loss.
The Dr. Sebi diet isn’t 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 mostly vegetables and fruits, which are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds. Diets rich in veggies and fruit have been associated with reduced inflammation and oxidative stress, as well as protection against many diseases (
In a study including 65,226 people, those who ate 7 or more servings of vegetables and fruit per day had a 25% and 31% lower incidence of cancer and heart disease, respectively (
Furthermore, most people do not eat enough fresh produce. In one report, only 9.3% and 12.2% of people in the United States met the recommendations for vegetables and fruit, respectively (
Moreover, the Dr. Sebi diet promotes eating fiber-rich whole grains and healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, and plant oils. These foods are linked to a lower risk of heart disease (
Finally, diets that limit ultra-processed foods are associated with better overall diet quality (
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.
Keep in mind that there are several drawbacks to this diet.
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 may not be enjoyable and lead to a negative relationship with food, especially since this diet vilifies foods that aren’t listed in its nutrition guide (
Finally, this diet encourages other negative behaviors, such as using supplements to achieve fullness. As supplements aren’t a major source of calories, this claim further drives unhealthy eating patterns (
Lacks protein and other essential nutrients
The foods listed in Dr. Sebi’s nutrition guide can be an excellent source of nutrition.
However, none of the permitted foods are good sources of protein, which is an essential nutrient for skin structure, muscle growth, and enzyme and hormone production (
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 tablespoons (30 grams) of hemp seeds provide 4 and 9 grams of protein, respectively (
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 (
The Dr. Sebi diet website states that certain ingredients in its supplements are proprietary. 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 science
One of the biggest concerns with Dr. Sebi’s diet approach is the lack of scientific evidence to support it.
The diet asserts that its foods and supplements control acid production in your body. However, the human body strictly regulates its acid-base balance to keep blood pH levels between 7.36 and 7.44, naturally making your body slightly alkaline (
In rare cases, such as ketoacidosis from diabetes, blood pH can go out of this range. This can be fatal without immediate medical attention (
Finally, research has shown that your diet may slightly and temporarily change your urine pH, but not your blood pH. Therefore, following Dr. Sebi’s diet will not make your body more alkaline (21).
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 diet is highly restrictive and thus excludes a range of essential nutrients. While your body could subsist for short periods on this diet, it isn’t a sustainable or healthy way to eat in the long term. More importantly, following any diet cannot make your blood alkaline (21).
Following this diet for more than a few weeks may leave you vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies and malnutrition, as it fails to include foods rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, and vitamins D and B12 (
These missing nutrients can be especially problematic to those with iron deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, or osteopenia. The Dr. Sebi diet may exacerbate these conditions since it lacks key micronutrients (
Not getting enough vitamin B12 can also lead to pernicious anemia, which can cause fatigue, memory problems, and shortness of breath, a feeling of pins and needles in your hands and feet, and a sore, red tongue (
This diet is completely unsafe for certain groups, such as people with historical or active eating disorders, as well as those who are pregnant (
Those with kidney disease should consult a doctor or registered dietitian before beginning this diet (
The Dr. Sebi diet is unsafe to follow for long periods, as it may lead to nutrient deficiencies. You should refrain from this diet entirely if you’re pregnant or have a history of disordered eating.
Dr. Sebi’s nutrition guide allows for a strict list of foods, 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, and 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), and zucchini
- Grains: fonio, amaranth, Khorasan wheat (Kamut), rye, wild rice, spelt, teff, and quinoa
- Nuts and Seeds: Brazil nuts, hemp seeds, raw sesame seeds, raw tahini butter, and walnuts
- Oils: avocado oil, coconut oil (uncooked), grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, olive oil (uncooked), and sesame oil
- Herbal teas: elderberry, chamomile, fennel, tila, burdock, ginger, and 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, and date sugar
In addition to tea, you’re 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.
Which foods are alkaline rich?
Given that your diet has no substantial effect on your blood pH, there’s no scientific reason to restrict your intake to only those foods listed above (21).
Alkaline-promoting foods include most vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains. Research shows that diets rich in a variety of these foods improve your health and help you live longer (
Thus, there are many good reasons to include more plant-based foods in your diet. In other words, health-promoting foods extend far beyond Dr. Sebi’s list of permitted foods.
Therefore, you should also consider eating these foods as part of a balanced diet:
- Fruits: fresh coconut, bananas, and kiwi
- Vegetables: potatoes, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, iceberg lettuce, cauliflower, and soybeans
- Legumes: lentils and beans
- Proteins: tofu
The Dr. Sebi diet has a very strict list of permitted foods. However, a healthy diet should include a range of plant-based and other nutritious foods.
Any foods that aren’t included in Dr. Sebi’s nutrition guide are banned, 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
Many vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds are off-limits as well.
The diet limits any food that’s processed, animal-based, or made with leavening agents. Certain vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds are likewise not allowed.
Here’s a 3-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, served 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 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 with olive oil and Key lime dressing
- Snack: 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
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 foods.
While it may aid weight loss, it relies heavily 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 other healthy diets are more flexible and sustainable.
Just one thing
Try this today: To make your own protein-rich, plant-based snack, take your favorite raw or dry-roasted unsalted nut, then toss with olive oil and spices like black pepper, cayenne, cumin, garlic, rosemary, or chili or curry powder.
Bake at 350ºF (177ºC) for 10–12 minutes, or until golden. Let cool and enjoy.