The Rastafarian diet, as well as other aspects of the culture and religion, is based on Ital. The word can be translated as “vital”, a way of emphasizing the empowerment of Jamaicans and an understanding of our relationship with the environment. Ital food plays a crucial role in the lives of Rastafarians. We are talking about pure, natural food that nourishes the body. In this article, we are going to expand on the subject of Ital and show you how you too can adopt a Rastafarian diet.
The Role of Ital in the Rastafarian Culture
We can’t possibly move on to the Rastafarian diet and the foods you are allowed to eat until talking a bit more about Ital. Every aspect of the life of a Rasta circles the concept of Ital. The Rastafari movement developed in the Caribbean island of Jamaica in the 1930s. It arose as a stance against the injustice, inequality, and oppression that were common in the country at that time. This movement encourages the Back-to-Africa concept, black pride, and freedom.
Rastas reject the Western lifestyle, which every so often is guilty of materialism, vanity, greed, and unethical behavior. And this also includes gastronomy. See, for the Rastafarians, the body is a temple, as cliché as it may sound. Yet they promote their health and wellness through a nourishing Rastafarian diet and exercise.
As mentioned, the Rasta diet is often referred to as Ital. Despite the fact that this concept comprises other practices as well, the term is more often than not applied to the diet of the Rastafarians. Generally, Ital is associated with vegetarianism. The dietary laws are similar to those followed by the Jews, which you can read in Leviticus – Chapter 11. Some Ital followers also eat raw, uncooked foods for periods of time, while others fully adopt a vegan diet. However, the vegan approach raises some concerns because of the health concerns associated with this very restrictive diet.
The Rastafarian Diet in a Contemporary Society
Many things have changed since the birth of Ital the 1930s, and one of the most obvious facts is the globalization of the movement. Because the Rastafarian diet is quite flexible, anyone who desires to embrace a healthier lifestyle can practice Ital. Not even Rastas adhere to the same form of the diet. Which is why vegetarianism or veganism, tweaking them (within the rules of Ital, of course) as you wish.
Today, the concern with the genetically modified organisms and production of food has lead many looking for an alternative. As a result, health movements enjoy a greater popularity than ever. The shift towards natural foods demonstrates how Ital can be applied worldwide. A good example is a couple living in Liverpool, UK, who has set up a food truck with the mission of educating people on Ital eating.
What Can You Eat on a Rastafarian Diet?
Rasta foods do not contain preservatives, additives, chemicals, food colorings or flavorings. Ital foods do not contain salt, but you can add flavor to Ital dishes using herbs and spice. Ideally, the food should be produced on family farms. Needless to say, packaged foods from large supermarkets are a big no-no.
Fruits and vegetables
When following a Rastafarian diet, fruits and vegetables are the staples. Most of them are eaten raw, but you can also cook them lightly. This is because we should try to retain as much of the nutritional quality, flavor, and texture of the foods we consume.
Most dishes contain scotch bonnet peppers, very popular in tropical areas because of their smoky flavor. Cassava is a vegetable that is typically used like a potato when cooking. This starchy vegetable can also be ground into flour. When wanting to add that specific Caribbean flavor to their dishes, the Rastas will obviously turn to coconut. You can make the most of it by using the fruit, milk, as well as the oil.
Other popular vegetables and fruits include leafy greens, onions, yams, carrots, pumpkin, oranges, papaya, melons, strawberries, and currants.
Nuts and grains
Rastafarians love brown rice, a side dish that accompanies many foods. Roasted seeds are also quite common, adding flavor to Ital dishes.
Another way to get the healthy amount of protein we all need is to eat beans, peas, and legumes. Since meat is not allowed, one of the main problems with Rasta foods is the protein deficit.
Rastafarians do not think we need meat to fuel our body. They consider that other foods can provide all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that we need. Furthermore, for many, meat is a form of cannibalism. They also view meat as one of the main contributors to the increasing rate of obesity in Jamaica, as well as a risk factor for certain diseases and illnesses.
Now, while Rastafarians do not eat meat, shellfish, or fish without scales, certain fish is accepted. The rule is that it must not measure less than 12 inches. While it may seem bizarre, the reason is actually quite obvious. Larger fish usually eat other fish. Consequently, they are less suitable since those fish are practically meat-lovers, thus not vegetarian themselves.
Rastafarians consume fruit juices, smoothies, and herbal drinks such as tea. Alcohol is looked down upon as it fogs the mind and is considered destructive. Caffeinated drink, coffee included, and soda are also forbidden as they are deemed unhealthy. Those who wish to walk down the vegan path are also not allowed to consume milk.
How Do We Cook the Food?
Rastafarian dishes are generally cooked in clay pots, and most of the cooking is done outdoors. They usually serve their meals in wooden bowls or other earthy materials. Kitchen utensils should also be made from natural materials such as wood. Nonetheless, metal can be used as long as it’s iron or similar materials. By no means should you use aluminum utensils, as the Rastas believe that it poisons the food. The dishes are cooked slowly and lightly to maintain their natural flavors.
These are the general principles of Ital. While many foods the standard American is consuming each and every single day are forbidden, the options left are actually the healthiest foods you can find. Staple Rastafarian diet foods include some of the most tastier ingredients you can eat raw or cook with. Consequently, if your health allows, and your body can adapt to the changes, you too can try this organic way of eating.