Growing up as the daughter of Jamaicans I know that in the Caribbean we love our food to be cooked “properly”. However, there is a long tradition and strong culture of eating fresh and raw foods. Within certain communities eating a predominantly plant based diet rich in raw and living foods is unquestioned as the essential source of well-being both physically and mentally. Rastafarian culture has always revered healthy eating and a diet strong in living foods. Long before we started to speak about “organic” and “raw” food diets there was I-TAL, the tenet of Rastafarian diet standing for – purity, vitality and livity. Ital is a belief that Livity exists amongst all living things and that what we put into our bodies should enhance Livity and not reduce it. The principle of Ital is that food should be natural, or pure, and from the earth which is filled with Livity providing the life energy that Rastafari believe lives within all human beings. The Ital diet steers clear of genetically modified foods and foods with artificial additives and as food should be pure and natural it is also be free from chemicals and pesticides and ethically produced.
The well known Rastafari dub-poet Mutabaruka has been preaching about the importance of the diet that we eat and raw food for decades. The celebrity chef, Dr. Aris LaTham, a Panama native living in Jamaica has been advocating the benefits of raw food and juices for equally as long. In recent times there has been a resurgence in returning to natural foods in the Caribbean and there are a host of young chefs in Jamaica creating food which is vegan/vegetarian based and raw leading the way in this rapidly growing movement in the country. They are embracing the principles of Ital as they understand the deep connection between food and health.
We can learn much from this approach and belief in regards to the food that we eat.
Food in it’s natural state or living food is rich in the enzymes essential for our health. Enzymes are the key to ageing well and healthily and the amount that we have in our bodies naturally diminishes with age and by 40 we have lost over half of these. Enzymes are the generators within our bodies and are key to every function from thought to exercise, we can increase our supply by including raw and living foods in our diets and increasing this to become part of our diet at least 50% of the time (see a great article on this by nutritionist Rebekah Winquest).
The principles of an Ital diet can vary and whilst it may be strictly vegan or vegetarian, some do include certain types of fish but the overall principle is lots of living foods. I personally do include cooked food and lean organic grass fed meets in my diet but I ensure that I also consume lots of food in it’s natural state. Call it clean food, raw food, living food or Ital it seems clear that increasing the amount of living foods in our diets is good for overall human health.
Are you following Ital principles? Would love to hear recommendations on great dishes.