Ital Food and The Rastafarian Lifestyle: Eating Vegan and Organic in Jamaica

I recently went on a trip to Jamaica with my husband, where we enjoyed some beautiful weather just prior to the impact of Hurricane Tomas.  Unfortunately we had to cut our relaxation time a little short because the waves were actually coming up from the ocean right on top of the roof of the cottage that we were staying in! The locals told us that this was completely normal and that we were not in any danger, but being our first ever experience of these kind of weather conditions it felt a little risky for us to stay there overnight.

We spent most of our time in Negril and while we were there we discovered a wonderful vegan and organic roadside eatery. While we are at home, which for most of the last year has been Costa Rica, we eat a very high amount of raw foods in our diet ranging from at least 80% up to 100% if we are going through a cleansing or detox phase. However, when traveling we take a more relaxed attitude, because it is often easier to eat out where good quality raw foods are not always available.

After we realized that it was going to be difficult, if not impossible, for us to find raw leafy greens and vegetables in Negril, as well as being shocked at the very high prices of fruit in Jamaica we were really happy to discover Ras Rody’s organic food stall. If you are ever in Negril I encourage you to take a visit. We ate in a few other restaurants while we were there and the food served in this simple establishment was hands-down the best we tasted as well as the cheapest.

Ras Rody prepares his food in accordance with Ital principles of the Rastafarian culture. The word Ital is derived from the English word “vital” with the primary goal of this way of eating being to increase the life energy. Ital food should be pure and in its natural form and no oils or salt are used in the cooking process. The use of fire is seen as a purification process, which enhances the digestibility and nutritional value of the food. While some Rastafarians do eat fish, for the large part their diet is vegan as was all of the food prepared by Ras Rody and his children.

We had many conversations with him during our trip and he told us that most of the vegetables he used were grown organically on his own farm and the rest were sourced from other organic suppliers in the area. The daily offerings were pretty much the same each day but we enjoyed the food a lot and felt energized afterwards so we ate there almost every day.

There was always a pot of soup containing red beans, onion, herbs, spices, potatoes, pumpkin and other local root vegetables. Also available was a combo plate that contained a selection of dishes including pumpkin and coconut stew (my favorite), soy ‘meat’ curry, brown rice, callalloo (a local green vegetable that tastes similar to spinach), cabbage and carrots. Occasionally a small portion of salad was also provided.

Personally I stayed away from the soy because I don’t enjoy the texture and find it a challenge for my digestion. But all the rest of the food felt really good to me and I also greatly appreciated the fact that the cabbage and carrots weren’t overcooked and still retained their crunch.

Sometimes fresh juices were available such as carrot, beet and ginger. Ras Rody also graciously helped us out by supplying us with organic fruit and vegetables from the market such as bananas, papaya, jackfruit, oranges, lettuce and cucumber, which we used for our breakfast each day.

Even though I prefer eating raw foods most of the time I don’t necessarily believe that a 100% raw food diet is ideal for everyone. There is certainly value in adhering to a purely raw diet for cleansing and detoxification but there can also be a place for high quality cooked vegan foods in a balanced approach to living.

The Ital food we enjoyed in Jamaica felt healthy and nourishing and the experience of eating there and talking with Ras Rody was one of the highlights of our trip. Apparently his recipe book is on the way and this will be a wonderful opportunity for people to learn about Ital food and the Rastafarian culture.

Or better yet. Take a trip to Jamaica and experience it for yourself! And if you can’t make it there yet take a look at this video of Ras Rody Organics.

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6 Comments
  1. I’m on the hunt for a vegetarian cookbook with easy to moderately difficult recipes. Any suggestions?

  2. http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/ras-rody-organic-sips-bites-sweets/17974971

    Ras Rody has just published his cookbook at the link above.

  3. My son is now trying to use the ital diet.I wanna no what foods can I prepare him for breakfast?

  4. Hi Tazzmia,

    I’m not that familiar with the Ital diet but I think you could make anything using whole and unprocessed vegetarian foods.

    Sweet potatoes and cooked whole grains would be examples, maybe with fresh coconut. We had brown rice in Jamaica and Ras Rody also prepared a kind of pancake made from rice flour with bananas.

    Fresh fruits would also be acceptable. You could make smoothies with banana, pineapple, mango etc.

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