After years on the modeling circuit eating junk food or nothing at all, Carol Alt converted to raw food and is now in the prime of health at age 47. Her allergies, headaches, and chronic indigestion are gone, and she has what she considers a fail-safe immune system. Her second raw-food cookbook, The Raw 50 (Clarkson Potter, 2007), features 50 tasty recipes and raves from people whose health conditions were alleviated by raw food. Alt tells us how it helped her and how it can help others:
What was your diet like growing up?
My mom cooked pot roast with noodles and frozen vegetables. Or she'd make spaghetti or hot dogs, or heat up TV dinners. Before I started modeling at age 19, I was 5'8" and weighed 165 pounds.
How did modeling affect your diet?
Before my first shoot, I was told to lose 15 pounds in three weeks. So I started starving myself and saw fast results. By 1982, I weighed 115 pounds and was 5'10".
Did all that starving take a toll?
I remember a shoot in Venezuela when I was in my thirties. There was a 20-year-old girl on set who was energetic and vivacious. Meanwhile, I was exhausted, moody, stressed out—taking nighttime cold medicine to fall asleep and drinking coffee to wake up. I had indigestion and headaches and relied on sugar for energy.
How did you turn to raw?
I talked to a friend about how I was feeling and he recommended a raw doctor. The first thing he asked me was, "What do you eat?"
What did the raw doctor advise?
He instructed me to eat only raw foods—like veggies and salads—during the day and to limit my starches to dinnertime to wean me off sugar. After the first weekend, I had no headaches or stomachaches, and a month later my eyes were sparkling and I had so much energy. I soon gave up grains, and now I eat 95 percent raw.
So are you a vegetarian?
No. Meat is too acidic for me, but I eventually added fish back in, eating it raw or seared on the outside.
What's a typical day of eating like now?
Most mornings I'll eat raw-milk kefir (which is like yogurt) with granola that's dehydrated, not baked, and some raw agave nectar. On the go, I'll have a raw energy bar or veggie juice made with spinach or kale, and my favorite lunch is salad with raw cheese made from unpasteurized milk, raw hummus, or guacamole. For dinner I have fish or a big salad, and raw tiramisu, cookies, or raw-milk ice cream for dessert. I also take vitamins and green-algae powders.
Do you ever feel hungry?
I eat as much as I want and can maintain my weight of 125 pounds because the foods I eat are good for my body.
Do you run into any problems when eating out?
I eat out all the time, and it's easy. Most restaurants will serve me a piece of seared fish with a raw center (I call ahead to be sure), and there's always a salad—but I bring my own dressing.
How about when shopping for food?
I usually can find what I need at either Whole Foods or health food stores. I also go online—just go to carolalt.com or any other raw food sites and try different things.
How can you try this without going all raw?
Start with breakfast and lunch, and look for raw versions of your favorite cooked foods: If you like smoked salmon, for example, substitute cured salmon or gravlax. If you like pasta, try finely sliced zucchini or squash. Or switch to sprouted raw breads on your sandwich. Acknowledge your weaknesses, and let yourself have them every couple of weeks. Eventually you won't crave them as much.