Raw Beauty: Why ’80s Supermodel Carol Alt, 62, Embraces a Diet of Uncooked, Unprocessed Food
Carol Alt attends the 'Paper Empire' photocall during the MIPTV Media Market, Cannes, France, April 17, 2023. Photo: Arnold Jerocki/WireImage/Getty Images
Supermodel and author Carol Alt won the Cannes red carpet this spring, wowing the mid-April crowd with her lush mane, healthy physique and a visage that looked half her age. The secret to her radiance? With four books on raw foods, the famous beauty — and cancer survivor — insists it’s as simple as uncooked, unprocessed food.
With Life magazine declaring her “The Next Million Dollar Face” in 1980, Carol Alt ruled the decade, appearing in more than 700 magazines, from Vogue, ELLE, Mademoiselle and Bazaar to Sports Illustrated while facing leading campaigns, Lancôme to Pepsi. Having attained ‘Supermodel’ status, as her career wound down in the 2000s, Alt turned to her passion for wellness as a post-fashion career, spreading the word about the raw food diet she’d followed since the ‘90s.
A lifestyle shift that “started out as a vanity thing”—at 35, Alt felt tired, bloated, “old”— and began working her way through a series of diets she thought might improve things. Finding all of them underwhelming, it wasn’t until a doctor suggested she try raw foods, that she noticed real change. Issues that had long plagued her vanished — heartburn, headaches, sinus, infections, digestion problems — as she experienced a huge boost in vitality and dropped unwanted pounds. “Changing my diet was all I needed to do.”
A raw foodie since 1998, Alt was certainly an early adopter; embracing the ‘alternative’ diet regimen before veganism was common parlance and even vegetarianism remained an outlier. But Alt’s food program included an important distinction. We tend to associate ‘raw food’ with ‘raw vegetables’ — but Alt’s doesn’t exclude animal protein, it just can’t be cooked. Tuna tartare, beef carpaccio, fish ceviche, sushi, sashimi, cured fish and meat, it’s all on the menu.
Even better, the raw foods advocate who’d first turned the former model onto the approach — Timothy Brantley, author of The Cure — even advised that a little cooking is not verboten. Foods that haven’t been cooked at high heat — thus, still have their essential enzymes intact — are fine. With seared fish and meat retaining its enzyme-rich nutritional value, Alt says, “sometimes I’ll have a seared steak that’s brown and blue, not black and blue.”
Forerunner to the current embrace of microbiome-boosting diets, the foods to absolutely avoid are any that contain refined or artificial ingredients. The only rule in Alt’s recipe book is that every ingredient be fresh, natural and organic, hormone and pesticide free.
Fully converted, between 2004 and 2015 Alt would issue a trio of food guides. Eating in the Raw: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Slimmer, Feeling Healthier, and Looking Younger the Raw-Food Way (2004), The Raw 50: 10 Amazing Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks, and Drinks for Your Raw Food Lifestyle (2007) and Easy Sexy Raw:130 Raw Food Recipes, Tools, and Tips to Make You Feel Gorgeous and Satisfied (2012). She followed up with a more general wellness tome, A Healthy You: Boost Your Energy, Live Cleaner, and Look and Feel Younger Every Day (2015), a spin-off of her TV series, A Healthy You & Carol Alt, a Saturday afternoon show on Fox that drew on her raw food expertise and covered a broad range of new age diet, fitness, beauty and aging angles.
Of course, unprocessed, organic food is generally considered more healthful than the alternative. But not everyone agrees that raw ingredients are necessarily the most nutritious. Food science professors at Cornell University told Scientific American that cooking food breaks down harder to digest fibres, allowing us to process essential nutrients more effectively. Many vegetables — carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage and peppers among them — actually supply more antioxidants when cooked than when raw. While others, like broccoli and tomatoes, are most nutrient-rich when uncooked. Needless to say, you want only the best quality meat if you only eat it seared or raw.
Either way, this ultra-fresh diet was a vast improvement from Alt’s 20s and 30s, when she was “starving all the time” and started her days with “an Irish coffee.” Soon after going raw, her friends thought she’d been on vacation. “My skin was supple, and my eyes were clear, my hair was thicker. This was a 180-degree turn around.” The transformation was so striking, Alt’s 68-year-old mother adopted her raw diet.
“After I went raw, people were looking at me and saying, ‘Why do you look so amazing?’ And I would tell them, ‘I’m eating raw foods!’”
Crediting the diet with helping her beat uterine and cervical cancer in the late ’90s — “This was very important information for me. I wanted to get it out there to people because it’s so powerful” — it kept her in such good condition that a decade later, she was bearing it all at 47 for Playboy in 2008.
So, what does Alt’s typical day of uncooked (or slightly seared), unprocessed food consist of? “Kefir and granola in the morning. For lunch, I will do a gigantic salad with everything in it — carrots, avocado, olives, anything you can think of. Then for dinner, I’ll have tartare or carpaccio and salad. For dessert, I’ll have fruit.”
And hey, no pots and pans to wash up or an oven to clean.
Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor or health care professional before making any changes to your diet or if you have any questions regarding your health or a medical condition.