Weight loss plans come and go but there’s one that seems to have made a lasting impression in South Africa and it’s called the Banting diet.
A whole community of ‘Banters’ has sprung up, especially on social media. A number of restaurants also now include Banting options on their menus. So what’s the fuss all about? Here’s what you need to know about the diet plan that’s taken South Africa by storm.
What is the Banting Diet?
Currently at the peak of its popularity, it isn’t in fact new. Its roots stem back to 1862 when an obese undertaker named William Banting paid a visit to his doctor, William Harvey, and was recommended a rather extreme eating plan that was high in fat but low in carbohydrates in order to help him lose the extra weight (1).
The original Banting diet included four daily meals, which mainly comprised protein and restricted carbs: 1 ounce (30 grams) of dry bread in every meal and 2–3 ounces or 60 to 90 grams of fruit as a snack. It restricted bread, beans, butter, milk, sugar, beer, and potatoes (2).
In 2012, it was revisited by scientist and professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town, Tim Noakes who, having rid his diet of carbohydrates, saw dramatic weight loss. He joined forces with Paleo nutritionist Sally-Ann Creed and Chef Jonno Proudfoot to release a book, which has become a bestseller in the country.
But Tim Noakes’ approach is somewhat different and this is what most people follow now.
Banting 2.0 divides the process into four phases: observation, restoration, transformation, and preservation. It offers multiple food lists and structured meal plans to simplify the low carb approach.
It still restricts carbs to some extent, and its macronutrient composition resembles the keto diet with less than 5–10% of your daily calories coming from carbs, 65–90% from fat, and 10–35% from protein.
Still, both versions of the diet promise extreme weight loss, higher energy levels, improved sleep quality, reduced feelings of hunger, and increased feelings of overall well-being.
How Does it Work?
The Banting diet operates much in the same way as many other low-carb, high-fat diets out there such as the Ketogenic diet and the Atkins diet. The process of ketosis is central to how it claims to increase weight loss. The idea is that depriving the body of glucose encourages it to switch to burning fat for energy instead. In terms of cravings, the theory goes that if you’re full on fats, your cravings for carbs are reduced, you eat much less during the day and weight loss results.
The differences between the Banting, Ketogenic and Atkins diets lie in subtle variations between the types of foods you can eat. The Banting diet involves eating a greater amount of protein than if on the Ketogenic diet but less than if on the Atkins diet, and eating more carbs than if on the Atkins diet. Although it’s most similar to the Ketogenic diet, green leafy vegetables are encouraged in the Banting diet but they’re not in the Ketogenic diet, if followed strictly.
As mentioned earlier, the Banting diet is divided into four phases that are meant to ease the transition into a healthier way of life.
Phase 1: Observation
During this 1-week phase, you’re supposed to follow your current diet without making any modifications.
It encourages you to track and journal everything you eat to figure out how you respond to food.
Phase 2: Restoration
The restoration phase is meant to restore your gut health and get you used to the Banting way of eating.
This phase may last 2–12 weeks, depending on your weight loss goal. Overall, you should follow it for 1 week for every 11 pounds or 5 kilograms of weight you want to lose.
During this time, you’ll be introduced to a series of food lists. You’re meant to eliminate all foods from the Red and Light Red lists and instead rely on those on the Green and Orange lists.
One plus is that there’s no calorie counting or portion control in this phase.
Phase 3: Transformation
The transformation phase introduces you to the original Banting diet.
It takes your newly developed eating habits and cuts your carb intake to achieve ketosis, which is meant to get you into a rapid fat-burning mode.
To make this possible, the method encourages you to stick to foods on the Green list, while adding those on the Orange list to the no-go foods along with the Red lists mentioned before.
This third phase lasts as long as it takes you to reach your desired weight, and you should track your meals for a couple of days every two weeks.
Additionally, the phase includes “lifestyle hacks,” such as intermittent fasting, exercise tips, and sleep and meditation to avoid reaching a weight loss plateau.
The transformation phase is supposed to improve mental clarity, sleep, acne, and skin irritations, as well as even eradicate joint pain.
Phase 4: Preservation
This final phase, which is supposed to last indefinitely, starts once you’ve reached your desired weight. It’s meant to help you maintain your new weight in the long run.
This is a more flexible phase, as you’ll be able to reintroduce foods that are not allowed in the previous phase. The goal is to determine which ones you can safely eat without gaining weight.
What Can You Eat?
Again, there’s no food tracking during this phase, and you may follow the food lists as follows:
GREEN: NO LIMITATIONS
Animal protein like eggs, offal, poultry, meats, natural cured meats, and seafood.
Vegetables such as cauliflower, lettuce, avocados, broccoli, sauerkraut, tomatoes, spinach, aubergines, cabbage, spring onions, leeks, onions, pumpkins, artichoke hearts, radishes, asparagus, mushrooms, olives, and courgettes.
Dairy products including full-cream milk, cottage cheese, cream cheese, cream, full-cream Greek yoghurt, soft cheeses, and hard cheeses.
Any rendered animal fat, macadamia oil, almonds, avocado oil, nuts and seeds, olive oil, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, sweeteners, butter, coconut oil, pine nuts, walnuts, lard, cheese, full fat mayonnaise, pumpkin seeds, Erythritol granules, macadamia nuts, duck fat, ghee, and pecan nuts.
All flavorings and condiments are okay, provided they do not contain sugars and preservatives or vegetable oils.
ORANGE: EAT IN MODERATION
According to the method, foods on the Orange list offer multiple health benefits but may hinder your weight loss journey if consumed without restriction. Thus, foods on this list are meant to be enjoyed in moderation.
All raw nuts and sugar-free nut butters can be eaten in moderation.
Dairy like milk and milk substitutes, cottage and cream cheese, full fat yogurt, and sour cream.
Fruits, especially apples, apricots, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, clementines, fresh figs, gooseberries, granadilla, grapes, guava, jackfruit, kiwi, kumquats, litchis, loquats, mangoes, nectarines, orange, papaya, pears, peaches, persimmon, pineapple, plantain, plums, pomegranates, quinces, raspberries, starfruit, strawberries, tangerines, tamarind pulp, and watermelon.
Caffeinated tea and coffee are allowed in moderation.
All legumes, alfalfa, beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
Fermented foods like water kefir and kombucha.
Fruits and vegetables like beetroot, butternut squash, baby corn, carrots, calabash, cassava, celeriac, corn, edamame, golden beets, Hubbard squash, jicama, parsnips, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabagas, spaghetti squash, and sweet potatoes.
GREY: IT’S UP TO YOU
The foods in this list fit the Banting diet but would slow your progress, so they’re left to your discretion.
Banting baked goods and sugar-free ice cream.
Sweeteners like xylitol, erythritol, isomalt, stevia powder, and sucralose.
All alcoholic beverages, protein shakes, and supplements.
Vegetarian proteins such as naturally fermented tofu, pea protein, and processed soy.
What Can’t You Eat?
LIGHT RED: HARDLY EVER OR ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS
You should hardly ever consume foods like fruit or yoghurt smoothies, vegetable juices, dates, dark chocolate, gluten-free grains and grain products such as buckwheat, bran, quinoa, oats and types of rice, as well as flours such as corn flour and almond flour.
Any food with added sugar, fast food, foods containing gluten such as all flours and breads made from grains containing gluten, barley, rye, spelt, wheat, wheat germ and grain-based products such as commercial cereals and breaded or battered foods. Fats that are ‘forbidden’ are ones such as industrial seed and vegetable oil derivatives, butter spreads, canola oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, margarine, sunflower oil and safflower oil.
You can always return to the previous phase if you feel like you have lost control of your weight.
William Banting advocated eating four slightly smaller than usual meals per day. Noakes says that you should only eat when you are hungry and that you should eat mindfully, paying attention to your body’s hunger cues so that you stop when you feel full and not when your plate is empty.
The Banting Diet and Weight Loss
While there’s no research on the Banting diet itself, there’s plenty of scientific evidence supporting the low carb high fat approach for weight loss.
When restricting carbs, the body is stimulated to maximize fat oxidation to meet energy demands. This means that low carb high fat diets rely primarily on fats to produce energy (3).
Studies show people on LCHF diets given unrestricted access to foods don’t necessarily consume more calories than people on low fat, high carb diets because they tend to perceive less hunger, and thus, reduce their overall food intake (4).
Additionally, LCHF diets usually lead to a higher protein intake, which also promotes feelings of fullness, and fewer cases of rebound hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels, a common cause of hunger in those following high carb diets (4, 6).
Regarding the alleged metabolic advantage, scientists attribute it to either an increased thermogenic effect from the protein intake, a higher protein turnover for gluconeogenesis, or loss of energy through the excretion of ketones in sweat or urine (3, 4).
The thermogenic effect of foods is the energy needed to digest, absorb, and dispose of its nutrients, while gluconeogenesis is the production of glucose from fats or proteins.
Finally, the lifestyle hacks mentioned above, such as intermittent fasting, can also contribute to weight loss, as it has been shown to increase metabolism and help burn more fat (9).
Who Can Try This Diet?
As is evident from the above dos and don’ts, the diet is pretty extreme in its approach. While this is often recommended for anyone suffering from metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and those who have hypertension, are overweight or obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or hypercholesterolemia, it says you should avoid ‘Banting’ if you have a medical issue and haven’t consulted your doctor first and if you are particularly lean, do regular high-intensity exercise or have no weight problems.
Those who are extremely overweight stand to benefit most and ideally it shouldn’t be pursued by those who are just looking to shift a few pounds. Expert says that it may be an option to consider for those who are obese, at cardiovascular risk and diabetic individuals who need a dramatic method to attempt health improvement, but it is not for an otherwise healthy individual looking to lose weight.
Are There Any Side Effects?
In terms of short-term cons, experts say it can cause halitosis as a side-effect of ketosis, stemming from the secretion of ammonia through the lungs due to the burning of fat. There are also some further unpleasant extras that can be experienced. Some people have experienced nausea and fatigue on the diet. It is also quite expensive.
Important Things to Know
1. Consume animal fat.
This is the focal point of the Banting Diet. This challenges the way we think because we have always been taught that fat makes us fat. The truth is that sugars and refined carbohydrates cause insulin spikes which tells your body to store energy as fat.
2. Consume as much vegetables as possible.
Vegetables are known as the ‘bulk food’ to all Banters. Green veggies are the go-to-vegetables and all banters know that eating a variety of these veggies is the best for the body.
3. Snacking is a big No-No unless it’s Banting friendly.
Snacking is a form of cheating especially when on the first week of Banting. Try not to snack unless its Banting-friendly. The solution to beating down those hunger pangs is to increase the amount of animal fat intake as fat acts as a natural appetite suppressant.
4. Never lie to yourself.
Consuming high carbohydrate foods that are professed usually hide in foods such as peanuts, baked beans and legumes. Refer to the “Banting Diet red list; foods that should not be consumed as a Banter” to make sure you stay within the guidelines.
5. Never over eat and never under eat.
Beginner Banters have a habit of either eating too much or too little. Just because you are confined to a low carb diet it doesn’t mean you can eat as much fat as you like. At the end of the day if you eat more calories than you burn you will still put on weight.
On the other hand don’t under eat while being on the Banting Diet. Fat contain fewer calories compared to carbohydrates so you will probably need to eat more than you expect. If you become extremely hungry during the Banting diet chances are you are either under eating or you have not been eating enough fat. The great thing about this diet is fat is a lot more filling than carbohydrates so you shouldn’t feel much hunger at all if done properly.
6. Try not to consume too much protein.
The Banting diet is a high fat, low carb diet and NOT a high protein diet. The main point of the Banting Diet is to cut out the carbohydrates from your diet and replace it with more fat. Don’t focus on increasing your protein intake. You will naturally get enough protein with all the vegetables and meat you will eat.
7. Always read food labels.
Always be on the lookout when it comes to ready made meals or processed foods. These foods almost always contain carbohydrates. Stay away from foods that claim they are low in fat. These foods may be low in fat but the fats have been replaced with sugars to compensate for the loss of flavor. “Low Fat Meals” are nothing but a sly marketing tactic.
8. Avoid consuming too many fruits and nuts.
Fruits contain natural fructose which is “nature’s sugar”. On the Banting diet ANY sugar should be limited, if not avoided completely.
Nuts can be found on the Banting Diets green list however like any food they should still be eaten in moderation. People tend to overeat nuts because they make the perfect snack to carry around all day.
9. Control the amount of dairy you consume.
Dairy does contain carbohydrates, and yes, it can be good for the body however it should be strictly controlled and moderated. Dairy does contain small amounts of carbs therefore it’s not free for all. If you are lactose intolerant avoid dairy all together.
10. Remain strong.
A lot of people tend to give up early while being on the Banting Diet. The first 10 days in this diet venture are always the most difficult because your body is still in the process of getting rid of those nasty carb cravings. Stick with it, after 10 days when the carb cravings disappear you’ll start seeing drastic changes, not just with your weight but also your overall mood.
If you are considering the Banting diet, educate yourself with books and other materials first. But also, see your doctor before starting any new diet, especially if you have any health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Your doctor’s insight about diet and your health will help you make an informed decision about what eating and exercise plan is best for your body.