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Is banting still a good idea?

Is Banting still a good idea?

The banting diet is one of the most followed diet trends in the last ten years. Followers of the diet, who have been referred to as the ‘Noakes Cult’ by critics, swear by its fast-acting weight-loss properties. Other health benefits have also been claimed, such as more energy, clearer skin and better nails and hair. 

Opinions are divided since the diet emerged in the early 2000s.

Some say that the diet is a healthy, harmless lifestyle guide, while others call it dangerous and restrictive. Some people who strongly oppose Noakes’s methods have gone as far as likening fanatic banting to an eating disorder. 

Banting is essentially a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet.

The history of Banting?

The Banting diet, now also referred to as the Tim Noakes Diet, was popularised by Timothy David Noakes, a South African scientist and an emeritus professor in the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine at the University of Cape Town. However, banting was invented by William Banting, a British undertaker who lived between 1796 and 1878.

According to Wikipedia, in 1863, Banting wrote a booklet called Letter on Corpulence, addressed to the public which contained the particular plan for the diet he followed. He was formerly obese and had lost a large amount of weight owing to his unique diet. “My kind and valued medical adviser is not a doctor for obesity, but stands on the pinnacle of fame in the treatment of another malady, which, as he well knows, is frequently induced by [corpulence].” 

Banting’s diet, which consisted of four meals a day, was limited to meat, greens, fruits, and dry wine. 

The same as modern Banting (which is obviously named after its inventor), it is strict on avoiding sugar, saccharine matter, starch, beer, milk and butter. 

Banting’s pamphlet acted as a model for the modern Tim Noakes version.

Banting’s booklet remains in print as of 2007 and is still available on-line.

How does it work?

Banting’s methodology is that by restricting carbohydrates and sugar, the body needs to dig into the fat stores for energy. The Banting diet works on food lists, which are foods that are restricted (the red list) and foods that are fine to consume (the green list). The orange list is a list of foods that can be consumed in moderation. 

Foods on the green list include healthy fats and cruciferous vegetables. Avocados, tomatoes, cheeses and meat, fish and poultry are on the list.

The red list has all your favourite snacks on it. Pizza, bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals are but a few of them. 

It is pretty simple to guess which foods are yay and which are nay. Artificial sweeteners, pastries, cakes and sweets are not allowed. 

Surprisingly, vegetable oils – for instance, sunflower oil, which is high in harmful Omega 6 fatty acids, are also on the no-fly list.

Regarding the beloved breakfast being banned for consumption, Noakes says: “Some dieticians argue that whole grain cereals should be included because they are “healthy”, but I have had difficulty finding whole-grain cereals that have not been heavily refined.”

Don’t eat too many fruits!

Fruit is sneaky. It is both healthy and filled with natural sugar. It is full of natural fructose (the substance that makes it sweet), says Real Meal Revolution – the website spin-off of the book of the same name co-written by Tim Noakes, Jonno Proudfoot and Sally-Ann Creed. “Fructose is perceived to be a ‘good sugar’, but sugar is sugar regardless of its perceived ‘goodness’. While natural sugar is far preferable to refined sugar, its consumption needs to be strictly controlled. Of all fruits, berries are best, but even berries need to be restricted in some cases.”

Nuts are also dangerous territory. “Nuts are lower in carbs and are great snack foods but don’t go overboard. Macadamias are best as they are loaded with healthy fat, and almonds are packed with fibre and goodness.” But salted and roasted nuts are fattening for some people, so it is best to have a handful and opt for raw versions of the popular treat instead.

As far as drinking goes, sugary mixers and sodas are a no go. Juices are also high in sugar. Your best bet is staying hydrated with good old H2O.

What are the benefits?

Banters will tell you that they have lost weight from the first week, and the pounds will keep melting off as long as you maintain the lifestyle. 

Banting promotes healthy eating, drinking loads of water and staying away from Junk foods. It also doesn’t necessarily restrict the amount of food you eat. So, you may be cutting carbs, but you aren’t necessarily eating small portions of food on the green list. Eating until you are satiated seems to be a key factor. Also, it forces you to get creative about your daily meals. Being restricted to certain foods opens you up to new ways of flavouring and sweetening your meals and exploring a fresh, fun-filled healthier cuisine. 

Because Banting makes you cut down on sugar, carbs and dairy (which also has natural sugars and inflammatory properties) diabetics have found the diet helps in avoiding insulin spikes. 

It claims to reverse Type 2 diabetes and assists in controlling blood sugar in patients with Type 1 diabetes. Affinity Health reports that Banting claims to improve symptoms of IBS, Acne, Skin Irritations, PCOS and Heartburn. By merely cutting carbs and increasing the nutritional value of your foods, you can make a real change to your health and wellness.

What are the dangers?

There have certainly been some concerns about adopting a Banting approach to food. Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa and other health groups have warned the public about possible health risks associated with the Banting diet such as increased risks of heart disease, strokes, cancers and diabetes that could possibly come with an LCHF diet. Researchers agree that some fats are beneficial to heart health; they won’t endorse an LCHF diet plan.

Banting is also not recommended for everyone. Women who are breastfeeding are warned that it affects the amount of milk produced and may lead to ketoacidosis – a life-threatening condition in which the body runs out of insulin.

So, is Banting safe?

Everything in moderation. 

Always consult your doctor before adopting any eating plan or lifestyle change. As with any dietary change, always seek proper medical guidance and find a lifestyle that is right for you and your unique body. 

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