Written By: Juliette Davidson
If you have just heard of the Banting Diet, chances are, you may have wondered whether this is just another fad diet belonging to the low-carb craze dominated by the Atkins and Paleo diets. In fact, the Banting Diet is considered the ‘grandfather’ of all these diets, having originated in the 1860s. It all began with William Banting, an English undertaker who worked for the Royal Family. Banting was having trouble losing weight – in fact, he was morbidly obese, having tried (and failed) at a plethora of diets and growing exasperated, before he took the advice of physician, William Harvey. The latter had attended a lecture on diabetes given by Claude Bernard; there, he discovered that there was a correlation between a high carb foods, glucose levels in the blood, and obesity. Banting decided to develop his own diet, lowering the total number of carbohydrates he consumed and concentrating on eating enough animal fat (to keep hunger pangs at bay).
Banting began consuming four meals a day, comprising meat, vegetables, fruits and dry wine. No-nos on his list included dairy foods, beer, starchy foods, and sugar. Banting was completely shocked to have finally stumbled on a diet that worked, despite avoiding hunger and obsessive calorie counting. In 1863, he wrote an open letter to the public, in which he described his many previous failures and his recent success. The letter, published as a booklet, became the talk of the town and to this day, the word ‘Banting’ conjures up images of ‘dieting’ for many speakers of the English language. The booklet was eventually published by Harrison, and remained in print until as recently as 2007! Such a long-lasting phenomenon is clearly no mere fad; what, then, are the basics of the Bating Diet?
How the Banting Diet Works:
Human beings have been consuming cereals and grains for a very small proportion of our history. The large percentage of carbs we eat can, in a way, be attributed to a set of dietary guidelines published in the USA in 1977, which determined the structure of the food pyramid that has been in vogue until very recently. The guidelines labelled saturated fat as the ‘bad guy’ and starches as ‘healthy’. It was stated that people should consume between six and 11 portions of grains per day. The high-carb, low-fat diet has contributed to the current obesity epidemic in more ways than one. Too much starch and refined carbohydrates cause our blood sugar to spike, forcing the pancreas to increase insulin. When our insulin levels are chronically high, we become obese and can even develop Type II diabetes. Moreover, we also begin to look older than our biological age, since insulin flooding leads to cross linkage of collagen, which causes skin to sag and form wrinkles.
The Banting method proclaims a return to the way our ancestors used to eat: the aim is to consume animal fats, vegetables and some fruits, limiting our total carbohydrate count to no more than 50g or less net carbs per day. Use ketone test strips to ensure you are in ketosis if you want to lose weight. Ketosis is the process which occurs when the body begins burning fat (rather than carbohydrates) to obtain the energy it needs.
Many Banting diet sites have lists of Green (eat as much as you like), Orange (consume moderately) and Red (completely avoid) foods. Aim to combine items from the Green and Orange lists, and stop eating when you are no longer hungry. A glance at the Orange list will show you that the Bating Diet is far more lenient than, say, Phase One of the Atkins diet, in which no fruits are allowed. With the Banting method, fruits you can enjoy in moderation include apples, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, guavas, kiwi fruits and peaches. Foods to be avoided at all times include brans, flours, all types of bread, all grains, pastas, rice, spelt, alcoholic beverages, sodas and diet sodas. This makes it a sound diet which avoids the excessive calorie counting that has been linked to yo-yo weight loss and gain, and even eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
Key Components of the Banting Method:
- The consumption of animal fats: Studies have shown that artery clogging fats actually comprise unsaturated, rather than saturated fats. Animal fats help us feel full and stop us from over-indulging. Obtain the healthiest, Omega-3 rich fats from foods like Wild Alaskan salmon and other fatty fish, as well as non-animal-based fats such as cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil.
- Eating to satiety: Do not eat more than you need to; you should not consume more food than you actually need to carry out your daily activities.
- Keeping protein consumption to acceptable limits: Banting espouses the importance of consuming animal fats, not of over-indulging on protein. Consume no more than 90g of fish or meat at every meal. Focus on carb cutting rather than on protein consumption.
- The consumption of vegetables: Vegetables will ensure you get all the fibre you need; they should actually take up the majority of your plate at every meal.
- Avoiding the excessive consumption of fruits and nuts: These foods could bring your total carbohydrate intake to over 50g easily. Do use a food calculator to ensure you keep to your daily limits.
- Controlling dairy intake: Full cream milk is allowed on the Banting Diet, as our other dairy products (including some cheeses), but many dairy products contain carbohydrates so only consume them in moderation. Avoid milk containing sugar.
- Being on the lookout for hidden carbohydrates: Hidden carbohydrates are everywhere: in your favourite pre-packaged sauce, in so-called ‘health bars’ and even in some vegetables. A good sign you are consuming the wrong foods is a plateau in your weight loss. The ketone sticks will let you know if you are over-indulging in the wrong types of foods. As the days go by, you will begin to easily identify the types and quantities of food which can tip you over your daily carbohydrate limit.