Your friends, neighbours and co-workers all seem to be going batty for Banting, but how healthy is it really?
Should you toss out your creamy pasta and white bread rolls in favour of creamy cheeses, juicy steaks and leafy greens?
According to Professor Tim Noakes, the man who brought the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet to South Africa, four years of Banting has not only led to dramatic weight loss but also improved his strength and stamina when running marathons.
Noakes’ theory is that we can substantially improve our health by reducing the amount of carbohydrates we consume.
Developed in Victorian England by Doctor William Banting, one of the secrets behind the diet is that our bodies burn fat faster than they do carbohydrates.
With Banting there is no weighing your food or consulting complicated food charts. You are not forced to eat at specific times of the day nor do you have to count those ever-judgmental calories.
So what can you eat? Advocates of the LCHF diet vehemently wax lyrical about what features on the Banting menu.
With a breakfast of bacon, eggs and sausage, and snacks like cheese, biltong and nuts, it almost sounds too good to be true.
All you have to do is cut out sugar, most fruit and all grains. In other words, Banting is the opposite of carbo-loading.
Other foods Noakes has endorsed as essential to following the 150-year-old diet are fish, leafy vegetables (not starchy ones), dairy and other protein like beef, pork and chicken.
So has the winning formula for healthy modern dieting finally been revealed and should you immediately jump on the biltong, cheese, steak and chop-guzzling bandwagon?
Nutritional experts are not convinced.
Some sporting experts believe that rather than improving your performance in a significant sporting event, Banting can actually hinder the training progress.
They argue that this is because carbohydrates are essential producers of energy in those early training stages and sustain that energy production the more intense training becomes.
Dramatically reducing carbohydrates has been known to have associated side effects such as nausea, lethargy, headaches and diarrhoea – all of which can negatively affect your athletic performance.
The diet has, however, gained increasing support from the athletic community as the way forward.
Some athletes have argued that while carbohydrates tend to lead to a rapid burnout midsession, training on the LCHF diet allows them to sustain their pace for longer – the perfect solution for endurance athletes.
Either way, whether you are in favour of Banting or not, even Noakes himself has said that the diet is not for everyone and that all changes in eating habits should be followed with caution and professional advice.
Ultimately, whether you decide to carbo-load, go LCHF or find your version of a “balanced diet”, the choice is yours. All can be delicious as long as you use fresh ingredients and indulge in some creative cooking.
But if you do decide to try the diet that has caught the nation’s imagination, here are some of the top things to avoid.
The Banting Banned List:
• All sugary drinks (including soda and sweetened fruit juice)
• Porridge and cereal
• Fruits with a high sugar content (like bananas, grapes and mangoes)
• Sweets, cakes, crisps and chocolate
• Artificial sweetener and products containing artificial sweetener
• “Low-fat” options that may contain hidden sugar or artificial sweetener
For more recipes, dietary advice and health tips, visit www.spar.co.za.