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“Sort of” Banting?

Are you sort of Banting? It has been some time since the Banting craze began but just a peep into the shops suggests that it is still very popular. New products appear almost weekly and many restaurants are catering for the low carb, high fat way of life, but my initial reservations remain. The persistent niggle on my mind though has more to do with the multitudes of varying interpretations of one concept than the fairly simple concept itself.

While I do not prescribe very low carb, high fat diets, nor do I follow such a way of eating myself, I feel the need to deal with the question: “Can you ‘sort of’ Bant?” Many a client tells me that they are on the Banting diet, well, sort of because they do not do or enjoy the high fat part of it. This worries me more than a person who follows the Banting diet to the tee and the reason is simple. If you are not replacing your ditched carbs with fat, what are you replacing it with? Are you actually eating low carb? Are you eating a high protein diet?

The most important thing to know about your food is what it contains and why you need it. I am very happy with the knowledge that carbohydrate becomes glucose in the digestive system, after which it is absorbed in the blood stream. Glucose is an economical and efficient source of energy for the body. The brain in particular requires glucose for optimum function which is linked to concentration and cognitive function, both essential to daily living.

While too much glucose in the blood is also harmful to the body, maintaining normal blood glucose levels does not require the absence of carbohydrates in the diet. Carbohydrate energy also spares protein for muscle synthesis and repair. Severe energy deprivation can lead to muscle wasting. Banting or LCHF prescribes the replacement of carbohydrate with fat with the belief that the body adapts to using fat rather than glucose as a primary fuel source.

‘Sort of Banting’ opens up a rather large can of worms and the best way I can illustrate this is with the examples below:

‘I’m sort of Banting, I eat only protein and veg for dinner because I don’t like fat’

All vegtables are low in calories by comparison to protein, starch or fat. This leaves the protein as the primary fuel source which should in fact be spared for muscle repair and synthesis. I would add a high fibre starch such as brown rice or baby potatoes or sweet potato. Banters should be replacing absent carbs with fat (avocado, butter) for an energy source in addition to protein energy.

Without the presence of starch or fat, it is highly possible to eat more protein than what is recommended for banting – a moderate intake.

‘I don’t eat any fruit, legumes or starchy vegetables’

These foods are high in fibre and rich in nutrients, unique to each variety. Skipping out on these nutritional gems is likely to do more harm than good. In order to meet the daily recommendation for fibre (25 – 30 g), you may require 8 – 10 servings of high fibre foods per day. This is due to the fact that 1 serving of wholegrain, vegetables, fruit or legume contains roughly  3 – 4 grams of fibre.

A low fibre diet can lead to constipation (meaning the inefficient expelling of toxins) and diseases of the colon.

‘I use full cream milk or yoghurt on my cereal. I’m sort of Banting’

Some ex-Banters have kept what they like about Banting, ie. the richness of full cream milk but have reintroduced more carbohydrate into their diet due to dieting fatigue, economics or simply the love of carbs.

This is problematic because of the energy denisty of full cream dairy coupled with the energy density of starches. The combination is likely to put you in an energy excess for the day.

True Banting leaves no room for sugar (not even flavoured full cream yoghurt) and very little room for nutritious carbs. Is it really something you can sustain forever? If not, then it probably best not to venture there, because ‘sort of’ Banting is harmful.

Take home message:

Foods that are typically problematic and sabotage healthy eating are foods that are high in fat and or sugar with little to no fibre content. These are the foods to limit for health promotion and weight management.

Chocolate, pastry, fried pastry, cakes, sweet biscuits, salty crackers, muffins, flavoured dairy, frosting, ice cream, pizza, creamy pasta dishes are among such culprits.

In small amounts, eaten on occasion only, these foods will not pose a threat but if eaten while banting (correctly), they will inhibit weight loss and may promote weight gain.

A healthy diet is one that is based on whole plant foods, rich in fibre!

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