Paleo vs. Banting

Friday, 28 November 2014


In 1861, English surgeon William Harvey helped a clinically-obese undertaker called William Banting achieve dramatic weight-loss and improve a number of related health conditions by cutting back on refined carbohydrates. The eating plan, known as the Harvey-Banting Diet, became standard treatment in nearly all major European and North American medical establishments until the late 1950s, when it was replaced by its complete opposite – the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet which subsequently became generally-accepted practice.

Dr Robert Atkins rediscovered the low-carbohydrate, grain-free, high-fat approach in 1974, and in a sense both Paleo and “Banting” as we know them today are extensions of his work. Both take a holistic lifestyle approach to weight loss, promoting a complete change in long-term eating behaviour rather than a “quick fix” solution. Both encourage you to choose only real foods that look like what they are, and to cook them from scratch; both recommend paying more attention to your body, eating only when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full and avoiding snacking.

As we all know, Banting has taken South Africa by storm, mostly thanks to the work and writings of Tim Noakes since 2009 and the publication of his best-selling book The Real Meal Revolution in 2013. Noakes proposes wholesale transition to a high-fat, medium-protein, low-carb way of eating: absolutely no sugar, no grains of any kind, no high-carbohydrate vegetables and no – or extremely little – fruit, with strong emphasis on natural fats and moderate (not excessive!) amounts of protein, mostly from animal sources. Once you get the addictive sugar and carbs out of your diet, says Noakes, your brain will automatically regulate the number of kilojoules you need and your body weight will return to what it’s meant to be.

The Paleo diet, also known as the caveman, Stone Age or hunter-gatherer diet, is based on the idea that the human body is not designed for consuming large amounts of processed foods high in sugar, sodium and refined carbs and that ignoring this fact is the cause of our rapidly-increasing rates of “diseases of civilisation” like obesity, coronary heart disease and diabetes. A Paleo eating plan consists of relatively high levels of strictly natural fats, lots of vegetables, moderate amounts of protein mostly from animal sources, and low to moderate levels of carbohydrates found naturally in whole foods like (some) fruits. Sugar, with the exception of small amounts from natural sweeteners like honey and agave, is banned.

Apart from a slightly different attitude to fruit (you’re allowed more on Paleo than you are on Banting), the most obvious difference between the two approaches is in respect of dairy products. Strict Paleo proponents forbid dairy altogether, on the grounds that historically-speaking it’s a relatively recent addition to our diet. The Real Meal Revolution, recognising that full-fat dairy is a good source of saturated fats, proteins and carbs, allows for limited careful consumption of butter, milk and yoghurt, preferably unprocessed versions, unless of course you experience specific intolerances to dairy – these can include bloating or other digestive problems, sinus conditions and sore joints.

In the end, there’s no doubt that changing your way of eating – and the quality of the food you consume – can significantly improve your health and greatly enhance your energy levels and overall quality of life as well as helping you lose weight. Both Paleo and Banting can bring major successes in these areas. Perhaps the most important lesson to take from both is to learn to pay more attention to our bodies and to eat more mindfully.

Other articles you may be interested in:
How to: Make Banting-friendly wraps
How to: Make nearly-there carb-free bread
Should we be eating like cavemen?
Do overweight children become overweight adults?
Top five fad diets

Written by

Fiona Rom, freelance writer and editor, believes that beauty and wellness have much to do with your state of mind, and that a sense of humour is your best defence against almost any challenge the world throws at you. Fiona on Google

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  1. Chantelle Thompson

    Banting all the way. I’ve been doing it for 5 months now. I feel healthier, my skin looks better but I don’t believe in going carb free 100%. I do cheat once a week but never over indulge, I allow myself that one item that I really want and believe it’s good. I am having everything in moderation except carbs. It really is amazing although I know that there have been people that have had side effects such as fainting or nausea which is why you should monitor yourself and the changes to see if it is for you or not.

    5 years ago •

  1. savesh

    Yes, I just decided to go on a starch free diet from today and the above information is very useful right now. Thank you.

    5 years ago •

  1. AndreaM

    This statement is so true: Perhaps the most important lesson to take from both is to learn to pay more attention to our bodies and to eat more mindfully. I just recently heard about banting and I think I will incorporate a bit of both.

    5 years ago •

  1. Jeanine

    Really nice article, I always thought they were the same!

    5 years ago •

  1. NaturalDiva

    I have been hearing the term “banting” for a while now and only recently looked into it. I agree with the article in that, we should eat to feed our bodies and stop when full. We don’t need to consume large quantities to enjoy the meal. At the end of the day losing weight or maintaining a healthy body weight is a life style choice, there is no miracle pill or quick fix.

    5 years ago •

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