Who and What Is Banting?

Learn More About the Low Carb Diet That Started it All

Close up of fresh seafood salad in lettuce cups
Close up of fresh seafood salad in lettuce cups. Getty Images/Trinette Reed

Low-carb diets are nothing new, but if we go way back, over a century ago, we can find the originator. William Banting (1796-1878), started a low carb diet at his doctor's behest after struggling with obesity. Banting is at once a person, a diet, and a verb. Banting is usually credited with authoring and promoting the first published version of a low-carbohydrate diet, after he cured himself of obesity with the diet.

He wrote a booklet called "Letter on Corpulence" which became extremely popular, to the point where "banting" was a term for dieting, with an accompanying verb, "to bant." Banting is seeing a resurgence in interest, but in some unlikely places. Nonetheless, here's what you need to know about banting and its future in the low carb diet space.

The Banting Diet Explained

The diet Banting advocated would be familiar to anyone following a low-carb diet today, emphasizing meats, vegetables, and fruits, and avoiding sugar and starch. William Banting was an undertaker by trade. He is said to be a distant relative of Fredrick Banting, who won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of insulin, a strange coincidence to say the least with the link of low-carb diets to the fight against diabetes, the disease of insulin deficiency.

The Resurgence of Banting

Recently, the term "Banting" has become popular again, particularly in South Africa, mainly due to the work of Dr. Tim Noakes, author of Real Meal Revolution, and professor of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, researcher, athlete and advocate of the low-carbohydrate/ high fat approach to health.

In South Africa, you can find restaurants using the Banting name, such as the Banting Cafe. However, the association between Banting and Noakes may be unfounded. Banting did not advocate a high fat diet unlike Noakes, so their agreement on low-carb may be narrow at best. The label has stuck nonetheless.

Banting vs. Atkins and Paleo Diet

The paleo diet is consistently compared with banting but the two are very different in that paleo is less a diet and more an eating lifestyle like being vegetarian or pescatarian. Those eating paleo don't count carbs or focus on how much fat or carbohydrate is in a food from a numbers standpoint. Paleo avoids certain foods outright. In terms of Atkins, Noakes points out that Atkins is a high protein diet, where as Banting is a high fat diet, with moderate protein intake. Banting isn't personalized like Atkins is either, although they do have phases similar to the Atkins plan.

The Future of Banting

As banting continues to gain traction with people of all ages, it is sure to continue its resurgence as a guideline for low carb diets. If you are considering banting, be sure to not only educate yourself with the book and other materials, but see your doctor before starting any new diet. You may find your doctor's insight about the diets, but also about your own health that will help you make an informed decision about how to eat healthy for your body.

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