What Is the Banting Diet?

banting diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What Is the Banting Diet?

The first known low-carb diet is widely attributed to William Banting (1796-1878). Banting authored a booklet that detailed his plan. His booklet was so popular that "banting" became a term for dieting.

More recently, the term reemerged due to the work of Tim Noakes, co-author of "Real Meal Revolution." The RMR Banting approach is based on Banting's original plan. Both are low-carb, high-fat diets that eliminate all grains, added sugars, vegetable and seed oils, and any foods containing gluten.

On a Banting diet, macronutrients are distributed to induce ketosis: About 5% to 10% carbohydrates (depends on the phase and a person's individual response to carbs), 15% to 20% protein, and 70% to 75% fats. Sugar and gluten are completely eliminated. Other grains are very limited. Most vegetables and animal proteins are included.

What Experts Say

"The Banting diet is a very low-carbohydrate diet that’s broken into phases. The diet claims people should 'never ever' eat certain foods, like gluten and canned fruit. Experts recommend skipping this diet, as the overly restrictive guidelines can lead to nutrient imbalances."
Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

What You Can Eat

The Banting diet includes foods that are low in carbohydrates.

Animal Protein

On the Banting diet, you can eat as many of these foods as you like as long as they are unprocessed.

  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Seafood

Non-Starchy Produce

Most non-starchy vegetables are allowed. Starchier vegetables, as well as most legumes and fruits, can be eaten in small amounts during some phases and not at all during others.

  • Berries
  • Leafy greens
  • Asparagus
  • Zucchini
  • Beans and legumes (in small quantities in some phases)

Dairy Products

Butter, ghee, and firm and hard cheeses are all compliant foods ("green" in "Real Meal Revolution"). Milk, soft cheeses, cottage cheese, cream cheese, cream, and yogurt are "orange" foods, meaning they are permitted in small amounts during some phases. So are milk substitutes such as almond, rice, and coconut milk (not soy milk).

  • Butter (green)
  • Ghee (green)
  • Firm cheese (green)
  • Milk (orange)
  • Soft cheese (orange)
  • Cream cheese (orange)
  • Cream (orange)
  • Yogurt (orange)
  • Milk substitutes (orange)

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are referred to as "fertilizers" on this plan. All are green except kombucha.

  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Naturally fermented pickles
  • Kombucha (orange)

Oils

While the original Banting plan didn't take a stand on oils (or many other foods), the RMR Banting version divides them into green and red like other foods.

  • Avocado
  • Coconut
  • Macadamia nut
  • Olive oil
  • Nut oils (unheated)

What You Cannot Eat

What you cannot eat depends on the phase of the diet. There are some foods that are discouraged throughout.

Starchy Produce

These are allowed in moderation during some phases but not at all in others.

  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Bananas

Grains and Gluten

Foods containing gluten or grains are banned, so the following are not permitted unless they are made with non-gluten grains (even then, they should be eaten sparingly).

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Crackers
  • Baked goods
  • Cereals
  • Whole grains

Added Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

  • White or brown sugar
  • Candy
  • Desserts
  • Sweeteners (aspartame, sucrolose)
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup

Oils

Some oils are banned on the Banting diet.

  • Seed oils (sunflower, grapeseed)
  • Vegetable oils (canola, soybean, corn, cottonseed, safflower)
  • Margarine

How to Prepare the Banting Diet & Tips

In his publication, Banting described avoiding bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer, and starchy vegetables: potatoes, parsnips, beets, carrots, and turnips. The Real Meal Revolution interpretation expands on Banting's original plan. In addition to being a low-carb, high-fat diet, the RMR Banting program includes a four-phase approach:

  1. Observation: Understand "what the food you eat actually does to you."
  2. Restoration: "Replenish nutrients and gut flora" by eating a medium-carb, sugar- and gluten-free diet.
  3. Transformation: This is the fat-burning stage, using a sugar-free, gluten-free, and low-carb diet.
  4. Preservation: This maintenance phase sticks with the sugar- and gluten-free diet, but adds "variable carb levels" depending on the individual.

William Banting advocated eating four slightly smaller than usual meals per day. But the RMR Banting program indicates that you should only eat when you are hungry and that you should eat mindfully, paying attention to your body's hunger cues so that you stop when you feel full (not when your plate is empty).

The RMR Banting diet classifies foods as "green" (eat as much as you want), "orange" (eat moderately; there are special rules about these for each phase), "light red" (eat "hardly ever"), "really red" (never, ever eat), and "grey" (it's complicated).

The RMR Banting diet is already gluten-free, so it works for people who cannot consume gluten. The guidelines suggest that vegetarians and even vegans could follow this plan, but it's unclear what vegan sources of protein would be compliant. Nuts and legumes are on the "orange" list and soy and pea protein are on the "grey" list.

The RMR food lists are long and not always intuitive. They are also subject to change, but you can download the latest editions on the RMR website, along with recipes and meal plans.

In addition to the book, the Real Meal Revolution plan has a website that followers of the Banting diet can use for reference and online health coaches are available. There is also a follow-up book, "The Real Meal Revolution 2.0," written by RMR co-author Jonno Proudfoot.

Pros of the Banting Diet

Like most weight-loss programs, the Banting diet does offer some advantages, although these are not applicable to everyone.

  • Customizable: Different bodies react to food, and especially carbohydrates, in different ways. The phases and "sometimes" foods outlined in the RMR Banting approach are meant to help followers determine what amount of carbs, and which carb sources, work best for weight loss and maintenance.
  • No counting: Some food tracking might be helpful to analyze that ideal level of carbs and how the body responds to different foods. But in general, the Banting plan does not rely on specific carb or calorie counts. It is all about the types of food consumed.
  • Hunger cues: Followers of the program are encouraged to listen to internal cues to guide them to eat when hungry and stop when they feel satisfied.
  • Online coach: Subscribers who pay for certain online courses have access to health coaches for guidance and support.
  • May induce weight loss: Though the Banting diet lacks sufficient scientific evidence, some small studies have indicated a potential for weight loss. For instance, a 2019 study compared very-low, low-, and moderate-carbohydrate diets (all with high fat). All three groups showed similar amounts of weight loss and other positive health indicators. However, another study found no difference in weight loss between a low-carbohydrate, higher-fat diet and a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet in a small group of patients with type 2 diabetes.

Cons of the Banting Diet

William Banting claims he lost 50 pounds on his diet. And the RMR website features testimonials and success stories from advocates. But that doesn't mean this diet is right for everyone; it has drawbacks and risks.

  • Restrictive: Nutritionists warn against diets like these that cut out so many foods. It's not easy to adhere to such a specific set of parameters for the long term. Even in the "preservation" or maintenance phase, many foods (including all whole grains) are still off-limits or nearly so.
  • Lacks evidence: While research shows that low-carb diets can be effective for weight loss, there is not a lot of scientific research supporting the Banting approach, specifically. One study did show that hypothetical low-carb, high-fat meal plans could be made nutritionally sound and support weight loss.
  • Lacks sustainability: Since long-term evidence supporting low carb diets (in general) and the Banting diet (specifically) is lacking, it is unclear whether or not this type of diet is sustainable for the long term. A research review of studies involving low-carb diets notes that lack of sustainability is a key pitfall of this eating style.
  • Short-term results: Short-term weight loss is common on low-carb diets, but studies show that similar diets like keto are not a sustainable weight loss solution. It can be challenging to cut out entire groups of foods and to continue eating this way indefinitely.
  • High in saturated fat: The average American consumes more than 10% of their daily calories from saturated fats, which health experts warn is too much. The Banting diet is very high in fat, which could put some people at risk for developing heart disease.
  • May cause nutrient deficiencies: Research shows that people following low-carb diets often develop nutrient deficiencies in minerals like iron and magnesium,which are found in whole grains.

Is the Banting Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

Current dietary guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggest eating a well-rounded diet that includes protein, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products. The Banting diet as interpreted by the Real Meal Revolution plan eliminates whole grains and limits dairy products and some fruits.

In addition, the USDA advises that added sugars should not exceed 10% of daily calories. This aligns with the Banting plan since it eliminates added sugars. However, this does not account for foods containing naturally occurring sugars such as fruit, which a part of a balanced diet. The Banting diet allows for some low-sugar, low-carb fruits in moderation.

While the USDA no longer sets a limit on total fat consumption, current guidelines do advise limiting consumption of saturated fats to less than 10% of daily calories. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends even less, around 5% to 6% of daily calories from saturated fats. Given the high-fat nature of the Banting diet, it could be easy for some people to exceed the recommended limit. Saturated fats are found in many common foods that are encouraged on the Banting diet, including butter, ghee, coconut oil, fatty cuts of meat, and cheese.

For a healthy, sustainable approach to weight loss, experts recommend consuming around 1,500 calories a day, but this number varies based on a number of factors such as age, sex, weight, and level of physical activity. Though there is no calorie counting on the Banting diet, many people benefit from monitoring their caloric intake for both weight loss and weight management. Use this calculator to determine the right number of calories you need each day to meet your goals.

The Banting diet restricts nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains and suggests higher fat intake than most experts advise. Depending on the individual circumstances, this type of eating plan is generally not recommended by nutrition experts as a sustainable, long-term way of eating.

A Word From Verywell

If you are considering the Banting diet, it's a good idea to educate yourself with books and other materials. But more importantly, check with your doctor first, especially if you have any health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Your doctor's insight about diet and your health will help you make an informed decision about what eating (and exercise) plan is best for your body.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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13 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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