The Banting diet dates back to 1862 and was touted as an almost miraculous way to treat obesity. Although slightly modified, it regained popularity in 2013 as a low carb, high fat (LCHF) way of eating.
The diet limits the intake of carbs almost entirely. It also promises to revert type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as improve your energy levels and sleep quality — all while causing drastic weight loss.
For some, the Banting diet becomes a way of life, but for others, limiting their carb intake is far too restrictive and unsustainable in the long term.
This article reviews the pros and cons of the Banting diet and tells you whether it works for weight loss.
Diet review scorecard
- Overall score: 3.25
- Weight loss: 4
- Healthy eating: 2.75
- Sustainability: 2.5
- Whole body health: 2.5
- Nutrition quality: 4.75
- Evidence-based: 3
BOTTOM LINE: The Banting diet eliminates one food group almost entirely. However, it encourages eating wholesome foods over processed ones, and its multiple communities may provide the needed support to sustain the diet in the long run.
The Banting diet was first prescribed to William Banting in 1862 by Dr. William Harvey as a weight loss diet (1).
William Banting’s success with the diet led him to write a booklet that popularized the low carb strategy for weight loss, to the extent that the word “banting” became the name of the method, as well as a verb.
Recently, Tim Noakes, a South African scientist and professor, brought the method back into the spotlight after trying the Banting diet himself and writing the book “Real Meal Revolution.” His take on the diet is referred to as Banting 2.0.
The original Banting diet included four daily meals, which mainly comprised protein and restricted carbs — 1 ounce (30 grams) of dry bread in every meal and 2–3 ounces (60–90 grams) of fruit as a snack. It restricted bread, beans, butter, milk, sugar, beer, and potatoes (2).
However, Tim Noakes’ approach is slightly different.
Banting 2.0 divides the process into four phases — observation, restoration, transformation, and preservation — and offers multiple food lists and structured meal plans to simplify the low carb approach.
It still restricts carbs to some extent, and its macronutrient composition resembles the keto diet with less than 5–10% of your daily calories coming from carbs, 65–90% from fat, and 10–35% from protein.
Still, both versions of the diet promise extreme weight loss, higher energy levels, improved sleep quality, reduced feelings of hunger, and increased feelings of overall well-being.
This article focuses on Noakes’ newer version of the Banting diet.
The Banting diet is a low carb, high fat diet that’s very similar to the keto diet. It claims to improve energy levels, sleep, and overall well-being while causing weight loss.
The Banting diet is divided into four phases that are meant to ease the transition into a LCHF way of life.
While you may follow the diet on your own, there’s an online course available for those who want to dive into it with a structured and personalized Banting meal plan.
The course offers a step-by-step guide, recipes, optional daily support from a coach, and weekly mindset workshops to help manage temptations and make the transition smoother.
Phase 1: Observation
During this 1-week phase, you’re supposed to follow your current diet without making any modifications.
It encourages you to track and journal everything you eat to figure out how you respond to food.
Phase 2: Restoration
The restoration phase is meant to restore your gut health and get you used to the Banting way of eating.
This phase may last 2–12 weeks, depending on your weight loss goal. Overall, you should follow it for 1 week for every 11 pounds (5 kg) of weight you want to lose.
During this time, you’ll be introduced to a series of food lists. You’re meant to eliminate all foods from the Red and Light Red lists and instead rely on those on the Green and Orange lists.
One plus is that there’s no calorie counting or portion control in this phase.
Phase 3: Transformation
The transformation phase introduces you to the original Banting diet.
It takes your newly developed eating habits and cuts your carb intake to achieve ketosis, which is meant to get you into a rapid fat-burning mode.
To make this possible, the method encourages you to stick to foods on the Green list, while adding those on the Orange list to the no-go foods — along with the Red lists mentioned before.
This third phase lasts as long as it takes you to reach your desired weight, and you should track your meals for a couple of days every two weeks.
Additionally, the phase includes “lifestyle hacks,” such as intermittent fasting, exercise tips, and sleep and meditation to avoid reaching a weight loss plateau.
The transformation phase is supposed to improve mental clarity, sleep, acne, and skin irritations, as well as even eradicate joint pain.
Phase 4: Preservation
This final phase, which is supposed to last indefinitely, starts once you’ve reached your desired weight. It’s meant to help you maintain your new weight in the long run.
This is a more flexible phase, as you’ll be able to reintroduce foods that are not allowed in the previous phase. The goal is to determine which ones you can safely eat without gaining weight.
Again, there’s no food tracking during this phase, and you may follow the food lists as follows:
- Green: no limitations
- Orange: eat in moderation
- Light Red: hardly ever or on special occasions
- Red: never
- Gray: it’s up to you
You can always return to the previous phase if you feel like you have lost control of your weight.
The Banting diet is divided into four phases, but ultimately it’s meant to guide you into a new way of life. You start making changes in the second and third phases, and the fourth one allows a little flexibility.
The Banting diet provides multiple food lists to eat and avoid.
This list includes foods that you may eat without restriction.
- Fruits and vegetables: leafy green vegetables, artichoke hearts, aubergine, asparagus, bean and Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, courgettes, cucumber, endive, fennel, garlic, germ squash, kale, leeks, lemon and lime, lettuce, mange tout, mushrooms, olives, onions, okra, palm hearts, peppers, radicchio, radishes, rhubarb, rocket, shallots, spinach, spring onions, snap peas, tomatoes, and turnips
- Meat, fish, and poultry: all meat, poultry, fish, seafood, offal, and naturally cured meats (i.e., pancetta, salami, parma ham, bacon, jerky, coppa (capocollo), and biltong), eggs, homemade bone broth, and cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, mozzarella, feta, ricotta, Cheddar, Gouda, Emmental, Parmesan, and pecorino
- Drinks: caffeine-free herbal teas, flavored waters, and plain water
- Condiments: all kinds of vinegar and fermented soy sauce or tamari
- Fermented foods: coconut yogurt and kefir, kefir butter and cheese, kimchi, milk kefir, naturally fermented pickles, and sauerkraut
- Fats: any rendered animal fat, avocado, butter, ghee, cream, coconut oil, fruit and nut oils, mayonnaise, and seeds
According to the method, foods on the Orange list offer multiple health benefits but may hinder your weight loss journey if consumed without restriction. Thus, foods on this list are meant to be enjoyed in moderation.
- Nuts: all raw nuts and sugar-free nut butters
- Dairy: milk and milk substitutes, cottage and cream cheese, full fat yogurt, and sour cream
- Fruits: apples, apricots, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, clementines, fresh figs, gooseberries, granadilla, grapes, guava, jackfruit, kiwi, kumquats, litchis, loquats, mangoes, nectarines, orange, papaya, pears, peaches, persimmon, pineapple, plantain, plums, pomegranates, quinces, raspberries, starfruit, strawberries, tangerines, tamarind pulp, and watermelon
- Drinks: caffeinated tea and coffee
- Legumes and pulses: all legumes, alfalfa, beans, chickpeas, and lentils
- Fermented foods: water kefir and kombucha
- Fruits and vegetables: beetroot, butternut squash, baby corn, carrots, calabash, cassava, celeriac, corn, edamame, golden beets, Hubbard squash, jicama, parsnips, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabagas, spaghetti squash, and sweet potatoes
Light Red list
You should hardly ever consume foods on this list.
- Smoothies and vegetable juices: fruit and yogurt smoothies without frozen yogurt or ice cream, as well as vegetable juices without added fruit juice
- Treats and chocolate: dark chocolate (80% and above), dried fruit, honey, and pure maple syrup
- Gluten-free grains: amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, bran, gluten-free pasta, millet, oats, popcorn, quinoa, rice, sorghum, quinoa, tapioca, and teff
- Flours: almond, coconut, corn, chickpea, pea, and rice flours, polenta, and maize meal
This is probably the most important list, as it includes the foods you should never eat.
- General foods: fast food, foods with added sugar, chips, and sugary condiments, such as ketchup, dressings, and marinades
- Sweets: all confectionery and non-dark chocolates, artificial sweeteners, agave, canned fruit, coconut sugar, cordials, fructose, glucose, jam, malt, rice malt syrup, sugar, and golden syrup
- Gluten: barley, bulgur, couscous, durum, einkorn, farina, graham flour, Khorasan wheat (kamut), matzo, orzo, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat, and wheat germ
- Grain-based products: all commercial breaded or battered foods, breakfast cereals, and all crackers
- Drinks: energy drinks, soft drinks, commercial juices, commercial iced teas, flavored milks, and milkshakes
- Dairy-related foods: coffee creamers, commercial cheese spreads, condensed milk, ice cream, and commercial frozen yogurt
- Fats: butter spreads, canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, margarine and shortening, rice bran oil, and sunflower and safflower oil
- Processed meats: highly processed sausages and meats cured with sugar
The Gray list contains foods that fit the Banting diet but would slow your progress, so they’re left to your discretion.
- Treats: Banting baked goods and sugar-free ice cream
- Sweeteners: xylitol, erythritol, isomalt, stevia powder, and sucralose
- Drinks: all alcoholic beverages, protein shakes, and supplements
- Vegetarian proteins: naturally fermented tofu, pea protein, and processed soy
The Banting diet encourages you to avoid highly processed foods and opt for wholesome ones instead. It also limits gluten, high sugar foods, starches, dairy, and caffeine.
While there’s no research on the Banting diet itself, there’s plenty of scientific evidence supporting the LCHF approach for weight loss.
When restricting carbs, the body is stimulated to maximize fat oxidation to meet energy demands. This means that LCHF diets rely primarily on fats to produce energy (3).
Studies show people on LCHF diets given unrestricted access to foods don’t necessarily consume more calories than people on low fat, high carb (LFHC) diets because they tend to perceive less hunger, and thus, reduce their overall food intake (4).
Additionally, LCHF diets usually lead to a higher protein intake, which also promotes feelings of fullness, and fewer cases of rebound hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels, a common cause of hunger in those following high carb diets (4, 6).
Regarding the alleged metabolic advantage, scientists attribute it to either an increased thermogenic effect from the protein intake, a higher protein turnover for gluconeogenesis, or loss of energy through the excretion of ketones in sweat or urine (3, 4).
The thermogenic effect of foods is the energy needed to digest, absorb, and dispose of its nutrients, while gluconeogenesis is the production of glucose from fats or proteins.
The Banting diet may help you lose weight because it mixes a series of strategies that promote fat loss, such as increasing your feeling of fullness, eliminating processed and sugary foods, and practicing intermittent fasting.
Following a LCHF diet like the Banting diet may lead to other potential health benefits.
Improved metabolic markers
LCHF diets may help reduce risk factors for both type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Scientific evidence shows that they may reduce fasting insulin and blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which is why LCHF diets are gaining popularity as potential first-line treatments for type 2 diabetes (4, 10, 11).
For example, in one 12-week study in 26 people with excess weight, those following a LCHF diet improved their glucose, insulin resistance, triglyceride, HDL (good) cholesterol, and HbA1c levels, compared with those in the HCLF group (13).
The HbA1c test — or glycated hemoglobin test — measures your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months, and it’s used as an evaluation tool for blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
Focuses on wholesome foods
By restricting processed and sugary foods, the diet almost automatically leads to a higher intake of wholesome, more nutritious foods.
High intakes of processed foods are associated with increased oxidative stress and inflammation, leading to the development of non-communicable chronic diseases (NCD) like cancer and heart disease and thus increasing the risk of mortality (14, 15, 16, 17).
Thus, the Banting diet will most likely benefit your health.
The Banting diet limits carbs and promotes the intake of wholesome foods, which leads to numerous health improvements.
While the Banting diet offers numerous health benefits, its potential downsides cannot be ignored.
Aside from eliminating processed and sugary foods, the Banting diet’s food lists also restrict grains and limit fruits, legumes, dairy, and nuts.
Additionally, by restricting legumes, dairy, and nuts, and classifying tofu as a “gray area food,” the diet makes it difficult for vegans and vegetarians to follow the plan.
Finally, the restrictive nature of the diet can make long-term maintenance difficult, which could end up hindering its effectiveness.
However, some may find that the support from online communities or the course’s coaches and webinars is all they need to keep them going.
Long-term evidence is lacking
However, more research is needed to understand how low carb diets affect heart health over longer time periods.
Therefore, some believe that the potential downsides of following this type of diet in the long term outweigh its potential benefits.
The Banting diet restricts many food groups associated with multiple health benefits, and there’s little evidence on its long-term health effects.
Here’s what 3 days on the Banting diet would look like while following Phase 2 (Restoration phase):
- Breakfast: 2–3 eggs — scrambled or fried — with avocado, cheese, tomato, and bacon; bulletproof coffee is also allowed
- Lunch: grilled fish fillet with sweet potato wedges and vegetable stir-fry
- Snack: Greek yogurt and macadamia nuts
- Dinner: a serving of protein of your choice — beef, pork, chicken, or fish — served with sautéed vegetables, a side salad, and cauliflower mash
- Breakfast: 1/4 cup of Banting granola — toasted nuts and seeds with some spices — with yogurt and 1–2 hard-boiled eggs
- Lunch: a large grilled chicken salad with cottage cheese
- Snack: apple slices with nut butter
- Dinner: salmon fillet with avocado and grilled asparagus
- Breakfast: coconut milk smoothie with mango, papaya, and a handful of nuts
- Lunch: beef fajitas with grilled onions, mushrooms, and peppers, and a side salad
- Snack: 1–2 cups (240–480 mL) of bone broth
- Dinner: pulled pork lettuce wraps with a side of roasted chickpeas
Although snacks are included, the program’s advice is to avoid snacking and instead increase your previous meal’s fat intake to curb hunger.
The Banting diet encourages you to eat three LCHF meals and only snack if necessary.
The Banting diet is a type of low carb, high fat (LCHF) diet that mostly restricts starchy, processed, and sugary foods, instead promoting the intake of wholesome ones to lose weight rapidly.
Though there’s no scientific evidence on the diet itself, studies on LCHF diets suggest that they may enhance metabolic markers for heart disease and diabetes.
Still, the diet is highly restrictive, and there’s not enough evidence on the long-term effects of LCHF diets in humans.
Therefore, maintaining an intake of wholesome foods and reducing your intake of processed ones while shifting to a moderate-carb diet may be a more sustainable yet efficient weight loss approach.