The diet trends are facing a head-to-head, fight-to-death battle. In the one corner, there is local favourite, the Banting diet, and in the other corner, the diet that even McDonald’s is taking notice of, veganism.
They sit on opposite ends of the dietary spectrum. Both claim that people will lose weight. Both claim to help the environment. Both claim it is how humans have eaten for centuries. Both claim to be the healthiest diet. They cannot seem to agree with each other on anything but there is one thing that these two diets do have in common: they are popular amongst South Africans – of course, between different camps of South Africans.
What is Banting?
The Banting diet, created by Tim Noakes, is a popular low carb, high fat diet (LCHF) that has been on the radar for the last 5 years. For such a braai-loving nation, it’s no surprise that this diet has taken South Africans by storm. On the menu are eggs, bacon, sausages, full fat dairy, cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza bases, cauliflower mash, a handful of berries and macadamia nuts. Peanuts or cashews? Forget it; they contain too many carbohydrates apparently. Also on the no-no list includes starchy vegetables, grains, almost all fruit and refined sugars.
Why is Banting so Popular?
Commit to this diet and the kilos will melt away, keto-style. Those who are overweight, inactive, insulin-resistant and have high cholesterol are seeing results quickly. The high fat content consumption keeps people full throughout the day so that the daily cravings for sugar and highly processed food reduce. A low carb diet will show results – and you’re still able to eat cheeses and steaks.
What is Veganism?
Gone are the days where the vegan stereotype was of a hippie sitting on a hill nibbling on grass and cardboard (aka tofu). From Robbie Williams, to Lewis Hamilton and from Morrissey to Novak Djokovic and the Wiliams sisters, more and more people are turning to a vegan diet, making it one of the fastest-growing global trends ever. Vegans don’t consume any animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs or fish, and rather opt for fruit, veggies, legumes, grains, nuts, and even meat-free alternatives.
In a statement that shook the Banters to the core of their single apple, The World Health Organisation (WHO) classified processed meat as a class one carcinogen (and red meat as a probable carcinogen).
Why is Veganism so Popular?
Google Trends saw a 90% increase in ‘vegan’ searches in 2016 and that percentage keeps rising, with research indicating that one of 2019’s biggest trends is vegan eating.
More and more studies are showing the multitude of health benefits that a vegan diet can offer, both in the long-term and the short-term. From documentaries such as What the Health and Cowspiracy, both claiming that meat-eating and animal agriculture are the leading causes of cancer, diabetes and global warming, the vegan diet is taking the world, nutritionists, doctors, athletes and celebs by storm.
The Proof is in the Long-Term Results
While veganism is the fastest growing trend in the world, outside of South Africa, no one knows what Banting is. At present, there are no studies that prove that the Banting diet is a healthy diet and is effective for long-term weight loss. The only science to report on this diet came from Stellenbosch University that stated that Banting is neither healthier, nor more effective for weight loss than other diets (PLOS ONE Journal 2014).
The vegan diet, on the other end of the scale, has a multitude of peer-reviewed studies backing it. From the long-term study by Campbell and Campbell from Cornell University, entitled The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health, to studies into the Okinawan tribe that indicate that they have the greatest proportion of centenarians in the world, the proof is showing in the data.
Looking at the Numbers: To the Power of Plants
Would you choose chicken or chickpeas? On a vegan diet, chickpeas are considered gold (hummus, anyone?). On a Banting diet, chicken is encouraged while chickpeas contain anti-nutrients and are high carbohydrates, making them not the best choice.
Putting aside the number of animals slaughtered each year, the health benefits of a vegan diet cannot be ignored. Switching to a plant-based diet or reducing your meat and dairy intake can lower your risk of numerous diseases, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and arthritis. These diseases are often caused by the added cholesterol, saturated fat and trans-fats prevalent. A vegan diet is naturally cholesterol-free and is significantly lower in saturated fat and trans-fats.
We tend to overemphasize the amount of protein that we need in order to maintain a healthy diet. The focus should rather be on consuming wide variety of nutrient-dense foods throughout the day. As protein is found in varying amounts in plants such as legumes, grains, nuts, and meat alternatives, it’s simple to get to the recommended amount as long as you are consuming sufficient calories.
Switching to a plant-based diet is easy. Join the fastest growing (and scientifically-backed) diet trend of 2019 – and beyond!