High fat low carb debate

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In terms of kitchen ‘outlaws’, sugar has completely overtaken fat as public enemy number one.

In fact, fat has been making something of a comeback in recent years, and the latest advocates to sing its praises are sports scientist and marathon runner Professor Tim Noakes, nutritionist Sally Ann-Creed and chef and open ocean swimmer Jonno Proudfoot.

Their book, The Real Meal Revolution, has taken South Africa by storm and has just landed on UK shores, promising to help people lose weight without giving up all that juicy meat, butter and cream. There is a catch, though - carbs are strictly off the menu.

This low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) plan has similarities with the Paleo diet, in that it advocates a return to eating what our ancient ancestors, the hunter-gatherers, ate some 200,000 years ago - before we started cultivating grains. It also draws heavily on the Banting diet devised by British undertaker William Banting, who famously gave up the carb-rich eating habits of the Victorians in the 1860s to cure himself of obesity.

Of course, low or no-carb/high fat and protein diets have always been somewhat controversial.

Prof Noakes, however, is convinced that this eating regime has benefited his own health. “We’ve been raised to believe that cholesterol, caused by eating too much fat, causes diseases, and that every disease in the book is linked to a high-fat diet. It turns out that’s completely wrong,” claims Noakes, who has Type 2 diabetes but, at 66, says he’s running like a 40-year-old.

“What’s killing us is having elevated blood insulin concentrations all the time, and that is caused by high-carbohydrate diets and it’s exacerbated in people like myself, who have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the most prevalent medical condition in the world, it dwarves everything else.”

To devise their recipes, Proudfoot drew up three lists - green, orange and red - of foods people should eat in abundance, be wary of and avoid altogether, with meat, cheese and leafy greens all on the green list; fruit, nuts and root veggies on the orange list and all flour, grains, cake, rice, pasta, sugar, potatoes and even peas on the red list.

And so popular has it been in South Africa, that supermarkets have struggled to keep up with demand for Banting ingredients.

lPlease consult your doctor before embarking on any extreme diet change.