Fat is back: introducing The Real Meal Revolution’s high-fat diet. Fat. It causes high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease, right? Think again. A new cookbook explains why ‘banting’ – the high fat diet – can be a healthy choice. ‘The Real Meal Revolution explains how we can load up on butter, cheese and cream, while staying healthy and – miraculously – losing weight’.
By Amy Bryant
Fat, if the past year’s headlines are anything to go by, is no longer the enemy. It’s back on the menu (the trend for butter-laden Bulletproof coffee, anyone?), back in our kitchens (low-carb “fat bomb” recipes abound), and even back in the good books of US government dietary advisers.
Their report, released in May, declared eating cholesterol-rich foods has very little bearing on the amount of cholesterol in your body. If the US government adopts its advice, it could mean a reversal of the dietary information given to Americans since the 1960s. Big news if you’ve been itching for a fry-up.
Now a new book by three South Africans, the scientist and ultra-marathon-runner Professor Tim Noakes, the nutritionist Sally-Ann Creed, and the chef Jonno Proudfoot (above, left to right), is about to be published in the UK. It explains how we can load up on butter, cheese and cream, while staying healthy and – miraculously – losing weight.
“Proteins and fats are rich in nutrients. They make you feel full when you are full”
The Real Meal Revolution, has become a bestseller in South Africa since it came out in 2013. Flicking through its recipes, it is easy to see why. The ingredients lists are a mouthwatering roll-call of forbidden fruits: cream cheese, Parmesan, streaky bacon, pork belly ribs, thick Greek yogurt and coconut cream. Oh, and lashings of full-fat milk.
Noakes, Creed and Proudfoot prescribe a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet that is, they acknowledge, far from new. They credit the eating habits of early humans, the hunter-gatherers who ate wild animals for fat and protein but consumed few grains – a proposition familiar to anyone well-versed in the Paleo diet. But while Paleo is low on carbs, the Revolution goes even lower, and includes dairy in its eat-your-fill list – a no-no for Paleoites.
Revolution also pays tribute to a 19th-century undertaker from London who experienced such extreme weight loss that his name became synonymous with low-carb dieting. In 1862, William Banting (obese at 5ft 5in and 14½st) eschewed the typical Victorian diet of beer, bread and potatoes, and cut out sugary, starchy carbohydrates. Within a year he lost over 3st. Banting wrote about his diet and before long “to bant”, a verb meaning “to lose weight by practising Bantingism”, had entered the Oxford English Dictionary.
For Noakes, the conversion to Bantingism came about quite unexpectedly. Emeritus professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town, Noakes had for most of his life followed the dietary advice adopted throughout most of the Western world in the late 20th century: avoid saturated fat and go big on grains and cereals.
But after reading The New Atkins for a New You, which promoted a low-carb lifestyle, Noakes took a punt and rid his diet of carbohydrates. His weight loss was so dramatic – 1st 10lb in eight weeks – and his running times so improved, that he wrote about it in a 2012 article called Against the Grains. This caught the attention of Sally-Ann Creed, a Paleo nutritionist, and Jonno Proudfoot, a chef who was training for a 285-mile swim.
The food they recommend in The Real Meal Revolution is far more palatable than Banting’s kidneys, mutton and “a rusk or two”. On the “green”, go-for-broke list are cheese and eggs, all green, leafy vegetables plus any that grow above the ground, and all meat and seafood – not to mention butter, ghee, avocado and mayonnaise. Grains, along with such high-carb foods as potatoes and rice, are off the menu, as are processed food, soya products and sugar.
“Get comfortable with the idea that everything you thought was unhealthy, is not.” – Jonno Proudfoot
What’s key, Creed writes, is that we need to “relearn what ‘full’ feels like”. Proteins and fats “are rich in nutrients. They make you feel full when you are full”, hence they star in all Revolution’s recipes. By contrast, carbohydrates do not satisfy hunger, and they “illicit an insulin response […] a fat-storing hormone”. The more insulin resistant you are, the harder it is for you to process carbohydrates and, “The more you must restrict your carb intake,” Creed says.
“Low-carb, high-fat should actually be interpreted as incredibly-low-carb and don’t-worry-about-fat,” says Proudfoot. He suggests we shouldn’t feel guilty about eating tzatziki made with full-fat Greek yogurt, because it is the fat that will make us feel sated, so we don’t need to keep eating – ultimately aiding weight loss. His hot chocolate fat shake, made with coconut cream, butter and full-fat milk “is the most natural form of appetite suppressant you can get”. According to Revolution’s authors, once you have adopted their eating plan, “your cravings disappear”.
Reducing hunger pangs while losing weight is an undoubtedly desirable outcome, and the diet is recommended especially for those who suffer from high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. But Noakes, Creed and Proudfoot also report improvements in energy levels, sleeping habits and mental focus. The nutritionist Petronella Ravenshear explains that “most people do very well on a low-carb regime and experience better energy levels.
However, for a few it doesn’t work, perhaps because the body has got so used to burning sugar or carbohydrates for energy that it simply can’t switch to burning protein or fat for fuel.” Revolution advises that people with a medical issue should consult their doctor first.
“Ultimately,” Proudfoot concludes, “you have to get comfortable with the idea that everything you thought was unhealthy, is not.”