Banting backtracks on dairy, and Jade Seeliger, RD (SA) from Nutritional Solutions, investigates what this means.

An interesting development in the banting diet is the u-turn that has been made on dairy products. Dairy was previously unlimited, but now banters are told to proceed with caution if weight-loss is sluggish.

So, why the dismissal of dairy? Unfortunately we are a world of excess; when someone says you can eat as much as you like of X, we do just that, moderation is a skill yet to be learnt by most. It is therefore understandable that weight-loss slowed for many following the Banting diet and concerns were raised.

Why too much fat will make you just that
There are 3 main food groups; carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These food groups, also known as macronutrients, make up the bulk of the food we eat. We place a food into a macronutrient group according to which macronutrient forms the majority share of that particular food. For example a potato is 83% carbohydrate, hence we call it a carb, whilst olive oil is 100% fat, thus it falls into the fat group. Gram for gram protein, carbohydrate or fat will yield energy; we either burn up that energy, or store it. The catch comes in here: 1 gram of carbohydrate or protein will give you 17 kilojoules of energy. Every gram of fat you eat yields 38 kilojoules – nearly double.

Why full fat dairy was targeted
The full fat dairy included in the Banting diet was a major draw card for many dieters. A number of foods which were previously taboo were now on an “Eat as much as you like” list. When you consider the fat content of full fat dairy however, it is understandable why the guidelines on dairy have been backtracked. In an average day a banter could easily consume ½ cup cream, 1 cup full cream yoghurt, 3 – 6 slices of cheese and a tablespoon or two of butter. The kilojoules yielded by these alone adds up to 5166 kilojoules and 108.8g fat – to put this into perspective the average amount of kilojoules for a men’s’ weight reduction eating plan per day is about 6800 kilojoules.

Is dairy really the problem?
No – but choosing full fat dairy and eating it in unlimited quantities is. An interesting comparison of the macronutrients, and calcium found in fat free versus full cream milk is outlined below:

Milk Type (250ml) Energy (kJ) Fat (g) Carb (g) Protein (g) Calcium (mg)
Full cream milk 611 7.9 12.8 7.9 276
Fat free milk 359 0.4 12.5 8.4 301

As can be seen above, choosing a lower fat option affects the fat, and thus total kilojoules only. The carbohydrate, protein and calcium content of the milk types remain very similar. If the fat and kilojoules are the only significant changes when the full cream version of milk is converted to fat free then why go to the extremity of limiting/excluding dairy altogether? Is low fat really such a swear word that excluding a whole food group along with its nutrients is preferable to replacing the full fat guidelines to reduced fat?