To Noakes or not to Noakes

26 September 2014



Words: Hannele Steyn


The Banting, Paleo and Tim Noakes lifestyle has caused a controversial tsunami throughout the country and the question on many peoples' lips is, "To Noakes or not to Noakes?"

To Noakes or not to Noakes

I am often asked what I think about this 'diet'. As a genetisist/microbiologist with a passion for nutrition, I design and manufacture health products to help people feel and look better by following a healthy and balanced lifestyle. So, as a rule, I do not believe in any 'diet' as such, except if it is for medical or health reasons. I’ve always recommended following a balanced lifestyle and teaching people about choosing the healthier options. The reason I advocate balanced nutrition is because our bodies need a certain amount of organic proteins, essential, good fats and low-glaecemic, natural carbohydrates every day to function.

The mistake a lot of people make is thinking that 'balanced' means eating everything, but in moderation.

Balanced nutrition actually means to eat the correct amount of all three food groups - carbohydrates, protein and fat. It also means choosing the healthier options from these food groups.

While I’m all for cutting out refined foods, processed foods, simple sugars, trans fats and man-made foods, as the Banting/Noakes diet suggests, there are a few things I will never agree with. All of us have a right to an opinion, so is this the way to go or is it potentially harmful to one’s health? I’ll let you make that final decision, but here are a few things to consider before following any extreme 'diet' blindly.

Question: Why did people get scurvy?

Answer: From not eating enough fresh fruit. The low-carb, high-fat regime suggests only minimum amounts of fresh fruit; far less than even 'an apple a day'.

Question: Why did cavemen only live off a few berries and high fat and protein?

Answer: They couldn’t find a Fruit ‘n Veg store close by and where they lived, there wasn’t a whole lot of fresh fruit (in and out of season) available either. Cavemen were hunters, not farmers, and therefore not very active (in the sense of sports people, who need a lot more sustenance in their diets). They only had to hunt for food and look for anything that was edible in the area they lived. They ate their meat almost raw (also not a lot of stoves in that time) and didn’t eat more fat than meat; they ate everything on that animal and used the skin for clothes. Then they slept most of the time until it was time to hunt again for their next meal. I am almost sure they would’ve swopped gold for a fresh, juicy orange.

Cavemen also didn’t eat sweets, processed foods, all kinds of sugars and trans fats. They were fortunate to only have organic, free-range meat available and so there was no need for a quick fix to cure themselves from high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.

When it comes to Eskimos, their staple diet is mostly fatty fish, which is extremely healthy and a 100% in line with the Banting rules. They are also not very active people, but need a lot of fat to sustain themselves in the bitterly cold temperatures they endure. Furthermore, fresh fruit and veggies don't grow very well in those conditions, if you catch my drift. The best athletes and cyclists don’t usually come from the North Pole ☺.

Question: What about grains (also something this diet recommends avoiding) and the important nutrients they contain, like folic acid?

Answer: Folic acid is essential, especially for pregnant women and the development of a healthy baby. I don't recommend cutting this out of your diet, but rather choose them whole rolled.

Question: Will children who follow this new, magic diet to lose weight be able to afford the correct 'organic' fat and protein prescribed because it is quite expensive? Furthermore, is it really good for any child to eat so little fruit or to go on extreme-type diets? Are young girls not going to harm their health by following this diet for weight loss?

Answer: I think children, especially, should eat a balanced diet of all three food groups and we should teach them to opt for the healthier choices and cut out processed food and refined sugars.

Question: How easy will it be for someone who has been trying to lose weight by following every new diet to all of a sudden be able to sustain this ‘easier’ diet? I say easier because fat gives flavour to food and what better than hearing you can eat cream, the nice fatty bit on the meat, full-cream dairy and the like. For years, dieticians have been saying that we must cut out sweets, chips, coke, wine, etc, but very few people can keep it up. So why will they be able to resist those things on a long term basis?

Answer: I don’t know and we’ll have to wait and see. One thing is for sure though and that is if you follow a high-fat diet and then go back to the 'real' bad eating habits, you are going to pick up even more weight!

So, am I agreeing or disagreeing? All I am saying is that I can’t live with or agree to a lifestyle where I have to go without all the amazing, fresh-from-the-earth fruit and vegetables that are available, like watermelon, bananas, mangoes, apples, tomatoes, corn and the list goes on.

So my question to you is, "Can you?"

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