Harvey Banting Diet

The Harvey-Banting Diet (otherwise known as the “Banting Diet” or “Harvey Banting Diet”) was one of the first low carb diets to be documented. This low carb diet was first published by the Englishman William Banting in 1863.

Banting was an obese man, who had tried many different diets in an attempt to lose weight. Many ailments had afflicted Banting since becoming obese, and it was his deafness that changed his fate.

Luckily for Banting and those following low carb diet plans today, he was recommended to the ear, nose and throat specialist Dr Harvey. Dr Harvey had recently visited Paris to listen to a series of lectures by Claude Bernard, which had cause Harvey to formulate a theory on excessive weight gain and diabetes.

The basics of the theory were that diabetes was contributed to by excessive weight. He made initial observations were that diabetics seemed to be greatly helped by diets low in sugar and starch (carbohydates), and high in protein.

Harvey recommended a diet to Banting that was revolutionary at the time – lots of meat, but no sugar or starch. Within a year, Banting was 46 pounds lighter, enjoying what he ate, and all hia ailments were reduced, if not completely dissapeared.

Banting was so happy with the results, that he publically published the low carbohydate diet plan. The publication was “A Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public”, aimed to share his success with others.

Medical authorities were very skeptical of the claims, especially since it was not released in the scientific world before being released to the public. The letters to Banting from his followers proved otherwise, as they were filled with success stories.

Eventually, this low carb diet received medical support, in the form of Dr Neimeyer. The German doctor theorised that protein could not be converted into body fat, whereas carbs and fat could be. The Harvey Banting diet had received it’s classification of a high protein, low carbohydrate diet.

Some modifications and recommendations have been made since the diet’s first publication, specifying that to be truly effective, the meat must have the fat trimmed, and alcohol is not essential to the diet.

Here are the basic details of this low carbohydrate plan:

  • Four moderate meals a day, instead of three large meals.
  • The expressly prohibited foods are bread, milk, butter, beer, sugar and potatoes.
  • The food items to be avoided include the “root crops”, meaning carrots, beetroot, turnip and parsnip. “Above ground” fruits and vegetables are acceptable.

So what did Banting’s original low carb diet look like? Here we’ve published Dr Harvey’s initial recommedations:


4 to 5 ounces of beef, mutton, kidneys, broiled fish, bacon or cold meat of any kind except pork [Ed: pork was thought to have contained starch]; a large cup of tea (without milk or sugar), a little biscuit or one oz of dry toast.


5 to 6 ounces of any fish except salmon, any meat except pork, any vegetable except potato, one ounce of dry toast, fruit of any pudding, any kind of poultry or game, and 2-3 glasses of good claret, sherry or Madeira.


2 to 3 ounces of fruit, a rusk or two and a cup of tea without milk or sugar.


3 to 4 ounces of meat or fish, similar to dinner, with a glass or two of claret.


Tumbler of grog: gin, whisky or brandy (without sugar) or a glass or two of claret or sherry.

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