Ketogenic in Cape Town: the Mother City extends her bounty

Arriving in Cape Town after eight weeks in Tanzania, I was over the moon to discover that our Airbnb at the top of Long Street was in easy reach of the Kloof Street Wellness Warehouse, stocked full of all the supplements I need to restock and which are of course completely unavailable in Mwanza. This was amazing enough, just what I could find in the UK. Then, touring the store excitedly that first morning, I started to find far more than I’d bargained for: MCT oil on the shelves, liquid magnesium, raw sugar free chocolate just to name a few long-sought-after delights and key ingredients to my recently-adopted ketogenic lifestyle.

And then, as I move around Cape Town my eyes start to open: ketogenic-friendly ingredients and products starts showing up everywhere, not just ‘health food’ stores and wellness warehouses: grass-fed biltong, wild caught game meat, marrow bone butter served on top of Wagyu fillet steaks, coconut yoghurt free even from stevia sweetening, transparent food sourcing is written plain and simple on pub garden chalk boards, I come across delis with named suppliers and pictures of their local farms, I stumble upon street markets where you can meet the growers, farmers, developers, low-carb isles in the popular food halls such as the ‘Food Lovers Market’. Everywhere. Ketogenic everywhere. And this term ‘banting’ bandied about all over the place. What was going on?

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It took me a week to finally discover with this “Banting” friendly signage in shops and restaurants was all about, thanks my step father – yes indeed, it refers to a low carb, high fat (LCHF) eating regime, with moderate protein looking a lot like the kind I have just adopted having discovered the work of Nora Gedgaudas (with some key occasional differences, such as the inclusion of xylitol, dairy, and the use of high-GI honey – which alone would kick the body out of ketosis, but let’s put that by-the-by for now).

So, “banting” is in fact a (mostly) ketogenic diet close to that advocated by Gedgaudas and is being promoted by the Noakes Foundation in the campaign Eat Better South Africa as a response to the serious health issues observed particularly in low-income South African communities that arise from a high carbohydrate diet. Diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorder, and dementia to name just a few.

Reading the campaign page, “…we needed to change now, and did it ourselves to save ourselves. We simply cannot wait ten years for the Department of Health to realise their errors with dietary guidance and we can’t rely on big business to start selling us what is healthy at the cost of massive profits…” I’m suddenly reminded of making a mental note of the South African physician Gedgaudas cites in her book Primal Fat Burner as having been struck off the medical register for daring to offer his patients nutritional advice that diverges from sweet-toothed corporate interests and wonder whether there’s a connection aside from the clear indication of a rise of consciousness.

I am heartened by the Noakes Foundation’s research team, projects, and mission statement: “The Noakes Foundation is a Non-Profit Corporation founded for public benefit which aims to advance medical science’s understanding of the benefits of a low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diet by providing evidence-based information on optimum nutrition that is free from commercial agenda.”

The presence of this campaign, the energy behind raising awareness of the enormous issues of conventional government food guidelines (carb heavy, fat minimal, chemically-laden profitable poison), the smart communication tactics (the neat if heftily-simplified paperback The Banting Pocket Guidethe shop signage and menu labelling), together with the clearly expanding diversity of choice for the ketogenically inclined here in South Africa deepens my growing love for this miraculous country and its bountiful Mother City.

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I mention choice. Friday 3rd March’s discoveries of the real meaning of ‘banting’, the free-thinking mindset of this country and its people, finding Lemcke’s coconut flour (using coconuts from Sri Lanka, the best kind), BANTING BLVD.’s “HEBA” for ‘healthy banting’ (“food of the revolution” containing coconut flour, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, psyllium husk, Himalayan salt, Xanthan Gum) so that I can make HEBA bread, porridge, ‘pap’ or ‘mieliepap’ (a traditional staple of the Bantu peoples of South Africa, which is why it reminds me of Tanzania’s ‘ugali’) – also known as ‘umvubo’ in Xhosa and its variation ‘umfino’ (pap with spinach) was crowned when we found ‘Bullet Coffee’ in Brownies and downieS, the proverbial icing on the my ketogenic cake. Not only was the drink delicious (the super barista at the Long Street branch is checking as to whether the butter used is from a pastured animal) and my first taste of MCT oil, but it was served in one of the most inspiring little coffee shops in Cape Town*.

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These multiple discoveries have made my year so far light up and fill me with huge optimism for the future on so many levels. Nice work and thank you, South Africa!

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* Brownies and Downies is a training centre for people with intellectual disabilities and a vessel to create change and acceptance in the South African culture. Special needs young adults are trained to be employable in the hospitality, service and retail sectors. The concept originated in the Netherlands and was brought to South Africa by Wendy Vermeulen.

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