However, I recently came across the 3-Apple-a-Day diet. For once, the approach seems sensible, balanced and effective.
This diet was conceived by Tammi Flynn, an American dietician. Tammi has a master's degree in Nutrition Science from the prestigious Texas A&M University. Her credentials are, therefore, excellent and imbued me with confidence that her diet and advice would be balanced. I wasn't disappointed.
How does the diet work?
Tammi discovered that when dieters eat an apple before every meal, they start losing weight effectively. She has written a book, 'The 3-Apple-a-Day Plan' (click on link at bottom of story to order from kalahari.net: delivery takes around 10 working days).
The basic principles of Tammi's 3-Apple-a-Day diet are as follows:
- Eat an apple before every main meal (apples are rich in dietary fibre and will make you feel fuller so that you eat less at each meal).
- Eat four to five times a day (research has shown that using a 'nibbler' eating pattern encourages weight loss to a greater extent than 'gorging' on three large meals a day, provided that you only nibble on healthy, low-fat foods).
- Eat low-fat protein at each meal or snack (protein has a high satiation value and a low GI which makes you feel fuller for longer. Eating low-fat proteins will prevent the high energy intake associated with eating high-fat proteins).
- Eat nine fruits and vegetables a day (these are low in energy, high in fibre and bursting with protective nutrients). If you eat three apples a day plus six other servings of fruit and vegetables, you will automatically cut down on energy intake and not get hungry.
- Drink water with every meal (it's a good idea to increase your water intake, but don't have more than four glasses of water a day in addition to your other liquid intake, or it may lead to electrolyte imbalances).
- Eat only high-fibre, unprocessed, unsifted carbohydrates (these carbs push up your fibre intake, thus 'diluting' the energy content of the diet).
- Have low-fat dairy products every day. Foods such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yoghurt and cottage cheese are excellent for dieters because they have a low energy content, a low GI, a high calcium content (which is associated with weight loss) and a high protein content (which promotes satiation).
- Cut down on alcohol intake. Alcohol is high in 'empty kilojoules'. Each gram of alcohol adds 29kJ to your daily energy intake and is a fuel that is not used by the muscles. In addition, alcohol can reduce your metabolism and boost your appetite for fatty foods.
- Do regular, daily aerobic exercise to promote weight loss and improve your general well-being.
Why should apples be eaten before every meal? Tammi provides the following rationale:
- A medium-sized apple only contains 250 to 420kJ, just a trace of fat and no sodium.
- In Tammi's experience, eating an apple before each main meal promoted weight loss – even in recalcitrant ('stubborn') cases.
- Apples contain up to 5g of dietary fibre, which fills you up and reduces how much you will eat at the subsequent meal.
- Apples contain protective nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins and minerals) which improve health and may even protect against age-related brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
- The dietary fibre found in apples, namely pectin, has been shown to lower 'bad' LDL cholesterol and increase 'good' HDL cholesterol.
- The flavonoids and other phytochemicals in apples may protect against cancer of the liver and colon.
- The tannins in apples exert a protective effect on tooth decay, gum disease and urinary infections.
- Apples are a good source of folic acid, which research has shown can prevent neural tube defects and protect against cancer. Eating three apples a day when pregnant will not only help you to control your weight gain, but also contribute to preventing birth defects in your unborn child.
As a fellow dietician, I must say that I find Tammi Flynn's 3-Apple-a-Day diet and nutritional advice both sensible and encouraging.
Combine it with daily aerobic exercise (skipping, jogging, running, cycling, spinning, dancing or swimming) for 30 minutes or more a day. With minimum effort, you should start losing weight.
So, eating not one, but three apples a day, not only keeps the doctor away, but also improves weight loss.
(Dr I.V. van Heerden, Health24, updated January 2009)