I'm usually sceptical when I hear about a new 'magic' diet plan. Most instant fat-loss diets involve some or other instruction to either cut down on kilojoules so drastically that you starve in the process, or to cut out one or more food groups, which makes the diet unbalanced.
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)
If you're struggling to lose weight, order a copy of The 3-Apple-A-Day Plan: Your Foundation for Permanent Fat Loss
by Tammi Flynn.
A-Z of Apples
More on healthy diets