We hear a lot about how important fruits and vegetables are to our health, lowering the risk of blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Now a new study shows that eating more fruits and vegetables also lowers the risk of weight gain as we get older.
The study looked particularly at plant foods in the diets of 133,468 men and women in four year periods over 24 years. They also looked specifically at individual fruits and vegetables to see if they were associated with weight loss or gain.
They found that an increase of one serving of fruit per day was associate with a loss of 0.53 lb. And an increase of one serving of vegetables per day was associated with a loss of 0.25 lb. These data were adjusted for smoking, physical activity, hours of sitting, sleep, sugar sweetened beverages, processed meats, and alcohol. Thus, eating more fruits and vegetables can help you prevent weight gain as you get older.
Some foods were more strongly linked to weight change (see below):
Fruit/Vegetable Weight loss/each extra serv/day
- Tofu and soy -2.5 lb
- Cauliflower -1.4 lb
- Blueberries -1.4 lb
- Prunes -1.3 lb
- Apples and pears -1.24 lb
- Summer squash, green beans -1.0 lb
- Strawberries -0.8 lb
- Peppers, broccoli -0.75 lb
- Grapes -0.7 lb
- Brussels sprouts -0.70 lb
- Green leafy vegetables -0.5 lb
- Avocado -0.5 lb
- Carrots, beans -0.4 lb
- Celery, mixed vegetables -0.3 lb
- Bananas, oranges - 0.2 lb
Vegetable Weight gain/each extra serv/day
- Winter squash +0.2 lb
- Cabbage +0.4 lb
- Potatoes +0.74 lb
- Peas +1.1 lb
- Corn +2.1 lb
Summary. The researchers suggest that those foods most closely associated with weight loss were higher in fiber and had a lower glycemic index, suggesting they had a positive influence on satiety, lower blood glucose and insulin response, less fat storage, and more energy expenditure. Overall, fruits were more closely linked with weight loss, especially berries and apples. Certain vegetables also did very well including tofu and soy, cauliflower, summer squash, peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and leafy greens. Some starchy vegetables were associated with weight gain, especially potatoes, and corn. That doesn’t mean you should avoid those vegetables but emphasize those vegetables linked to weight loss for best weight control results.
The bottom line: To be successful at preventing weight gain over the years, eat more fruit and nonstarchy vegetables, beans, tofu and soy, and eat potatoes and corn more sparingly. Other studies looking at other foods also recommend that to lose weight: limit red and processed meats, snack foods, refined grains, sugar sweetened beverages and desserts. Also limit fast foods and restaurant meals which tend to increase weight. And lastly, getting regular exercise which helps mobilize and use up fat stores, at least 30d+ minutes most days.
PLoS Medicine 12(9):e1001878, Sept. 22, 2015