No one likes to hear it, but as the years add up, so do the pounds. And even small increases in weight up your risk for diabetes, cognitive decline, heart disease, and certain cancers. However, the micronutrients in certain types of fruit may help thwart that gain, according to a new study published in the BMJ.
A Harvard-based research team tracked the weight of more than 124,000 people over 24 years. They found that people who ate more flavonoids – antioxidants abundant in fruit – gained the least weight and often dropped a few pounds. Study participants who ate fruit rich in three particular flavonoids – anthocyanins, flavonoid polymers, and flavonols – got the best results. This group ate fewer calories and burned more energy – the perfect equation for slimming down. "This shows that simple changes like just adding a few handfuls of berries to your day could have a big impact on your long-term health," says Monica Bertoia, PhD, a researcher in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
One thing to note: "We found that increased eating of all fruits was associated with less weight gain," says Bertoia. "But that's eating whole fruit. People who increased their fruit juice intake gained more weight, probably because juices have so much added sugar."
1. Blueberries – anthocyanins
The berry's dusky blue shade comes from its high concentration of the flavonoid called anthocyanin – a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent cancer, heart disease, and inflammation. "Just a small increase in anthocyanin is correlated to improved weight maintenance," says Bertoia. "So if you eat a full serving, a half cup, you're getting hundreds of milligrams of anthocyanin." Believe it or not, frozen blueberries have the highest concentration of anthocyanin, followed closely by fresh ones. Dried blueberries have about half as many anthocyanins as frozen or fresh berries, according to a study in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology.