A 24-year study uncovers the best fruits and vegetables to keep you forever fit.
Brittany Smith and Men's Fitness Editors 1 / 25
You already know that to lose weight, there are things you need to take out of your diet: dump-truck-size plates of pasta, shoe boxes full of sugar doughnuts, fast-food soft drink cups big enough to sleep in...
But here’s the easy part: Add more fruits, vegetables, and even tofu to your diet, and—over time—you’re practically guaranteed to end up with a healthier weight, according to a 24-year-long Harvard study involving 117,000-plus people. The researchers surmise these foods are especially beneficial because they boost satiety and have relatively few calories.
Researchers interviewed subjects every four years and found that, over each four-year period, people who ate more veggies and fruits gained less weight overall (the average gain was 1 lb). Big citrus eaters gained 0.23 lb less; veggie eaters, 0.25 lb less; fruit eaters, 0.53 lb less; berry eaters, 1.11 lbs less; apple/pear eaters, 1.24 lbs less; and tofu/soy eaters a whopping 2.27 lbs less. (Damn you, vegetarians!)
Be careful with starchy vegetables like corn, peas, potatoes, cabbage, onions, and winter squash, though. People who ate more of these veggies—particularly corn, peas and potatoes—gained a little bit of weight, likely because they have more natural sugar and more extra calories. Read on for the exact fat-melting foods.
Not just for hippies or vegetarians, the foodstuff made from dried soybeans is the only plant-based protein source that packs all nine essential amino acids. Plus, it delivers 11 grams of protein per 100-calorie serving. Tofu enthusiasts gained about 2.3 pounds less than non-eaters.
Rich in vitamins B6, A, and C, magnesium, fiber, folate, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese (a mineral that helps your body process fats, carbs, and sugar), summer squash—and any squash, for that matter—should be in your diet. Summer squash fans gained about 1 pound less than non-eaters.
These little guys boast some hard-hitting health benefits. Namely, they help preserve bone strength due to their high concentration of dietary silicon, and keep your eyes healthy with a good source of phytonutrients and vitamins A, C, K, and B6. They’re also loaded with fiber, perfect as a snack or side dish. String bean devotees gained about 0.9 pounds less than non-eaters.
This low-calorie vegetable contains folate, which is good for your sperm health, and sulforaphane, which is a serious weapon in the fight against cancer. Broccoli buffs gained about 0.7 fewer pounds than those who opted out.
Because they're high in keep-you-full soluble fiber, Brussels sprouts can prolong your urge to raid the fridge an hour later. They may even sheild your body against cancer, because they're rich in the phytochemical indole and vitamin C. Brussels sprouts fiends gained about 0.6 fewer pounds than non-eaters.
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are loaded with a stacked roster of health-boosting nutrients like vitamins K, A, B, E, C, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, calcium, potassium, fiber, phosphorus, zinc, choline, and selenium. They'll help you feel full, not bloated, with their fiber-dense foliage. Green leafy vegetable consumers gained about half a pound less than non-eaters.
You know carrots are great for your eyes, but they're also a superfood for your sperm. The human body converts carotenoids into vitamin A and other antioxidants, which helps maintain healthy sperm performance in men. Carrot connoisseurs gained about .42 pounds less than non-eaters.
The great thing about mixed vegetables is you can buy them frozen, throw them in a stir-fry or microwave them in the bag, and have an easy, healthy meal in five minutes or less. Those who ate mixed veggies gained about 0.28 fewer pounds than non-eaters.
Best eaten raw, blueberries pack more fiber, vitamins, and minerals per one ounce serving than any other fruit. They’ve also got an impressive amount of antioxidants, which can help fight aging so your brain and body can stay young. Blueberry fans gained 1.4 pounds less than non-eaters.
Prunes, or dried plums, have been found to reduce your risk for colon cancer, in addition to preserving bone mass and helping your digestive system stay regular. Those who snacked on prunes gained about 1.3 fewer pounds than non-eaters.
Apples and pears are fiber-dense fruits, each with their own benefits. Pears contain a complex carbohydrate called pectin that detoxifies your body and stimulates your immune system, while apples are a great snack for controlling blood sugar levels. People who consistently ate these fruits gained about 1.25 fewer pounds than non-eaters.
Strawberries are the perfect answer to a sugar craving: They're a good source of fiber and contain natural sugars that won't slow you down or pack on the pounds. Strawberry snackers gained about 0.9 fewer pounds than non-eaters.
Grapes are loaded with vitamins A, C, and B6, folate, and several essential minerals. Their natural mix of antioxidants and fiber have been touted to reduce the risk of colon cancer, too. Grape and raisin fans gained about 0.7 fewer pounds than non-eaters.
Not just the essential ingredient fueling our guacamole obsession, avocados are high in monounsaturated fat and potassium, which help lower blood pressure and keep our body feeling nourished. Avocado enthusiasts gained about 0.49 fewer pounds than non-eaters.
Grapefruit was THE food of the 90s, most notably because of its ability to suppress your appetite. The fruit has compounds that reduce insulin levels and vitamin C that helps repair muscles after intense workouts. Grapefruit eaters gained about 0.49 less than non-eaters.
Watermelon contains a ton of water, so it naturally helps keep your body cool and hydrated. It's also contains an ingredient that relaxes the blood vessels and helps boost nitric oxide (just like Viagra) to give you a little boost in the sack. Likewise, cantaloupe contains a variety of antioxidants and carotenoids alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. People who munched on melon gained about .25 pounds less than non-eaters.
High in potassium, bananas are the perfect snack to keep blood pressure down (and muscle cramps away). We also regard them as one of the best pre-and post-workout foods. Those who ate bananas gained about 0.25 fewer pounds than non-eaters.
Citrus fruits in general are loaded with antioxidants and essential nutrients that promote good heart health and may lessen your risk of some chronic diseases. Oranges, as you know, are a powerhouse of vitamin C, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Orange-eaters gained about 0.15 fewer pounds than non-eaters.
Full of vitamin C, potassium, and other necessary nutrients, stone fruit are the perfect snack for keeping your muscles, eyes, and bones working optimally. People who ate peaches, plums, and apricots didn't lose or gain any weight—still better than the 1 lb. average of the rest of the participants in the study.