When it comes to eating healthy, we all know it's important to go green. The more plants, the better.
But we could be neglecting one very important color: red.
In a study published yesterday in The BMJ, researchers found that deep red produce — like berries, cherries, apples, grapes, and peppers — is associated with the most weight loss. They believe that flavonoids — the plant compounds found in these foods — might be partly responsible for this.
Researchers at Harvard University and the University of East Anglia (UEA) looked at up to 24 years’ worth of data from 124,000 people in the U.S. between the ages of 27 and 65.
The results uncovered a relationship between diets high in flavonoids and less weight gain. The anthocyanins class of flavonoids, found in blueberries and strawberries, was linked with the greatest weight loss. They found that flavonoid polymers, found in tea and apples, were also beneficial.
Each extra portion of flavonoids a day brought weight down by a quarter of a pound over four years, which means five portions a day could bring weight loss of 1.2 pounds over the same time period, which may not seem like a lot, but one serving of a fruit often provided more than one standard deviation of a class of flavonoids, lead author Monica Bertoia told Time. For example, just half a cup of blueberries gives you about 12 standard deviations of anthocyanins, so you wouldn't need to chug an entire bucket of blueberries daily to reap the flavonoid's benefits.
"Most adults gain weight as they age and even small increases in weight can have a substantial impact on risk of high blood pressure, developing heart disease, cancer or diabetes — so strategies to help individuals maintain a healthy weight in middle-age are needed," said Professor Aedin Cassidy, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, in a press release.
So, losing even small amounts of weight, or preventing weight gain, can improve health.
"Just a single portion of some of these fruits per day would have an important impact on health at a population level," he added.
One last question remains: Does a glass of wine count as a single portion?
Here's a list of foods rich in flavonoids so you know what to throw into your next smoothie:
- Bell Peppers
- Chili peppers
- Sweet potatoes