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01/28/2016 02:58 pm ET

The Fruits And Veggies That May Actually Help You Lose Weight

Your mother was right. Don't skip the fruits and veggies.

For anyone stricken with the dreaded middle-age spread, the way to shed some pounds might be easier (and tastier) than you think. A new study says that eating certain fruits and veggies can help prevent weight gain in middle-age -- and potentially help you drop some weight, too. 

In a 24-year study, researchers from Harvard University and the University of East Anglia examined the link between weight and consumption of flavonoid-rich fruits and veggies. Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds in plants. The cohort of over 124,000 people included both men and women, in three studies: one with women an average age of 36, one with women an average age of 48 and a third with men an average age of 47. 

"We found that an increased consumption of most flavonoids was associated with weight maintenance, and even a modest weight loss," study author Aedin Cassidy, from the University of East Anglia, said in a statement. "The results were found to be consistent across men and women, and different ages." 

And if you're the type to push your fruits and veggies around your plate, take heart. Even small increases in flavonoid-rich foods (around 10 mg of anthocyanins) were shown to have a positive effect. Blueberries, for example, contain 121 mg of anthocyanins per half cup serving. Fruits including blueberries, prunes, apples, strawberries and grapes were shown to have the best results in weight loss. Vegetables like celery and peppers were also shown to aid in managing weight.

“Just a single portion of some of these fruits per day would have an important impact on health at a population level," Cassidy said. Weight gain in middle-age can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes so even small changes are of utmost importance. 

The middle-age spread is often experienced by people as they age, due to things like not getting enough sleep, a slower metabolism, more hunger from hormonal changes and a decline in muscle mass. 

It's estimated that most Americans don't consume enough fruits and veggies per day, according to federal guidelines, so even a small increase could help. Plus, many fruits and vegetables help manage hunger and help with satiety, as they are often high in fiber and low in calorie density. 

And now we know which fruits and veggies we ought to be loading up on. 

"People may be able to improve the health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables by choosing those including high levels of flavonoids, such as apples, pears, and berries," Cassidy said.

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