Background: Current dietary guidelines recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. However, based on nutrient composition, some particular fruits and vegetables may be more or less beneficial for maintaining or achieving a healthy weight. We hypothesized that greater consumption of fruits and vegetables with a higher fiber content or lower glycemic load would be more strongly associated with a healthy weight.
Methods and findings: We examined the association between change in intake of specific fruits and vegetables and change in weight in three large, prospective cohorts of 133,468 United States men and women. From 1986 to 2010, these associations were examined within multiple 4-y time intervals, adjusting for simultaneous changes in other lifestyle factors, including other aspects of diet, smoking status, and physical activity. Results were combined using a random effects meta-analysis. Increased intake of fruits was inversely associated with 4-y weight change: total fruits -0.53 lb per daily serving (95% CI -0.61, -0.44), berries -1.11 lb (95% CI -1.45, -0.78), and apples/pears -1.24 lb (95% CI -1.62, -0.86). Increased intake of several vegetables was also inversely associated with weight change: total vegetables -0.25 lb per daily serving (95% CI -0.35, -0.14), tofu/soy -2.47 lb (95% CI, -3.09 to -1.85 lb) and cauliflower -1.37 lb (95% CI -2.27, -0.47). On the other hand, increased intake of starchy vegetables, including corn, peas, and potatoes, was associated with weight gain. Vegetables having both higher fiber and lower glycemic load were more strongly inversely associated with weight change compared with lower-fiber, higher-glycemic-load vegetables (p < 0.0001). Despite the measurement of key confounders in our analyses, the potential for residual confounding cannot be ruled out, and although our food frequency questionnaire specified portion size, the assessment of diet using any method will have measurement error.
Conclusions: Increased consumption of fruits and non-starchy vegetables is inversely associated with weight change, with important differences by type suggesting that other characteristics of these foods influence the magnitude of their association with weight change.