You Asked: Are 'Negative Calorie' Foods Real (or Too Good to Be True)?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  14 comments   :  123,787 Views

You might have heard that you can eat as much of you want of certain foods because it takes more energy to burn them than they actually contain. But is it true? Can eating more of these foods really help you lose weight?

Let's examine this theory. It's true that your body burns calories by digesting food. This is the concept behind the idea of "negative calorie" foods. The idea that there are negative calorie foods—foods that are so low in calories that simply digesting them burns more calories than they contain—is a popular theory. Certain low-calorie (and often water-rich) foods like celery or cucumbers are often touted as examples of negative calorie foods, but in truth, this concept is wishful thinking. There is no such thing as a negative-calorie food.

Digesting and absorbing food uses about 10% of your total calorie intake. For someone eating 1,500-1,800 calories daily, for example, only 150-180 calories are expended to completely digest and absorb everything you eat in an entire day. All calories that you eat count. Eat too much of any food--no matter how low-calorie or "healthy"--and you could gain weight.

It is great to include low calorie, high fiber, and water-rich foods in your daily diet. In fact, you can generally eat a larger volume of these foods without eating a lot of calories. These foods are also nutritious and filling, but they still contain calories and should always be included in your calorie count. No food is a "free" food; eating too much of any food can cause weight gain or inhibit weight loss.

More on this topic:
Photos of 100-Calorie Portions of Food
'Free' Foods That Don't Impact Blood Sugar Levels
The Most Filling Foods You Can Eat When on a Diet


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Comments

  • 14
    It is dangerous to say you can eat all you want. There is logic in stating no one can eat that much to gain weight. However, many people have gained enough weight into morbid obesity to have a binge eating condition. There are many whom have it, the food put in doesn't matter, it's the fact that it can be eaten all day. This is a disorder; there are more then you think that have it. I am morbidly obese and have this disorder. I have lost and gained again and am losing but still at 300 lbs.

    My daughter is 16, she has my genes and has lived with my bad habits. She was with me in weight watchers and was told this as well. She ate constantly; all the 'free foods' she could. It was difficult for me to even get her to understand she had to moderate. It's also dangerous to say this to a person with this disorder if it changes their habit. The important part to eating healthier is moderation and it's difficult to grasp this if you're told to eat as much as you want low cal and free foods then learn to maintain a healthy eating habit that appreciates food rather then something simply being eaten. It can be very difficult to understand this when you don't have an eating disorder but many people such as myself can have a bad day or week and eat 24 hours then feel horrible for it later. My grocery bill for celery, fruits, etc could go through the roof the first days for my daughter eating packages a day (I stopped her as much as I could but once she felt justified to do this, it was huge fights every minute and her sneaking the food). It took a few days to get her to just learn to eat moderately.

    People with these disorders need to learn to eat correctly and change habits as well as adjust their calorie intake. No, no one ever said those ludicrous things about eating too much celery but once they started on that, it just rolls on to another thing because you can't get out of the habit of simply eating. - 2/20/2017   2:36:55 PM
  • BONMARCHE
    13
    I agree, no one ever stepped on the scale and muttered "I over-did it on the celery and cucumbers last week." hahaha I love it! - 8/30/2016   8:37:00 AM
  • 12
    I joined Weight Watchers a few back and was told that I could eat all the fruits and vegetable that I wanted - 0 points! I told them that that just didn't make sense to me - calories are calories, I love fruit and vegies, I'm always hungry and could easily eat 1000 calories a day just in produce. They told me to trust it, it had been studied and proven. I tried it and as I expected GAINED weight! I figured it was too good to be true! - 6/12/2016   8:53:58 AM
  • TODD_IGOE
    11
    The following sentence has never been uttered in the 100,000 years of human history: "Whoa, check out that guy's celery gut!" - 2/23/2016   11:33:41 PM
  • 10
    Odd that Neal Barnard says that there ARE. But why should I believe a medical doctor - 12/21/2015   10:17:35 PM
  • MARTYG5
    9
    The maths doesn't seem to calculate that well here.

    A stick of celery = ~40g = 6kcal

    If you eat THIRTY of these (1.2kg of celery), you're still only consuming 180kcal, which is well within your 180kcal burn rate for normal digestion.

    Add to this the reality that eating 1.2kg of celery in a single day - are you expecting people to then weigh in breakfast, lunch and dinner on top to get the rest of their 2000-2500kcal RDA?

    Your last sentence is plain false as well. You would need to eat 13kg of celery just to get your RDA of calories (so in theory no weight gain or loss). Are you seriously suggesting that someone could be eating around 15-20kg of celery *per day* in order to be gaining weight? - 4/17/2015   2:28:44 AM
  • AMBERKITAVI
    8
    I HIGHLY doubt anyone became fat from eating too much celery! - 3/12/2015   11:39:35 AM
  • 7
    I feel like this is something that I don't mind if people keep believing. Are we really thinking that too much celery and cucumber is actually going to cause weight gain? If the idea that they're negative calories motivates someone to eat enough veggies, I'm fine with that. - 3/12/2015   2:19:09 AM
  • ANNE3091
    6
    Hello these are nice tips - 8/2/2014   1:10:43 AM
  • ANNE3091
    5
    Negative calorie foods require more energy to be digested then they provide. I also agree with this point that eating in excess would lead to weight gain no matter how low in calories the food is. Nice Article. I have gained some info from the source you might also visit : http://weightloss5ws.com/foods/feas
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    - 7/31/2014   1:34:34 AM
  • GREGCHAPPEL
    4
    In this like you will get full information about.com - 5/7/2014   8:50:28 AM
  • 3
    I have been so desperate to lose weight all my adult life that when the negative calorie news came out long ago I thought I would try it. It didn't last long because the only thing that happened was that I never wanted to look at a stalk of celery again. - 4/28/2014   6:33:31 AM
  • CHERYLHURT
    2
    I like celery but not enough to stuff myself with it! - 4/10/2014   7:30:06 AM
  • HILLSLUG98239
    1
    I cannot imagine any negative consequence of eating all the celery and cucumber you want, other than being so full that you do not eat other foods and thereby miss out on important nutrients. Has anyone ever stepped on a scale and said, "Gosh, I can sure tell I over-did it on the celery last week!" - 4/9/2014   1:07:40 PM

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