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

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


:) Report
RYCGIRL 5/16/2021
thx Report
CATNAP6291 5/6/2021
thanks Report
EVIE4NOW 4/20/2021
Thanks Report
CARD512002 11/22/2020
Thanks for sharing Report
BILLTHOMSON 10/18/2020
Interesting article. and it makes sense. Report
KARENWILL2 9/18/2020
Not even lettuce or spinach? Report
Good to know. Thanks. Report
Thanks Report
thanks Report
cabbage soup? Where's the beef? hhaha. Cabbage soup was just an absurd fad Report
Gullible Report
Good to know. Thanks. Report
I remember my brother-in-law's touting this miraculous negative calorie cabbage soup. I tried it once. I can say without fear of contradiction that one this is for sur. It tasted absolutely awful! Report
I decided less than a month ago to add more veggies to my daily diet and cut out the bread & carbs since I need to loose over a 100 lbs. I bought 12 oz bags of frozen broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and some canned green beans and lettuce. I eat one 12 oz bag per day spread over a couple meal times.
I also bought 95% lean hamburger portioned into 3-4 oz servings and did likewise with boneless chicken that I bake or boil. I eat one portion per day of meat.
I used to skip breakfast as I am more of an evening or night eater, but to add more protein I began to eat an egg a day as well. I hard boil some and chop them up and keep in the fridge so days I skip breakfast I add an egg to salad for lunch.
Frankly I am eating a bit more but good keto friendly foods.
I still needed more fiber so got Chicory Root Powder as its good for my arthritis & digestion.I take one scoop per day in water.
I weighed in on 6/18 at doctors at 306 and 6/28 at 303. I went back to the doctors on 7/3 and 290 and again on 7/9 and was 284 . I am averaging about a pound a day now but feel like I am eating more but really its just more lo cal lo carb veggies ~ cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, spinach and lettuce plus meat.
I also stopped drinking diet soda and am drinking two 3 liter bottles of water per day as well as a pot of coffee or green tea.
I will be adding other veggies next shopping trip but have decided against empty calorie foods and switching for these healthier foods has caused a sudden rapid weight loss so a good kickstart to weight loss. Will continue as long as I don't plateau and adjust as needed til I get down to my goal weight of 150. Report
Gotta do the hard work Report
Thanks for sharing Report
It might be too good to be true, but you can surely eat more food that is low in calories and stay in range than a few really high calorie count items. Report
B-2da'UMMER! (I KNEW it was too good to be true!) Report
If only! Report
Great info! Thanks for sharing! Report
Thanks for sharing Report
great article Report
great article Report
One could hope... Report
Good to know. A while back many health magazines were touting calorie negative foods. Report
I don't like celery too much. Report

I wish they existed, but this isn't a perfect world. Report
Great information! Report
Great information! Report
Makes sense... Report
When I was a teen, we used to joke about celery being negative calorie, which my father, the chemist, scoffed at. Report
I can understand the black and white theory of a calorie in is a calorie that counts. However, a day of salad cannot possibly be as damaging as a day of high sugar, high fat foods. Report
Great info- now I know the truth Report
If my stomach is not growling, I don't eat. Some say to eat 5 small meals a day. No way. I no longer eat when I'm not hungry. Report
Good to know.. every bite counts Report
now I really know Report
I appreciate the clarification. Although, it would be nice if there WERE negative calorie delicious, wonderful foods!! Report
Thank you for clearing things up. Report
Moderation is so important. Eating too much of anything has to count for some calories. I enjoy carrots and celery, but don't over do it. Report
thanks a lot Report
Great information Report
Interesting information.. still, too much of anything is not good, aim for a healthy balance Report
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. Report
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! Report
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! Report
The following sentence has never been uttered in the 100,000 years of human history: "Whoa, check out that guy's celery gut!" Report
Odd that Neal Barnard says that there ARE. But why should I believe a medical doctor Report
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? Report