Do Negative-Calorie Foods Really Exist?

How would you love the thought of eating the foods you love and lose weight from just eating them? Sounds exciting, right? There are theories suggesting that you require more energy to eat, digest and process these so-called negative-calorie foods than they actually contain. However, scientists say that it’s unlikely that these foods contain zero calories.

Negative-Calorie Foods

The most common negative-calorie foods are said to be vegetables and fruits with high water content. They include:

  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Vinegar
  • Leafy greens
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Watermelon
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli

Since all these foods contain calories, the real question is whether or not your body burns more calories than the foods contain.

Calories and Weight Loss

When it comes to weight loss and maintenance, many experts recommend the opposite of eating negative-calorie foods. Instead of focusing on calories, you are advised to focus more on the quality of the foods you eat. You should know that many products don’t label the accurate calorie content of the food you buy. So, you might end up consuming more calories than you think. Plus, you don’t really digest all the calories from the foods you eat.

Concentrating on the number of calories in your food can easily to lead to unhealthy eating habits, and you’ll be neglecting foods that are highly nutritional. Additionally, it’s a fact that not all calories are created equal. For instance, it’s wrong to think that 100 calories of pizza are the same as 100 calories of fruit or vegetable for your body. The healthiest thing to do for your health and weight loss is to find foods whose nutritional value will positively affect the outcome.

Fact or Fiction?

According to Beth Warren, author of “Living Real Life with Real Food” and found and CEO of Beth Warren Nutrition in Brooklyn, “There is no scientific evidence that foods like celery, carrots, tomatoes, apples, and lettuce are what are referred to as ‘negative-calorie foods’, and burn more calories through digestion than what the food itself contains.”

Natalie Digate Muth, M.D., MPH, RD, a senior advisor for Healthcare Solutions for the American Council on Exercise, adds that “Biologically the notion just doesn’t add up. Why would we evolve to eat food that provides us with negative calories?” In reality, if our bodies were made to eat foods that would automatically make us lose weight, then there wouldn’t be such a large population suffering from obesity. But don’t get me wrong. Of course, you can lose weight by eating certain foods, but it has to be a balanced and healthy diet that’s not calorically dense. And another thing. You can’t exist just by eating carrots, celery, and lettuce. You need other vitamins and minerals that you can only find through a healthy diet plan. It’s also a fact that replacing the unhealthy foods you eat with some of these ‘negative-calorie foods’ can significantly lower your calorie intake.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight, in the Long Run, Requires Discipline

In our modern society, keeping weight off is more difficult than losing weight. This is because of the easy access to cheap and unhealthy food options. These foods are high in calories and every time you visit a fast food store, you’re more likely to be tempted to consume high fat and sugar foods. Losing weight is not that easy, and maintain it requires even more discipline in the food choices you make. A more permanent solution would be to change your diet altogether and only consume foods and drinks that are full of nutrition and less on sugars and fats.

The Truth About ‘Negative-Calorie Foods’

The BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) estimates how many calories you need. This includes the number of calories you burn during chewing, digesting and processing your foods. You’d have to eat huge portions of celery to burn any noticeable number of calories. However, since this is not practical, you should eat celery and the other negative-calorie foods because they are low in calorie and will fill you up quickly. When you’re full, you won’t crave unhealthy snacks like pizza, chips, and cookies.


There is no scientific evidence to prove that these foods have a negative caloric impact on our bodies. Admittedly, these foods are low in calories. However, a food like celery, for instance, has a thermic effect of around eight percent, which is way less than the 100 percent or more required for a food to qualify as a ‘negative-calorie food’. This still remains to be a controversial topic that could be misleading. Experts recommend that you stick to healthy diets that add real nutritional value to your body. No food bears negative calories, but eating high-fiber, low-fat, and low-sugar foods can do justice to your overall health, including your weight loss efforts.

All images by Pixabay


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