The Truth About Negative Calorie Foods

You may have heard about so-called “negative calorie foods”. However, the reality is that all foods contain calories so it really is impossible for a food to be negative in calories.

What Are Negative Calorie Foods?

These foods been defined as those that require more calories to digest than they contain. So while these foods don’t actually contain negative calories, they do result in a calorie-burning effect in our bodies.

For example, one of the most commonly cited negative calorie foods is celery. One stalk of celery contains about eight calories. However, according to the New York Times, the process of chewing, swallowing and digestion may burn only slightly more calories than the celery contains.

Other foods commonly quoted as having negative calories include asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, spinach and zucchini.

Can You Burn Fat Eating These Foods?

In theory if you ate a lot of celery, lettuce or cucumber you could actually be burning calories. Unfortunately the truth is that this calorie deficit is so minimal that its impact on weight loss would be negligible, even if you were eating these foods all day long.

Can You Eat Only Negative Calorie Foods?

While it might seem a good idea to go on a diet of only these foods to quickly lose weight, this is not practical or advisable for several reasons.

1. The diet would quickly become boring because there is a limited number of foods. It is also necessary to eat these foods raw to maintain their negative calorie effect. Even gentle steaming can neutralize their calorie-reducing qualities because it enhances our ability to digest and absorb the calories from these foods.

2. We all need calories in order to function in our daily activities. A diet devoid of calories will result in fatigue and a slowing of the metabolic rate – the rate at which we burn calories – whenever followed for more than a few days. This will actually increase your tendency to gain weight when you resume normal eating.

3. A diet based on negative calorie foods is lacking in a number of important nutrients including adequate protein and essential fats. These substances are of paramount importance for maintaining your health.

Should You Eat Negative Calorie Foods to Lose Weight?

It is clear that these foods are certainly not a “magic bullet” when it comes to weight loss. However, there are still some advantages of including them in your diet if you want to lose weight.

They are best used as an addition to a calorie-controlled diet, and can be especially beneficial when they are substituted for unhealthy snack foods that are high in calories. These foods are high in fiber and water content, which keeps you feeling full and controls your appetite.


You might end up burning a few more calories by eat a lot of negative calorie foods but this effect is insignificant. The true value of including these foods in a diet for weight loss is that they can be used as a replacement for other high calorie foods, in effect allowing you to reduce your caloric intake without feeling hungry.