Fact or Myth: Negative-calorie foods exist!

Written by: Carly Pine, dietetic intern


Diet myths have falsely claimed for years now that specific foods are considered to count towards “negative-calorie” intake. Yet, this claim is not supported by science and, more importantly, basic metabolic factors reject such a thought.

Let’s be clear here, many fruits and vegetables withstand such a statement such as: celery, lettuce and citrus fruits due to their low cal/high water content percentages. However, their nutrition profiles do not make them negative-calorie foods. Diet myths claim that the energy expended through chewing and digesting these foods outweigh the calories consumed, deeming this category “negative-calorie foods”. What the diets fail to take into consideration is how our body’s metabolism truly works through the complex digestion process.

Every individualized body is supported by regular metabolic factors consisting of a resting metabolic rate. Height, weight and age are each accounted for in determining the calories burned at rest and total energy expenditure. Part of our total energy expenditure, making up approximately 10% of the calories burned each day, are used towards chewing and digesting. Low-calorie foods, however, will not majorly raise our energy expenditures and not result in weight loss.

The most important concept to be addressed here is that such low-calorie foods should not be eaten alone and never should account for one’s complete diet. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are eliminated from such foods and should therefore be added to a well-balanced diet to enhance one’s nutrition.

The takeaway from this research is to focus our attention on foods that are filling and substantial. Wholesome substitutes that aid as terrific replacements are found to be high in fiber. Fibrous foods aid in maintaining a healthy weight, relieve constipation and lowers cholesterol levels. Examples of fibrous replacements are whole grain products, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Additionally, one can keep weight gain off, as well as reduce inflammation by consuming adequate amounts of anti-inflammatories. Common anti-inflammatories include berries, leafy vegetables, fatty fish, etc.

Implementing these healthier options into our bodies will preserve our fuel much longer than the water-dense foods will. Overall, when we eat with a mindful attitude by listening to what our bodies crave, we become more satisfied and ultimately feel better too.

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