Negative Calorie foods have been discussed on diet forums, newspaper articles and television, but what is the truth? Can a food really have negative calories?
Everyone knows that each item of food we consume contains calories, which our bodies use for energy. Surplus calories are stored by the body, which is the number one reason for weight gain. That’s simple enough to understand, but some dieticians believe that foods, particularly those that the body works harder to digest, actually help to burn excess calories because the act of digesting them takes more energy than what is contained within them.
Technically these foods are not ‘negative calorie’ foods as they actually do contain calories, however the body will burn these calories... and more, just by the act of digesting them.
Let’s use an example:
Celery has approximately 5 calories per portion. You eat the celery and the act of swallowing, chewing and digesting the celery will take over 8 calories to perform, bringing the total number of calories consumed by eating the celery to a negative number, -3!
Other foods which reportedly have a zero calorie effect include various fruits and vegetables in their raw form, such as; cucumber, cabbage, strawberries and grapefruit.
Even water takes more energy to drink and process than the calories it contains as it, of course, has no calories.
Sounds great doesn’t it? Well it can be, but there are downsides. Your body can’t function if you’re eating only these types of foods to lose weight. Your body needs energy for walking, talking and working and if your digestive system is burning more calories than the foods that you eat contain, you will simply burn out. In addition you will also miss out on much needed fats and proteins which are necessary for a healthy diet
A better option for utilizing these low calorie foods would be to opt for a calorie controlled diet that allows you to have a sensible amount of calories for energy every day. Then, if you’re following your calorie intake but need a snack, choose a negative calorie food. Because these calories effectively don’t count, you can eat them in abundance and still keep within a calorie controlled diet.
So what’s the verdict on negative calorie foods? It would seem like the negative calorie theory is just another fad diet for avoiding exercise by relying on food to burn its own calories. Super low calorie foods are great as snacks to help to keep within a calorie controlled diet, however they cannot be relied upon as a long term diet solution. It still seems that the best way to lose weight in a healthy way is to exercise regularly and to eat a good variety of healthy foods.