What About Negative Calorie Foods?

Let’s discuss negative calorie foods today. You’ll also hear these called “zero calorie foods” or “metabolism-boosting” foods. Of course, there’s no such thing as a negative calorie. At best, you might take in a substance that has 0 calories. The concept of a negative calorie comes from taking into account the amount of energy that your body needs to eat and digest the food.

The calorie is a unit of energy (specifically heat). If you consume a low-calorie or 0 cal substance which requires a significant amount of chewing, digestion, or warming, in excess of the value of energy that food gives, you effectively have a negative calorie food.

Calorie: a unit of heat used to indicate the amount of energy that foods will produce in the human body
– Merriam Webster Dictionary

What is an Example of a Negative Calorie Food?

A simple example would be a glass of ice water. The water contains no calories. When you drink the ice water, your body has to use energy to bring it up to body temperature. Even though the water has no calories, it becomes a negative calorie food when consumed.

Where are Negative Calorie Foods Found?

Negative calorie foods are typically fruits and vegetables, which provide a fair amount of bulk for the calories they contain. Typically, they will be high in fiber and/or high in water content. The fiber makes your body do more work to digest them, which partially offsets the caloric value they actually contain. Many of these foods are eaten chilled, which adds same benefits as we discussed for ice water above.

They may not actually provide negative calories effectively – there’s really been no reputable research on that. However, it’s safe to say that they are very low-calorie, healthy choices and can be eaten in pretty much unlimited quantities, due to the limited calories you’ll take in when eating them. You may want to limit the amount of sweet fruit you eat due to fructose (sugar) intake, even if calories are not a concern.

Understanding Negative Calorie Foods

List of Negative Calorie Foods

Here is an alphabetical list of “negative calorie foods”, with the actual calories per hundred grams of these fruits and vegetables:

20 Low Calorie Fruits

  • Apples 52
  • Blueberries 37
  • Canary melon 30
  • Cantaloupe 34
  • Cranberries 46
  • Grapefruit 42
  • Honeydew melon 36
  • Lemons 29
  • Limes 30
  • Mangos 60
  • Oranges 47
  • Papayas 43
  • Peaches 39
  • Pineapples 50
  • Plums 46
  • Raspberries 53
  • Strawberries 33
  • Tangerines 53
  • Tomatoes 18
  • Watermelon 30

22 Low Calorie Vegetables*

  • Asparagus 20
  • Bean sprouts 23
  • Beets 43
  • Broccoli 34
  • Brussel sprouts 43
  • Cabbage 25
  • Carrots 41
  • Cauliflower 25
  • Celery stalks 14
  • Celery root 18
  • Cucumbers 16
  • Eggplant 25
  • Endives 17
  • Garden cress 32
  • Green beans 31
  • Lettuce 15
  • Mushrooms 22 (*okay, not a vegetable, but had to sneak them in!)
  • Onions 40
  • Radishes 16
  • Spinach 23
  • Turnips 28
  • Zucchini 17

Avoid the Negative Calorie Food Diet

Some people attempt to use negative calorie foods as a complete diet for a period of time. They call this a “negative calorie detox”, and it’s often attractive to people with food disorders such as anorexia. However, good nutrition requires that you eat a wide variety of healthy foods. Consuming large quantities of only a few types of food is generally not a healthy choice.

Some foods, including some negative calorie foods, contain substances which can be damaging when consumed to excess. You may have heard of the “grapefruit diet.” If you were to eat nothing but grapefruit for several days, you would probably find that the acid in the grapefruit would damage your stomach lining. It could also wreak havoc among the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract.

I’m not saying you should avoid negative calorie foods, but as with any food, consume them in moderation with good variety. If you find yourself becoming obsessive about eating only one or two types of food, consider seeking professional help from a counselor who is familiar with food disorders.

Use Negative Calorie Foods to Aid Weight Loss

Obviously, negative calorie foods can be of great benefit for weight loss. They make excellent snacks and add important fiber to your diet. Negative calorie foods are one of the reasons why salads immediately come to mind when anyone mentions being on a diet.

Eating a small salad 15 minutes before your regular meal will certainly reduce your hunger, the amount that you eat, and the calories you consume. In addition, it will add important nutrients, antioxidants, and enzymes that all contribute to your health.

So negative calorie and low-calorie foods certainly have their place. Just don’t attempt to make them your entire diet.

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4 Responses to What About Negative Calorie Foods?

  1. gettingthere July 5, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    My 8 year-old son is a swimming athlete. There are no clear diets that the team adheres to. But he usually eats two bananas after 2 hours of work out. Is this okay? or should I put in more calories?

    • DrBruce July 14, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

      The potassium in the bananas is probably helpful after a workout. It’s important that he rehydrates too, so make sure he drinks some water. Dehydration isn’t as much of an issue for swimmers but most people don’t drink enough, let alone those who work out.

  2. vegg July 12, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    What’s great about these is that they really are tasty foods, despite being low-calorie. One of my favorite things to eat is zucchini and tomatoes. Another plus side is I get them from my backyard garden. Eggplant is also one of my favorites and makes a great addition to the same dish. I could seriously eat that every day.

  3. GemmaRowlands July 28, 2015 at 3:16 am #

    I think that although this type of food can only help a little bit, it is much better to try and consume it than not to, because when you’re losing weight, every little helps. I know that when I started losing weight I switched to water only instead of fizzy drinks, and I’m sure that it helped. I would definitely recommend it as a weight loss aid to other people – even if it only gives a small boost to results over time.

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