Do Negative Calorie Foods Help You Lose Weight?

negative calorie foods, weight loss

When it comes to losing weight, we’re often told to limit our food intake. But wouldn’t it be great to lose weight when you eat certain foods? That’s the idea behind the negative calorie foods.

These are foods that take up more energy to digest and chew and have extremely low calorie. Therefore, if you’re going to eat them, you’ll end up losing weight instead of gaining. But do they really help you lose weight?

What Are “Negative-Calorie” Foods?

So called negative calorie foods consist of certain fruits and vegetables, as well as some healthy snack items. According to this food fad theory, you can eat as many of these foods as you want without gaining weight because digesting them could take up more calories than what they originally contained. Therefore they say that the calorie addition will be nullified.

According to Dr. Neal Barnard, the author of Foods That Cause You to Lose Weight: The Negative Calorie Effect,

“Low-calorie foods like celery, grapefruit, lemons, limes, apples, lettuce, broccoli and cabbage—along with some legumes and grains—are capable of “jump-starting” metabolism because they take longer to process through the digestive system.”

The theory is that by eating negative calorie foods regularly, you’ll be able to lose more weight and keep your weight off longer.

Negative Calorie Foods and Weight Loss

The idea that negative calorie foods can help with weight loss is based on the following reasons:

• You’ll be able to burn more calories by eating these foods – negative calorie foods are high in fiber but low in calories, with some items containing up to 90% of water weight. Water weight adds zero calories while fiber doesn’t extract as many calories, unlike the low-fiber foods. Furthermore, most foods that are rich in fiber require you to chew more often, which is why they help you burn more calories.

• You’ll feel full easily by eating these foods – the water volume and fiber will not contribute much to calories but they can make you feel full easily. If you eat more of these foods, you’ll feel full longer, which prevents unnecessary cravings that can lead to weight gain.

Can Negative Calorie Foods Really Help with Weight Loss?

Although the reasons above are enticing enough, the truth is that you cannot only rely on negative calorie foods if you wanted to successfully lose weight.

First of all, you don’t really use as many calories in processing and digesting food. As stated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, our body can only burn around 5 – 15 percent of calories when eating. If, for instance, you gain 2,000 calories per day, then you’ll only consume 100 – 300 calories from that when you eat. That’s less than the number of calories that you could burn when watching a movie!

Secondly, negative calorie foods are not really as satisfying as they seem. There’s still a good chance that you’ll end up overeating, which will contribute to more calories.


While the theory behind the negative calorie foods seems to be somewhat inviting, there’s not enough research to justify the claim that you could burn more calories by eating certain foods, even if they are extremely low in calories. When it comes to losing weight, following a healthy diet, such as the low carb, ketogenic diet while performing regular exercises is still the most effective way.

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