Are Negative Calorie Foods Real?

Christian Coulson
Updated: June 10, 2020
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You’ve probably heard that you should eat “negative” calorie foods, such as celery, cucumber, and lettuce to lose weight because they’ll make you burn more calories through chewing, digesting, and processing them than the calories they contain.

In this short article, we will see if this belief is true or not.

The Thermic Effect of Food

Your body does, in fact, burn calories after eating a meal. This is known as the thermic effect of food and happens because the process of eating and digesting food requires energy. (1)

The thermic effect of food, however, is not a fixed number, but varies depending on the following:

  • Macronutrient content of a meal
  • Amount of calories in a meal
  • Age
  • Insulin Resistance

The two main ones being calorie and macronutrient content of a meal.

Basically, the larger the meal, the more energy (calories) your body will require to digest and process them.

Each macro has its own thermic effect, with Protein having the highest and fats having the lowest. (2)

  • Protein = 10-30%
  • Carbs = 5-10%
  • Fats = ~3%

What does this mean?

This means that if you ate 200 calories from protein alone, you could burn anywhere from 20-60 calories trying to digest and process them, but would still assimilate the remaining 180-140 calories.

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Let’s take another example:

If you ate 100 calories from fats, you would burn around 30 calories trying to digest them.

You can see from these examples that no macronutrient has a thermic effect of 100%, meaning that no food will burn 100% or more than the calories it provides.

Most of the so-called “negative” calorie foods are foods that contain a lot of water, volume, and fiber.

These foods will typically keep you full for longer without providing too many calories, which will help you keep your hunger levels down and decreasing your chances of overeating, but will not make you burn more calories than they provide.

Conclusion: No, there are no “negative” calorie foods.

I hope you loved this article about negative calorie foods!

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