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Negative Calories: Do They Really Promote Weight Loss?

Watermelon, cucumber, celery, asparagus, and spinach? At least ten different fruits and vegetables are included in the list of foods that are not only non-obesogenic but also promote weight loss. They are referred to as foods with zero or negative calories because, rather than adding more calories, they take them away.

According to Dr. Ramon de Cangas, Ph.D. in Functional and Molecular Biology, a food is considered to have negative calories if it causes the body to “use more calories to digest it than it contains and, as a result, we spend more than we receive.” A fantastic method for losing weight, but is it too good to be true?

Both he and a few other knowledgeable experts have provided an answer to the question above. According to Ramón de Cangas, “it is a myth; there are no such things as foods with negative calories.” It is nothing more than a claim made by certain diets that offer a list of foods rich in fiber and low in calories. Their abundant consumption hardly increases energy intake, which means that they spend more calories digesting than they provide.

So the question remains: is it true that there is no such thing as meals with negative calories? Another expert provided the following response: The only food that does not provide us with calories is water. Dietary sources of calories include everything else. If a meal does not contain any calories, it cannot perform its duty of nourishing us since that is the purpose for which it was created. Another aspect to consider is that it never has a total of zero.

The fat-burning effect

And what about the well-known impact they have on reducing fat accumulation? It would seem that this idea is not very credible either. The fat collects beneath the skin and between the organs, and in order to minimize or convert it, you need to boost your energy expenditure by participating in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day.

So why are foods like cucumbers, celery, and a great many other types of fruit and vegetables included in the list of “zero or negative calories?” In reality, it is because of the thermic effect of food, which is one of the components of daily energy expenditure and is necessary for the digestion, transport, absorption, and metabolism of nutrients. This component of daily energy expenditure is in addition to the calories that a person spends while at rest and while engaging in physical activity.

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Something that, in the opinion of experts, does not provide sufficient evidence to support the argument that there is something like negative calories. This theory has no scientific basis to support it and is a totally useless way to try to lose weight, according to the findings of the most recent study on the subject, which was carried out by Stephen Secor, a Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama, and published in bioRxiv.

Fiber yes, but in moderation.

negative calories

The process of digestion only accounts for a maximum of ten percent of the total amount of energy that is expended on a daily basis. According to Ron Mendel, director of the Exercise Science department at the University of Mount Union, these alleged “gains” may represent, in the best case scenario, and without taking into consideration the rest of the calories we consume, “a loss of 4.5 kg in an entire year.”

And following the data, the foods on the negative-calorie list, which are all fruits and vegetables rich in water and fiber and therefore very healthy, are always welcome, and the more we eat, the better, as they should be the basis of our daily diet. Despite the fact that they have a low number of calories, they are not, by any long shot, the foods that cause a greater amount of energy to be expended during the metabolism process. According to Ramón de Cangas, consuming lipids results in just a very small increase in thermogenesis—around 3 percent—while consuming carbohydrates results in an increase of roughly 6 percent, and consuming proteins results in an increase of approximately 20 percent.

And here’s one more thing for your consideration: according to the research conducted by Dr. Secor, it would take three kilograms of celery to sustain a lady weighing 60 kg for a period of six hours of inactivity. To be able to consume them while also being able to digest them would be a true miracle. Because fiber is beneficial, but only in moderation: “eating more than 60 g/day might interfere with the absorption of some vitamins and minerals,” explains the Spanish Nutrition Society. And, contrary to what you would assume a priori, “if not accompanied by adequate water, it induces constipation and hardens the feces.”


Unless we are talking about a plant that has a laxative or diuretic effect, there is no such thing as a meal with negative calories. With these kinds of plants, we could lose weight in the short term, but not permanently. Even after undergoing various procedures such as liposuction or bariatric surgery, the only way to successfully lose weight over the long term is to acquire solid nutritional knowledge and make conscious efforts to replace unhealthy behaviors with more healthy ones.

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Are negative calories possible?

Celery and other nonstarchy vegetables are examples of foods that are low in calories but still need a significant amount of energy to digest. Although they give a tiny amount of calories, these foods are nevertheless considered to be a source of energy. This indicates that the consumption of food with a net negative calorie count is hypothetically possible, but there have been no respectable scientific investigations to demonstrate that meals have this impact.

Do negative-calorie foods help lose weight?

A meal with a negative calorie count would be one that, in order for the body to digest it, would need more calories than the food itself would contain. Because of this, it is possible, in theory, for a person to reduce their weight by consuming foods that have a negative amount of calories, but only if doing so helps them achieve a calorie deficit. Most experts believe the effects of negative-calorie foods are negligible.

Does cold water have negative calories?

Consuming cold water does, in fact, burn off a few calories, just as chewing does. However, these insignificant impacts will not lead to a marked rise in the number of calories that your body expends. Even while some calories are burned during the chewing, digesting, and processing of food, this is likely to be a very small percentage of the total calories that the meal supplies, even for items that have a negative calorie count.

Can eating too little prevent weight loss?

You will achieve weight loss if you cut your caloric intake to a level that is lower than what your body requires. If you limit your intake to fewer than 1,000 calories per day, you run the risk of slowing down your metabolic rate and experiencing fatigue as a result. This is due to the fact that you are not taking in a sufficient amount of calories to support even the most essential biological functions that are required to ensure your stay alive.

featured image: Photo by IULIA

celery with tape: Photo by Anna Tarazevich

cucumber image: Photo by Toni Cuenca

Walter Nedum

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