Negative Calories Myth: Debunking An Age-Long Weight Loss Belief

The idea of so-called “negative calories” is on the periphery of nutrition mythology, which is a pantheon that contains more legends than Greek myths. Arguably, the concept belongs to the nutrition mythology’s cult of controversy due to the fact that a sizeable portion of the scientific community does not accept that these calories exist, and studies appear to not support its notion.

They are nothing more than hypotheses. It’s like the yeti or the Galician meigas of the culinary world; you can only find them on the internet, in some books, and in certain miraculous diets…

Negative calories are given this name because proponents of them believe that there are meals that provide the body with so few calories that the amount of energy used by the body when chewing and digesting certain foods is greater than the number of calories that the body takes in. They guarantee that the amount of energy required to digest an apple or a stalk of celery is greater than the amount of energy these foods provide to the body. That is to say, they are nutrients that would be slimming in and of themselves, a combination of eating and exercising to get the desired result.

The assertion that “you burn as you eat” is compelling, yet it is not universally accepted. In fact, if it is misconstrued in certain ways, it may even be deemed perverse: According to this theory, the more you eat, the more weight you will lose. However, there is a risk that you will overfeed your body with some foods that, on the surface, appear to be very healthy, but that will ultimately decompensate the diet due to the absence of other essential nutrients, such as proteins and healthy fats.

Negative Calories Myth

negative calories myth

We discuss celery, as well as onions, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, grapefruit, and citrus fruits, among other vegetables and fruits, as having negative calories. On the internet, you may find a lot of different lists of meals that are said to have negative calories. All of these meals have the characteristics of having a very low-calorie count, a high fiber content, and a composition that is mostly made up of water. In several articles, myths like these abound:

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Negative Calories Myth: “Fruits like cucumbers and apples have “negative calories” because they need more energy to chew and digest than they offer in the way of carbohydrates.”

In reality, though, if it takes around three minutes of chewing to burn one kilocalorie, and an average apple has about 80 kilocalories, then it would be necessary to chew an apple for 240 minutes, which is equivalent to four hours, for the apple to have “negative calories.”

There is some sort of reasoning behind this “negative calorie” myth: even while at rest, the body continues to use calories, which is a fact that cannot be denied. In the case of foods, this process, known as the thermic effect of food, causes the food to be consumed. This refers to the energy that must be used in order for our bodies to digest, absorb, transport, and metabolize the nutrients that we consume. The metabolism of carbs, lipids, and proteins results in the burning of calories.

However, a number of studies have shown that there is no such thing as a negative calorie, despite the fact that the proposed foods are, in fact, extremely low in calories and may be an excellent addition to a diet designed to help one lose weight. Even those who do not reject their existence (in the absence of additional research), realize that the influence of this putative shortfall caused by chewing and digesting lettuce would be inconsequential in the final calculation of the day.

It’s true that many veggies and fruits have few calories and may be a wonderful source of dietary fiber, but it doesn’t change the fact that they still count toward your daily calorie intake and are not really meals with negative calorie content.

Calories may be burned off by our bodies either via metabolism or through the use of the additional energy required for any activity, whether it be physical or mental. When we take in more energy than we use up in a given period of time, this is often regarded to be the cause of obesity.

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About ten percent of the calories we consume each day are expended as a result of the effort required to eat (chewing, transporting, digesting, and storing nutrients), but nutritionists argue that this expenditure has a negligible overall effect on weight reduction. If this is the case, it does not seem like a very logical strategy to lose weight by eating these foods. In spite of the fact that these meals have relatively few calories, the amount of energy required to digest them is relatively minimal, and therefore negligible.

The issue is that these so-called superfoods do not provide all of the nutrients that are required for human survival, making it impossible for them to serve as the sole source of sustenance. For instance, celery, although it is low in calories, does not provide a particularly high concentration of vitamins and minerals. However, it does have a strong diuretic effect.

If you want to lose weight, it is best to adopt a diet that is well-balanced and provides the body with everything it needs to carry out its functions. This is an approach that is not only lighter but also safer and healthier, and it also takes into consideration regular physical activity, which is necessary to burn calories (really) and keep one in good health.

Because of the negative calories myth, research that was conducted with bearded dragons and was published in 2019 in BioRxiv has garnered a lot of attention and discussion. They are omnivorous reptiles that have the trait of having a digestive system that is not too different from that of mammals. In addition to that, they are huge fans of celery. In spite of the fact that the findings cannot be definitively applicable to people, they proved to be excellent test subjects for the experiment.

The findings of the study led the researchers to the conclusion that negative calorie foods do not exist, at least not in the context of celery (the lizards still retained some, there was always a little gain, “but not much”). Based on the findings of this research, three kilograms of celery would provide a lady weighing 60 kilograms with just enough energy to endure for around six hours without engaging in any physical activity.

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There is no question that these meals have a low caloric content, hardly contribute to an increase in the total amount of energy consumed, and also have a satiating impact. If they are substituted for foods that are rich in calories, including them in the diet may alter the overall amount of what is consumed as well as what is expended, which may lead to weight loss. Because of this, it would be a question of substituting rather than adding: instead of an industrial bun, you could nibble on some celery or cucumber instead.

If hearty meals were switched out for lighter fare, it’s likely that the body’s need for other types of consumption might be reduced. We would see an overall weight reduction if we combined the consumption of meals low in calories with increased levels of physical exercise. However, it is important to keep in mind, as we have previously stated, that this should be done within the framework of a balanced diet (protein, quality fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and some carbohydrates…), with a guide that is weighed by a nutritionist and, in many cases, personalized.

If someone were to make the decision to consume nothing but these meals for an extended period of time, they may put their lives in jeopardy. If, for example, they did not consume enough proteins, they would start to experience a loss of muscle mass because their bodies would begin to extract what they need for a healthy metabolism from their muscles. And if that’s the case, then certainly, losing weight would come at a very significant health penalty.

apple image: Photo by Maria Lindsey

cucumber image: Photo by Alena Darmel

celery and cucumber image: Photo by Karolina Grabowska

CategoriesWeight Loss