Fact or Fiction: The Negative Calorie Food Fad


The amount of times I’ve heard the diet fad involving “negative calories” spoken about by college girls on campus is alarming. What’s even more alarming is how many of them believe and practice this diet.

Because I’ve dedicated my college education to nutrition, I forget it’s not common to hear about a diet based on “negative calories” and laugh at its absurdity. So here’s  my two cents about this diet craze (more like crazy).

Photo by Kelly Redfield

Let’s start with a quick and painless lesson about the human body.

It’s a pretty complex system and it takes a heck of a lot of energy to run it. For your heart to beat, brain to think and stomach to digest, energy is needed. Where does the energy come from? Calories. Therefore, we need a certain amount of calories to run our bodies without moving an inch! Awesome, bring on the couch and Netflix, am I right?

So this so-called theory of “negative calorie foods” is based off a digesting and burning concept. It claims that the human body will burn more calories than the calories it gains from certain foods in the process of digesting them.

Photo by Kelly Redfield

Foods often listed as negative calorie foods include: citrus fruits, cucumbers, apples, celery, oranges, cabbage, cookies (JK, I wish), cantaloupe and the list goes on and on.

Take for example, eating a bowl of spinach. If the bowl of spinach has 30 calories, the theory suggests that our chewing and digesting of the food will burn away more than 30 calories.

Photo by Kelly Redfield

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this theory is a diet myth. The reality is that the amount of calories you burn digesting these foods is miniscule. Research has found that about 5-10% of the calories in a particular food are burned in the process of digesting it. If an apple is 100 calories, you burn 5 calories. That’s all folks.

So look at these foods not as negative calorie foods, but rather as low calorie foods. And do not think that eating a meal full of them is doing you a lick of justice. You’ll only end up ravenous and surrounded by Cheetos, french fries and breakfast tacos later in the day.

Photo by Kelly Redfield

Also, think about it realistically. Sticks of celery or carrots are not inviting meals. So slap some cream cheese or peanut butter on that celery stalk; enjoy a tastier snack and call it day. If you’re looking to incorporate lower calorie snacks into your diet, try options like these. You’re welcome.

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