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Can Food Have Negative Calories?

November 14, 20234 min read

Have you heard of the NCD (Negative Calorie Diet)?? Essentially, this diet is composed of eating only or mostly foods that have “negative calorie” content. I think the most famous of the “negative calorie” foods is celery. Most people have read this somewhere or heard it from someone munching down on the stuff at lunch time or in the staff break room at work. I know I have…..

I also know that most of our BFP Family members and folks coming to us for the first time, are looking to “tighten” things up a bit. Most of them want to look good, feel good, and move well. What this usually means when we get down to it is that they want to lose fat and gain muscle. One way to lose weight (not just fat) is to expend more calories than you bring in. So, if a food has a negative calorie count or, it takes more calories digest than it actually contains, it would seem that that food would be ideal for folks looking to drop some weight right?

Because so many people have mentioned this or info related to this topic in passing, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the research and see if there are any holes to poke in the negative calorie theory. Luckily for me, I’ve got Examine.com to dig into the research for me and then I can attempt to take that info and make it a bit more fun and deliverable for the BFP Family and anyone else who wants some useful info.

Let’s Start With Digestion:

When we eat food, it takes a certain amount of energy (calories) to chew and digest that food. This is known as the Thermogenic Effect or “TEF”. There is also a certain amount of calories from food that we DO NOT digest depending on what the food is. Sometimes this could be due to fiber content or even water content of that food. So, look at it this way:

Photo Credit: Examine.com

If we eat a small amount of peanut butter that is worth 100 calories, we might absorb 80 calories once digested and waste 20 calories due to specific properties of the food (this varies from food to food and person to person). Then, the TEF of that food is 10 calories which means it took 10 cals of energy to digest it, we netted 70 cals out of that food.

How Do We Get Negative Calories?

Theoretically, if a food has enough fiber and water content, it could possibly take more calories to digest it than it it actually contains. Not many foods can come close to this but, there are a few.

Let’s go back to celery again for a minute.

Again, most of us have heard that celery has “negative calories”. There isn’t much research on this but there was one decent, but small trial conducted. From this trial we learned that celery has about 16cals per 100g. When younger females took in 100g of celery equalling 16cal on the way in, when it was all said and done, they absorbed 2.24 cals. So, celery does not lead to a negative calorie balance but, because of it’s high water and fiber content, it could aid in weight loss.

What About The Negative Calorie Diet (NCD)?

In a 3 month trial in overweight and obese men, they compared the NCD to a traditional Low Calorie Diet (LCD). Total calories taken in each day were matched for each group. By the end of the trial, there was no difference in weight loss between the two groups.

“Much like eating a low fat diet as compared to a low carb diet, it was simply two different ways to get to the same goal. Almost all methods work if done consistently and calories are controlled for.”

What Does This Mean For Me?

Don’t get caught up in the hype of “Negative Calorie” food. Instead of approaching it from that perspective just consider the benefits of eating foods that are high in water and fiber content.

-Great for digestive health

-We absorb less of their calories

-They help with hydration levels

-Most of them fill you up with less calories than many other foods so they could be helpful for weight loss

What about low fat vs. low carb?? You’ll just have to wait for that one next week!

If you’d like some guidance in your nutritional choices and would like to try it out with a group of awesome people working towards similar goals, check out our 28 Day Jumpstart Program!


Coach Joe

Reference: https://examine.com/nutrition/can-food-have-negative-calories/

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Breakaway Fitness & Performance

Breakaway Fitness & Performance focuses on strength training, weight loss, and a healthy lifestyle in their blogs.

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