Negative Calorie Foods – What Are They, How They Work, And Benefits

Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Charushila Biswas MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Experience: 6 years
Last Updated on

About 700 million adults are obese worldwide (1). The CDC recommends making healthy food choices and leading an active lifestyle (2). But with so many weight loss diets in the market, finding the right diet and the right fitness regimen can be challenging. In that case, it is best to regularly consume foods that are low in calories and dense in nutrients – also popularly known as “negative calorie” foods.

Read on to know more about negative calorie foods and their health benefits. Swipe up!

What Are Negative Calorie Foods?

Negative calorie foods are foods high in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals that make you expend more calories to digest them than what they offer.

For example, a stalk of celery contains about 6 calories, but due to its high dietary fiber content, your body will burn more than 6 calories to process the celery. Basically, you will burn calories without even hitting the gym.

Sounds amazing, right? Before I unravel the negative calorie foods list, let me address a popular question – do negative calorie foods exist?

Do Negative Calorie Foods Exist?

Do Negative Calorie Foods Exist
Image: Shutterstock

No, these are not foods without calories. Neither do they contain calories in the negatives. To enjoy the benefits of these foods, you must first know how they work. Take a look.

Low In Calories –Whole food sources that are low in calories are loaded with nutrients are great for weight loss. However, there’s more to look at than just the calories. For example, avocados are high in calories, but they are also nutritious and filled with healthy fats. On the other hand, diet soda has zero calories, but it contains other additives that may have a negative impact on the body.

Calories Burnt While Chewing – Negative calorie foods are loaded with dietary fiber and take longer to chew which helps you burn calories and prolong digestion keeping you fully for longer (3)).

Calories Burnt While Digestion – Foods rich in dietary fiber are tough to break down. So, the stomach has to work extra hard and burn more calories to ensure the food gets absorbed easily.

When we talk about “negative calorie” foods, we strictly mean foods that are low in calories, nutritious, and require the body to burn more calories in processing them for energy. Now, let’s take a look at such foods.

Negative Calorie Foods List

    • Lettuce: 5 calories per cup (35 gm) (4)
    • Cucumbers: 8 calories per cup (50 gm) (5)
    • Celery: 14 calories per cup (100 gm) (6)
    • Zucchini: 21 calories per cup (124 gm) (7)
    • Broccoli: 31 calories per cup (90 gm) (8)
    • Tomatoes: 32 calories per cup (180 gm) (9)
    • Watermelon: 46 calories per cup (150 gm) (10)
    • Carrots: 52 calories per cup (130 gm) (11)
    • Apples: 53 calories per cup (110 gm) (12)
    • Grapefruit: 69 calories per cup (230 gm) (13)

Along with these foods, you may also consume these nutrition-packed, low-calorie foods:

Other Low-calorie Foods

  • Veggies – Spinach, cabbage, kale, scallions, potatoes (with skin), chard, radish greens, okra, eggplant, and French beans.
  • Fruits – Berries, apple, lemon, lime, orange, and tangerine.
  • Protein – Skinless chicken breast, mushrooms, fish, pork, eggs, lentils, beans, and soy products.
  • Healthy Fats – Olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

There are many food options, but the timing and quantity matter too. Scroll down to take a quick look at this sample negative calorie diet chart.

Sample Negative Calorie Diet Plan

MealsWhat To Eat
Breakfast (8:00 a.m.)1 medium bowl oatmeal with berries and nuts + 1 cup green tea
Snack (10:30 a.m.)1 medium-sized cucumber
Lunch (12:30 p.m.)1 cup sautéed mushroom + ½ cup lettuce + 1 stalk of celery + ¼ cup tomato + ¼ cup baby spinach + olive oil dressing
Snack (3:30 p.m.)1 cup green tea + 1 digestive biscuit
Dinner (6:30 p.m.)1 cup 3 oz chicken soup or lentil soup with veggies

Tip: You can also have a piece of dark chocolate (80% or more raw cacao) occasionally.

And what are the foods to avoid to allow your negative calorie diet to show significant results? Well, here’s the list.

Foods To Avoid

  • Fried foods like chicken and fries
  • Frozen prepared meals like pizza
  • Canned, prepared foods
  • Sugary foods from candy, cakes, pies, and sodas
  • High-fat foods like salami and sausage

When you start eating healthy and avoid junk, you will reap the following benefits.

Health Benefits Of A Negative Calorie Diet

Health Benefits Of A Negative Calorie Diet
Image: Shutterstock

There are many health benefits of losing weight and bringing your BMI back to a healthy range, such as:

  • May reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Helps with weight loss
  • Improves digestion and may prevent constipation
  • May help lower the risk of diabetes
  • May help lower the risk of metabolic syndrome
  • May prevent and fight various cancers
  • May help improve your mood

There you have it – everything you need to know about negative calorie foods and the diet. Take good care of yourself and gradually follow a better and healthier lifestyle. It will show amazing results, and you will never want to go back to your old lifestyle. That’s a guarantee. Take care!

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