Negative Calorie Foods: Fact or Fiction?
Nutrition Weight Loss
Morgan Medeiros MSc
May 3, 2019
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Are Negative Calorie Foods Real?Ah, the internet! The technological marvel is great for many things: social connectivity, dog videos, shopping, and really great memes.

But the sharing of scientifically sound material? Not always.

If you’ve spent any time scrolling Pinterest or your social media feeds, you might have stumbled across the term “Negative Calorie Foods.”

While there are plenty of credible resources available to consumers, social media, Pinterest, blogs, and online forums abound with inaccurate and downright dangerous advice.

Luckily, at least insofar as so-called “negative calorie” foods are concerned, safety isn’t an issue.

However, that doesn’t mean that the concept of negative calorie foods is accurate.

So-called “negative calorie” foods are those that supposedly require more calories to digest than they provide.

The effect of consumption is a net loss.

Proponents of negative calorie foods claim that consuming a large amount of negative calorie foods can aid in weight loss by increasing calorie expenditure via digestion.

While our bodies do expend energy to digest food (about 5-10% of total calorie expenditure per day), consuming so-called negative calorie foods does nothing to increase this expenditure.

Studies have shown that- while consuming larger amounts of vegetable matter does help promote weight loss- this is largely through a substitution and volumetric effect rather than directly affecting energy expenditure.

To be clear, many foods promoted as “negative calorie” foods are incredibly healthy (think celery. Broccoli, cucumbers, etc), and they should be consumed for purposes of fiber, antioxidants, and general health.

Don’t go so far as to hope for a miracle metabolic aid

If you are trying to lose weight, consuming these foods as substitutes for higher calorie snacks and side dishes can help reduce total caloric consumption, which will aid weight management.

High fiber, low calorie vegetables also have a volumetric effect, meaning that you can eat a large quantity for very few calories, which can help aid satiety as you lose weight.

Morgan Medeiros is a certified nutritionist, holding a both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Morgan completed her undergraduate education at Central Washington University, and her graduate education at Northeastern University. During her time as a graduate student, Morgan focused her area of expertise in health education, weight management, and behavioral change. Morgan has experience working in areas of nutritional neuroscience and disease prevention, obesity prevention, and weight loss. Morgan also works in areas of nutritional analysis and menu labeling for restaurants, where she is able to creatively bridge her interest in food culture and health education. In her free time, Morgan enjoys traveling, reading, writing, running, and spending time with her family and friends (including- most importantly- her dog, Clyde).

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