Negative Calorie Food: What Are They and Why Should You Care?



You may have heard the term “negative calorie” food and wondered how that could be possible. Can a food have fewer than zero calories? Well, actually it can’t, but the term is used to describe foods that take more energy for our bodies to digest than the energy they provide us. For example, a stalk of celery has about 8-10 calories, but our body needs to use more calories than that to digest it.

Because of this, many people say that negative calorie foods like celery can help you lose weight. While there is some debate about this theory, most so-called “negative calorie foods” are very healthy for you for other reasons too, so eating plenty of them as part of your diet is certainly beneficial.

Negative Calorie Vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chicory
  • Dandelion
  • Hot Chili Peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic
  • Green Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Pickles (but they are high in salt!)
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes (technically a fruit, but listed here since most people think of it as a vegetable)
  • Turnip
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini

Negative Calorie Fruits

  • Apple
  • Apricots
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cranberry
  • Grapefruit
  • Honeydew
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mango
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Quince
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry
  • Tangerines
  • Turnips
  • Watermelon

Negative Calorie Proteins

  • Abalone Clams
  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crab
  • Flounder
  • Mussels
  • Shrimp

Ways to Incorporate Negative Calorie Foods into Your Diet

Adding these foods to your diet is fairly simple. Make sure to keep plenty of your favorites on hand and consider the following:

  • Make soups with vegetable-based stock.
  • Instead of sautéing vegetables in oil, steam them. Add pepper, a little garlic and serve.
  • Grab a watermelon or orange as a snack instead of oily potato chips.
  • Instead of a soda, squeeze some lemon or lime into a tall glass of ice water.
  • Choose lean meats for your main course or a negative calorie protein and instead of a starchy potato or rice, include plenty of negative calorie vegetables on the side.
  • Serve a negative calorie fruit salad for dessert, instead of cake or ice cream.
  • Instead of mashed potatoes, try mashed cauliflower. It’s delicious.
  • Prepare more green salads and for a treat top with raspberries or strawberries.
  • Add more seafood to your diet and the negative calorie options mentioned above make a great start.
  • Use your favourite seasonings for seafood, instead of garlic butter. Whether it’s garlic, Cajun or Old Bay Spice, eliminating the butter goes a long way.

But do be warned, a diet consisting solely of negative calorie foods is not healthy, so simply make them a part of your balanced diet. The more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins you add to your diet, the healthier you’ll feel and maybe you’ll even trim that waistline.