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Negative Calorie Foods List - Myth or Fact?

Updated on March 8, 2011

Do Negative Calorie Foods Exist?

Negative calorie foods are the Bigfoot of the diet world -- some people insist they don't exist, but some swear by them, and in the end, most people aren't really sure, and have no way to go about investigating the truth.  In order to decide if they are fact or fiction, however, we need to agree on a definition.

All edible substances contain calories.  In this sense, no food actually contains negative calories, as it exists in the world.  It is only inside your body that the "negative calorie" effect comes into play.  After all, your body has to burn calories to function--to move your muscles, keep your heart beating, breathe, and to digest.  A negative calorie food simply takes more energy (measured in calories) to digest than are actually in the food itself.

What are negative calorie foods?

  • Negative calorie foods are foods that contain less energy (in calories) than they take to digest.

Negative Calorie Diet

The realization that some foods burn more calories than they contain was immediately applied to weight loss. Negative calorie diets sound appealing: eat as much as you want -- the more, the better! However, they're impracticial in reality. There is a limited list of negative calorie foods, and limited ways to prepare them, especially without adding extra calories. Steaming or boiling alone may not add calories, but they do make foods easier to digest, which may effectively cancel out the negative calorie effect.

There's also the fact that you have to burn 3500 calories to lose a pound of fat. A cup of raw broccoli is 30 calories, and takes about 80 calories to digest, which means you burn a net total of 50 calories. That means you'd have to eat 70 cups of broccoli to lose a pound! How long do you think that would take you???

While eating them alone won't melt the fat off you, it's still worth taking note of what foods are included on the negative calorie food list. Choosing one of these foods over a high-fat or highly-processed snack will definitely help--it's just not a magic trick to make pounds disappear.

Celery is a negative calorie food.
Celery is a negative calorie food.
  • Onion
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Radish
  • Raspberry
  • Spinach
  • Strawberry
  • Tangerine
  • Tomato
  • Turnip
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini

Negative Calorie Foods List

  • Apple
  • Asparagus
  • Beet
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrot
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cranberry
  • Cress (garden)
  • Chicory
  • Chili (hot)
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic
  • Grapefruit
  • Green beans
  • Honeydew melon
  • Lemon
  • Lettuce
  • Lime
  • Mango

Disclaimer: The list above is a list of commonly-billed negative calorie foods.  I do not have the necessary data or expertise to make the calculations myself.


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    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      6 years ago from Bridgewater

      This is an AWFUL hub from someone who claims to be familiar with eating disorders. Talk about triggering! I can't believe what I just read.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      why is this news to people?

      Its basically a composite list of regular north american produce.

      It should be common knowledge that most of any meal you eat should be fruits or vegetables.

      This articles subject matter is a moo point.

      (and dont eat twinkies lol.)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Always looking for ways to improve my diet... thanks for the hub!

    • SherryDigital profile image

      Sherry Duffy 

      8 years ago from Here. There. Everywhere. Currently: Portland, OR

      Great hub.Reading this was a much welcomed break from all of the speed-writing I have been putting myself through today. I also have a history and interest in nutritional health and awareness. Your profile has inspired me to dive into some of the more controversial topics that interest me. I'm really looking forward to reading more of your articles. Thanks again!

    • profile image

      JC VA 

      9 years ago

      The only way to lose weight is with the magical formula: Calories-In Vs Calories-Out. Nutritional Value..? I don't know about that, I changed my mind once I read the article on CNN about the Professor(Mark Haub) that lost weight eating Twinkies, and yes, his cholesterol was low, good cholesterol was high... Go ahead and read for yourself.... At the end it's all about Calories-In and Calories-Out… Broccoli..? mmm, mmmm, mmmm.. But think about this, I was thinking about should I count the calories in my broccoli? I think we should… imagine if you ate 3500 calories worth of broccoli, don’t you think you’ll gain weight…?

    • Maddie Ruud profile imageAUTHOR

      Maddie Ruud 

      9 years ago from Oakland, CA

      @UrbanMadonna, I completely agree. You'll see I pointed out how ridiculous this is in practice, even if it makes sense in theory. I think we'd all be a lot better off if we concentrated on health, rather than weight, which is just an arbitrary number.

    • UrbanMadonna profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Boo! This is the wrong message to be putting out there about proper nutrition and healthy weight loss.

      Counting calories is a meaningless concept...losing weight (or should I say fat) is not about how many calories you consume, but about the nutritional content of those calories.

      It's gimmicks like this that keeps America fat!!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Awesome. I love the list you made also. It helps to know which foods are best to eat when trying to lose weight.

      Shared on FB, Bloogger and Tweeted.

    • Winsome profile image


      10 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi Maddie, Time Specials featured this:

      NBC Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the chief medical editor for NBC News, has written a smart, comprehensive new book debunking the myths that abound: Diet Myths That Keep Us Fat.

      There Are No Negative-Calorie Foods

      By Dr. Nancy Snyderman Wednesday, May. 06, 2009

      "You may have heard that some foods, because they are difficult to digest, will make you lose weight. Dubbed "negative-calorie foods," citrus fruits and celery have both basked in this flattering light in fad diets over the years. The problem is that it's not true. The calories your body burns in fueling the digestive cycle are minuscule compared with the calories in the food itself. Although chewing celery might seem like a strenuous activity, it burns about the same amount of calories as watching grass grow."

      I like your hub and I wish it were true because I like all those foods. I think that the truth is some foods are just better for you than others and most of these listed are higher in fiber and a good choice, even if they contribute some calories. =:)

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jennifer Maldonado 

      10 years ago from West Palm Beach

      Nice Hub. I knew about the celery, but I did not realize that all those other foods were negative calorie foods. Thanks for the info.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      10 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Maddi, This is a great list as I like almost everything on it. I am glad to know about the negative calories. Thanks for a great hub.

    • Cassidella profile image


      10 years ago

      Hi Maddie, what an interesting hub! What if there were foods to vanquish calories on consumption? Huh? That might be be like the proverbial genie that grants 3 wishes, but the third wish always wipes out all the good of the first 2!

    • Maddie Ruud profile imageAUTHOR

      Maddie Ruud 

      10 years ago from Oakland, CA


      No, it doesn't mean you can count them as zero calories if you're on a diet. Daily calorie need calculators and charts take into account that you use some energy digesting food.

    • sagbee profile image


      10 years ago from Delhi

      That's great list.. means I can count on no calories when I eat them? Anyhow I knew this thing about cabbage as it has lots of roughage in it.. fibre products.. its good.. :-) thanks for the information..

    • profile image

      Enchanted Moments 

      10 years ago

      This is really nice information to know!

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 

      10 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Whole marks to this amazing myth buster of negative calorie foods.

    • lovelypaper profile image

      Renee S 

      10 years ago from Virginia

      Great topic. I never knew about negative calorie foods. Great information.

    • festersporling1 profile image

      Daniel Christian 

      10 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Smart stuff. :) I love mangos and blueberries.

    • Frosty Meadow profile image

      Frosty Meadow 

      10 years ago from Fletcher, OH

      Great hub! It's also interesting to point out that all the items listed are moderate to high in fiber and therefore help you feel full. Just an added bonus!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      10 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I love the food list. Too bad it would take so much of it to really lose. At least you know you won't put on weight eating those food choices. Great hub.

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 

      10 years ago from Oklahoma

      I knew veggies were good for us now a new reason to eat more.

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen Lewis 

      10 years ago from Florida

      Good to know! Thanks for sharing... great hubs!

    • Implicit Cogito profile image

      Implicit Cogito 

      10 years ago from Tennessee

      ...I may actually be burning too much. That's a really pleasant surprise.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Wow I knew there was a few out there but so many. Thank you.

    • Hideshi Tanaka profile image

      Hideshi Tanaka 

      10 years ago

      The importance of fresh green vegetables can't be overstated. All the fiber and nutrients are great for your body.

    • pisco profile image


      10 years ago from Portugal

      i knew Lettuce and other salad componets were negative calorie foods, but apples, oranges and other fruits you have there i really found it odd, as some of them are sweet, so it's nice to know.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Interesting knowledge for some one

    • TotalReviewGuy profile image


      11 years ago from Your Computer

      No surprise... once again we find that raw fruits and vegetables are good for us. And now they provide negative calories in some instances. Let's Eat! -Trig

    • jacobkuttyta profile image


      11 years ago from Delhi, India

      Really I learned What is Negative Calorie Foods.

      Very informative and useful hub.

      Keep up the good work.

    • Song-Bird profile image

      Renee Hanlon 

      11 years ago from Michigan

      I always knew it was better to eat vegetables raw so that you wouldn't lose important nutrients with cooking, but I didn't know about the negative calories ;)..I like it

    • dejajolie profile image


      11 years ago from New Jersey/New York

      With all of the fad diets out there, I have never heard of the negative calorie food until now, Thank you. As someone who is always looking for ways to eat healthier and smarter I'm not sure one can survive on the items on that list alone. Correction, I could not live on those items alone....interesting read for sure, def prompting me to do more resarch.

    • ChristopherHowell profile image


      11 years ago from San Diego

      I notice that there are actually quite a few popular fruits and veggies on the list, my question becomes then, does that make vegetarianism unhealthy for healthy people.

      Obviously, if you don't need to lose weight using negative calorie foods would be a great way to maintain it. However, my question becomes, what about those who eat fruits and veggies exclusively and also don't need to lose weight? Then doesn't it become akin to unwitting anorexia because you're starving your body of necessary calories...

      I'm not sure if it really pertains to your article but reading your article brought that question to mind.

    • loveofnight profile image

      Loveofnigjht Anderson 

      11 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      a good list, thanks for share

    • Resolver2009 profile image


      11 years ago from Bournemouth, UK / Oslo, Norway

      Fascinating hub Maddie, really enjoyed reading it. Found the list of negative calorie foods quite interesting, did for example not known that onion and pineapple would be on the list.

    • prasadjain profile image


      11 years ago from Tumkur

      This is a useful information. But, negetive foods are also necessery as they give us-vitamins, increase immunity, etc.

    • Luciendasky profile image


      11 years ago from Florence, OR

      This is a great hub! I want to eat 70 cups of raw broccoli now ;)

    • michelle.dragon99 profile image


      11 years ago

      Hi Maddy, I took these food for maintaining my body fat level especially for papaya, raspberry, pineapple and carrot...I usually cut them small in pieces and mix it well with olive oil and apple vinegar...sometimes i mixed them with fresh yogurt.....but i didn't insert salad cream as it contain high calories...and guest what...itz delicious:)...Thanks for your great tips:)

    • marshall92 profile image


      11 years ago

      Great hub. I wouldn't think watermelon would be on that list, but I guess I'm wrong.

    • Patti Ann profile image

      Patti Ann 

      11 years ago from Florida

      I'm going to start adding these foods to my diet and see what happens. Thanks for the info!

    • Kmadhav profile image


      11 years ago from New delhi

      I bookmark this hub and my friend need this hub

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Very interesting. I never thought of the food here being negative calorie. Guess what I'm having on my plate!

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      11 years ago from Templeton, CA

      It appears that the negative calorie foods are the ones we are told to eat a lot of if we want to be healthy and lose weight -- fresh fruits and vegetables.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin

      I had never had it explained to me that way. It puts it all into a whole new light. Thanks for the info.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I am assuming the listed foods are considered "negative calories" when raw?

      I only ever heard of celery and pineapple before. This was interesting. :)

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      11 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Maddie, years ago the 'grapefruit diet' was a big thing. You ate a grapefruit with every meal. I wonder if the negative calorie bit got that diet going. There are a lot of tasty food on that list. If it's true, you could gobble those blueberries like crazy.

    • profile image

      Kim Garcia 

      11 years ago

      Great article, quick and easy to digest!! Cucumber being one of my fav..."neg calorie foods" is great in electrolytes. Super for hydration on a hot summer day

      Be Blessed!

    • kallystehouwer profile image


      11 years ago

      Enjoyed your article. I agree with Nancy's comment about broccoli!

    • profile image

      Nancy's Niche 

      11 years ago

      Very informative article Maddie...Broccoli--YUCK!

    • Philipo profile image


      11 years ago from Nigeria

      This is very useful. Recommended for everyone.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Maddie you always provide very useful and excellent info, keep up the good work

    • healthgoji profile image


      11 years ago


      I really like this article - I found it very informative and extremely useful.

    • dohn121 profile image


      11 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Hey, Maddie. I read a similar article on this and found that the reason why these foods are classified as "negative calorie foods" is because they are much higher in metabolism than other foods. An easy way (as I found out) to decipher whether or not certain vegetables are high in metabolism is their color: The greener the better. I also found out that peppers are probably the best of the bunch, if you can handle its obvious spiciness: the hotter the better. Think habanero, jalapeno and Thai chili which are well known. Jolokia's are the world's hottest(3 times hotter than habanero).

    • Maddie Ruud profile imageAUTHOR

      Maddie Ruud 

      11 years ago from Oakland, CA

      Scary, isn't it?

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      11 years ago from California Gold Country

      So if I put whipped cream on my celery it doesn't really count?

      I'm still trying to visualize 70 cups of raw broccoli.


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