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When we’re trying to shed a few pounds, few concepts are so attractive as the idea of “negative-calorie foods”. However, the core question is if we really can feast on some foods without any guilt… or pounds on.

Negative-calorie food?

According to its advocates, negative-calorie foods or catabolic foods are foods that require more calories to be digested than what they actually provide. Theoretically, that would mean we can eat as much as we want of them not only without gaining any weight, but actually losing some.

Let’s see. When we talk about “negative-calorie foods”, it doesn’t mean they have less than zero calories, it’s more like a “calorie-subtracting” effect. For instance, a medium-sized apple provides around 85 calories, but an average body needs 99 calories to digest it. That leaves us with 14 already-burnt calories!

So far, so good. Only that it doesn’t take into consideration, neither the basal metabolic rate (number of calories burnt while in rest), nor the thermic effect of food (the amount of energy used to chew, digest, and store nutrients). As a matter of fact, during a day we burn only about 90 to 270 calories when processing food. Even if we added up the calories “already burnt” when eating non-calorie foods (for example, the 14 calories left from the apple), the number of calories is in no way significant when we talk about losing weight.

Furthermore, most of the so-called negative-calorie food – like celery, lettuce, ice, etc. – are high in water and in fiber (sometimes), and low in calories. According to Christy Wilson, RD: “these low-calorie, plant-based foods are an important part of a balanced diet, but, alone, lack adequate nutrients, including protein and fat, to sustain a healthy body.”

The bottom line

So here is the bad news: there’s little scientific evidence that these foods actually make us lose weight. Though that doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight if you eat them. In fact, if you include negative-calorie food in your daily diet, you’ll certainly lose some pounds due to a simple reason: it reduces your overall calorie intake. But you can also lose weight by doing physical activity or having better eating habits.

Remember that the best way to lose pounds is to consume fewer calories than what we burn, or to burn more calories than what we eat. Simple math. The key to weight loss is not seeking out foods that you can eat guilt-free but focusing instead on following the food guide provided by your therapist.

Still, here is a list* of some foods that are diet friendly and rich in nutrients:

  • Blueberries: 50 berries = 40 calories
  • Artichokes: Medium-sized artichoke = 60 calories
  • Grapefruit: Medium-sized grapefruit = 40 calories
  • Spinach: 1 cup of uncooked spinach = 7 calories
  • Orange: Medium-sized orange = 60 calories
  • Watermelon: 1 cup = 50 calories
  • Bok Choy: 1 cup = 20 calories

*This list was taken from the website Medical Daily at http://www.medicaldaily.com/negative-calorie-foods-calories-burned-burning-calories-losing-weight-384826

As we have already said, eating the foods listed above, when included in your food-guide, will help you achieve and maintain your ideal weight, as long as you supplement your diet with the necessary nutrients.

You can try reading the nutrition labels of the food you buy, mostly if you think they are “healthy”: the idea is to eat smarter and to #DecideItNow.