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Myth: THERE ARE NEGATIVE CALORIE FOODS

Posted May 30 2012 2:31am

A quick Google search on the word “nutrition”turns up almost 450,000,000 results. With so much information out in the world, it is no wonder why people (especially those with eating disorders) are confused and anxious about what they eat. This section is where I’ll begin to debunk the most common nutrition myths and misconceptions as they relate to your eating disorder. Read below and start challenging your eating disorder thinking. Every time that you challenge the “junk” that your eating disorder has led you to believe, you will be one step closer towards eating disorder recovery.

 

 

Myth # 18: There are negative calorie foods.

 

 

Negative calorie foods are a group of fruits and vegetables that are said to have the negative calorie effect. The idea is that it takes more energy to digest these foods than the foods provide to the body, so you burn off some calories just by eating.

 

 

At first thought, this eating trend seems great. However, anything that seems too good to be true probably is and this eating trend is definitely too good to be true.

 

 

We live in a world where we would love to be able to lose weight by eating a lot of food. It is no secret that people are always looking for the easy way out when wanting to lose weight. People are looking for the perfect food, one that almost seems to have magical powers, and this mixed up way of thinking is widely known to advertising agencies and quacks of health and nutrition experts.

 

 

I have tried to do extensive research on negative calorie foods and I have not found any evidence that would be accepted by the scientific community. The negative calorie food list is all based upon assumptions stemming from a fact here and a fact there. For example, an author will list the amount of calories in celery (a common food on the negative calorie food list) and then go on to explain that the human body uses more calories to digest the celery than it actually contains. Therefore, celery is supposedly a negative calorie food. The problem lies in the fact that I have never seen a study done with unbiased, repeatable results that proves how many calories we burn digesting a piece of celery.

 

 

The assumptions stemming from fact here and fact there are leading people to believe that they can eat a big piece of cheesecake (or any other widely known high calorie food) and if they eat enough celery (or any other negative calorie food), they can cancel out the calories in the cheesecake. Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

 

 

Consider these two examples…

 

 

***Whether you walk or run, it takes approximately 100 calories for someone to walk or run 1 mile. Let's grant the claim that:

 

  • There are 6 calories in an 8 inch stalk of celery.

 

  • That it takes 12 calories to burn off that one 8 inch stalk of celery therefore, putting you in a deficit of 6 calories.

 

  • According to the above information, it takes 16 ½ stalks of celery to put you in a deficit of 100 calories. So, eating 16 ½ stalks of celery is technically as strenuous as running 1 mile? Do you really think that if we ate 16 ½ stalks of celery in addition to our normal food intake, we would automatically burn an additional 100 calories? Could we just sit and chomp on celery all day instead of hitting the gym? I think not.

 

***I’m not going to get into how many foods are on the negative calorie food list, however, know that there are several. Considering this, if a vegetarian ate as much plant food (many of which are probably on the negative calorie food list) as they technically needed to stay healthy, don’t you think they would starve due to the calorie deficit they would supposedly be in from eating all the negative calorie food? If a vegetarian eats a lot of fruits and vegetables that are on the negative food list, shouldn’t a vegetarian be exhausted from having used up their supply of readily available carbohydrates for energy in the digestion process? If the negative calorie food concept was true, don’t you think a vegetarian would constantly feel very hungry and would have trouble creating and keeping muscle? When you think of it like this, the whole concept of negative calorie foods really doesn’t make sense. Especially when there are many vegetarians who are at a normal body weight and are healthy.

 

 

When it comes down to it, I in no way believe that there are negative calorie foods. I do, however, buy into the fact that the foods on the negative calorie food list are naturally lower in calories than many other food choices (example, celery compared to ice cream). If you eat a cup of celery versus a cup of ice cream (the same volume of food), you obviously are taking in far less calories by eating the celery. Eat a lot of “negative calorie foods” and you will probably feel more full than if you ate a higher calorie food that isn’t on the negative calorie food list.

 

 

Remember, this is a pro recovery blog. My goal was not to convince you to eat only fruits and vegetables even if there is no such thing as a negative calorie food. Limiting your food intake to 1 or 2 food groups is boring and extremely dangerous. I encourage you to speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian if you are not sure what and how much to eat.

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