Zero Calorie Foods: Myth or Fact?

Have you ever heard of zero calorie foods? You eat certain foods and there is actually a negative balance after eating them? Meaning you burn more calories during the process of digestion leaving you with a negative amount of calories consumed.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Weight Watchers and the point system. This diet gives you an allotted amount of points for the day, BUT indicates that certain foods, a couple examples include fruits, vegetables, and protein, are all 0 points.

Surely this cannot be you ask.

If you’ve questioned this before, then you’re right. There are no ZERO calorie foods, HOWEVER, there are VERY LOW calorie foods, which are very useful when dieting!

The obesity epidemic is growing and increasing across the globe. Whatever effective measures we can use to fight this epidemic should be a method that is used universally.

But first, let’s talk SCIENCE.

One of the foods that has been claimed to create a negative energy balance after consumption is celery. The mechanism of diet induced thermogenesis is the heat that is derived from the digestion of food, which has been stated to influence the metabolic rate. Therefore, when eating certain foods, you would be burning calories during digestion and creating a calorie deficit; AKA your body is burning calories while eating.

Sounds like a dream come true to me!

However, it is. According to the Cambridge University Press, a study done in 2012 measured the impact of celery on the diet and if it truly results in a negative energy balance.

Plain and simple, the conclusion was that there was no negative energy balance, meaning if you ate celery, you were absorbing the calories and not burning calories while eating.

The goods news – the study stated participants only absorbed 86% of the total calories from the 100 grams of celery. This is HUGE. We may be absorbing LESS calories from certain foods, just NOT ZERO. Due to the water and fiber content, these nutrients promote fullness and can impact the amount of total calories absorbed.

Maybe it’s not as simple as we thought, but we CAN eat certain foods without absorbing all of the calories that come along with it.

So what specific foods does this include and what is the serving size of each?

  1. Celery, raw

1 cup = 16.8 calories

  1. Arugula, raw

1 cup = 5 calories

  1. Cabbage, raw

1 cup = 22 calories

  1. Chard, swiss, raw

1 cup = 6.84 calories

  1. Cucumber, raw

1 cup = 15.6 calories

  1. Peppers, raw

1 cup = 23.9 calories

  1. Radishes, raw

1 cup = 18.6 calories

  1. Spinach, raw

1 cup = 7 calories

  1. Strawberries, raw

1 cup = 48.6 calories

  1. Watermelon, raw

1 cup = 45.6 calories

As you can see vegetables, and some fruits, are VERY LOW CALORIE foods that can be incorporated into your diet for weight loss. The benefit of consuming low calorie foods is to promote fullness due to the amount of water, fiber, and nutrients in these foods. This allows you to stay fuller longer while eating less calories and increases the likelihood of staying in a calorie deficit.

But truly, is there a list of foods that have zero calories? Not the ones you’d imagine.

Here’s 5 zero calorie foods that aren’t really food

  1. Water
  2. Herbs
  3. Spices
  4. Black Coffee
  5. Tea

Utilizing these beverages and additives to your meals are JUST as important as incorporating low calorie foods. Seasoning foods with herbs and spices will help to reduce how much total fat you add while cooking. This can save you hundreds of calories!

Water, black coffee, and tea are beverages to incorporate if you find yourself reaching for juice, soda, and other sugary beverages. Again, swapping for these beverages will help you save a ton of calories and promote weight loss.

Will you continue to search the internet for zero calorie foods and find a long list of them?

YES.

Why?

Because it’s gimmicky. It’s a great way to grab attention for views and website hits.

But… the science explains that there really aren’t ZERO calorie foods, but there are VERY LOW calorie foods that you can incorporate into your diet during your weight loss journey!

My advice as a professional?

If you would like to lose weight, incorporate these low calorie foods, and other low calories foods that aren’t listed here, into your diet. Not only will this help you lose weight, it will also promote general wellness as you’ll be prioritizing the consumption of nutritious foods daily.

If there are any other myths you’d like me to discuss or questions you want answered about nutrition, please comment them below!

References

  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/exploring-the-myth-does-eating-celery-result-in-a-negative-energy-balance/28AA671F61633E705B0BD261338359C8
  2. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103346/nutrients
  3. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103360/nutrients
  4. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169975/nutrients
  5. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169991/nutrients
  6. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168409/nutrients
  7. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170108/nutrients
  8. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169276/nutrients
  9. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168462/nutrients
  10. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167762/nutrients
  11. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167765/nutrients

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