Eat more – Weigh less

The negative calories myth has been disproved but you can still win …

There are plenty of articles on negative calorie foods; and also plenty of articles on how they aren’t true. A number of the “not true” articles are on reputable sites (eg wikipedia and medical sites).

The reason that “negative calories” isn’t true is that you don’t consume more calories in just eating the foods than they add. That’s the bad news.

Once you move past the bad news, have a look at the foods anyway and consider how they fit with your day to day life. The fact is we do more than just eat. Even if sometimes you have to get up and find the TV remote that is more than just eating. If you’re an average Australian adult then you burn up 8700 KJ (about 2000 calories) each day. A lot of that comes from things other than just eating.

If you’re overweight and find it hard to get around then you probably don’t get as much activity as the average adult. But, if you’re overweight, less activity burns more calories. You would have more weight to cart around with you than the average adult. That takes more energy and burns more calories.

Let’s look at the foods that get included on the “negative calories” list and their KJ/100g figures:

cucumbers / pickles (50)
zucchini (61)
celery (64)
lettuce, iceberg (65)
tomatoes (74)
asparagus (89)
cabbage, green (90)
cauliflower, frozen (97)
strawberries (108)
beans, green, frozen (117)
broccoli (118)
onions (127)
watermelon (127)
carrots (132)
grapefruit (138)
honeydew (149)
oranges (175)
pineapple (178)
cranberries (194)
apples (204)
tangerines (223)
mangoes (230)
peas, baby, frozen (243)
peas, garden, frozen (256)
grapes, green (284)
corn kernels (476)

You could eat a lot of some of those before hitting 8700 KJ in a day. Now, they’re probably not all you should eat in a day as you’ll need proper food too; but if you snack on some of these you’ll have a better chance of coming in at close to the normal 8700 number.

So the good news is, whilst you can’t “pig out” on lots of bad things and then lose weight “for free” by eating celery (or a jar of pickles), you can fill up on things that don’t add a lot of calories.

These guys have a visual presentation with similar foods. The best items on their list in terms of how much goes in versus how much stays on your waistline (or elsewhere) would seem to be:

celery
mini peppers
broccoli
baby carrots
honeydew melon
(I’m skipping the coke drink use coke zero instead)
red onions
apples
canned green peas
milk
kiwi fruit
canned sweet corn
grapes

The sequence is slightly different to what I found so we’ve obviously used different sources or different brands. However, the story presented is similar.

Bear in mind that if you eat 1Kg of celery you will weight 1Kg more when you step on the scales. Longer term, most of the 1Kg will go. If you fill up with foods that don’t stay you will lose weight over time.

Picture: Malcolm Carlaw / CC BY

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