Sounds a little crazy, right?! I mean, eating is usually the reason we are forced to spend countless hours in the gym, slaving away on the treadmill. In the past few years, I’ve read countless articles, posts, and answered many questions on this subject. The claim is that some foods actually burn more calories being digested than they contain....I'm talking, of course, about negative calorie foods.
This article was actually prompted by my wife who, being a foodie, loves to bust my chops for all of my "rabbit food", as she calls it. And above all other things, she loves to burn me about the excessive amounts of celery that I consume each week (usually about 3-4 bunches). I'm not sure if it's the munching and crunching that rubs her the wrong way or just the fact that I love it so much, but I've certainly been on the receiving end of my share of criticism regarding my celery obsession. Anyway, last week she forwarded me this post by some "Fact of the Day" app.....
“Celery has negative calories. It takes more calories to eat and digest a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with.”
.....and with the post she commented, "You knew this didn't you?", to which I replied, "Why do you think I eat so damn much of it?!" And while our back-and-forth was more of a playful banter, it does bring up a good point. That is, there are a lot of foods out there that are being lumped into this category of negative calorie foods. In addition to celery, some of these other foods include spinach, cabbage, lemons, limes, and grapefruit.
So what is the truth? Are there really foods out there that we can eat as much of as we want without any risk of gaining weight? The answer, most likely, is NO. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that any foods actually require more calories to digest than they provide. And while it may seem like celery takes a lot of energy to chew, as one dietitian puts it, “it burns about as many calories as watching grass grow.”
I have been asked for years by friends, family, clients, and acquaintances, how it is that I stay so lean. Most people assume that I’m just genetically gifted (true, but only with stunning good looks, a fantastic personality and, of course, humility) or that “I haven’t had a carb since 2004″. The truth is that my metabolism, while probably faster than most, is not superhuman, nor do I follow some masochistic, no-carb diet. I merely have a firm understanding of bio-energetics and the effects of certain foods on the metabolic system and, ultimately, their effect on our aesthetics (read: fatness). This brings me to the topic of today’s article: the ultimate ab-killer and bane of the American diet – sugar!
Now let’s get one thing straight: Carbohydrates (yes, even sugar) are NOT evil. Glucose (a simple sugar) is the fuel for nearly every cellular process in the body, and is an absolute necessity in the diet; but not in the amounts we consume it in. It’s actually the massive quantities that we ingest sugars in that destroys our metabolism and packs on the pounds. Over the past 300 years, the amount of sugar in the average person’s diet has increased by 4500%! That’s right, we now consume 45 times the amount of sugar that we did 300 years ago, equal to 180 pounds of raw sugar per year per person! And we wonder why obesity has become such a problem.
Unfortunately, it is not just the amount of sugar that we consume that has led to widespread obesity. It is also the type of sugar that we ingest that determines its effect on our metabolism. As science has progressed, we have found new, cheaper ways to produce the sweet tastes that we love so much. But not without a hidden price! The development of “better sugars” (namely high-fructose corn syrup) as well as the many artificial sweeteners that we now use has thrown our metabolisms into a tailspin towards disaster. And don’t think that just because you don’t drink Coca-Cola or eat gummy worms, that you’re not consuming these gluco-imposters, because they are EVERYWHERE!
Hopefully by now I have scared you into actually looking into what you are consuming (if not, read the article linked below). So what should you do?! The answer is quite simple….get educated. Make sure that you know what is going into your body. Read food labels and eat as many natural foods as possible. You know the ones I mean: fruits, vegetables, lean meats, mono-unsaturated fats, and whole grains. You see, healthy eating isn’t as complicated as most people make it out to be. It’s what I do; it’s what I’ve always done; and it (not superhuman genetics) is the reason that my metabolism runs at optimum levels. So do yourself (and your body) a favor and put down the Coke!
Now I know what most people are thinking... celery, spinach, cabbage, BORING! And, while I would typically agree, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to include them in our diets without having to eat food that tastes like grass. For example, I enjoy my celery with hummus, and wilt my spinach in with my scrambled eggs for a very complimentary taste. The key is to experiment with different prep techniques and flavors until you find something that pleases your palate. And remember, sometimes it’s worth it to just eat something that is good for you, regardless of it’s taste!
So there probably isn’t any truth to the negative calorie food theory, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t eat these foods. In fact, the reason that the foods are considered to have negative calories is that they are calorically “light” but still contain significant amounts of vitamins and nutrients. If not for any other reason than that, we should still try to include as many of these foods into our diet as possible.
For additional information, read “The 76 Dangers of Sugar to Your Health” by Dr. Joseph Mercola.