Raise your hand if you've ever chomped on a stalk of celery in hopes of burning some extra calories. After all, it's a negative-calorie food, right?
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Many of us have fallen victim to seemingly promising diet hacks such as eating negative-calorie foods, which supposedly burn more calories to digest than they supply. But before you start filling up on this low-calorie vegetable, consider the reality behind the too-good-to-be-true diet trick.
Calories in Celery
Celery is a very low-calorie vegetable, totaling only about six calories for a medium-sized stalk, according to the USDA. Celery consists of mostly water with only 1.2 grams of carbs and 0.6 grams of fiber.
With no fat, 16 milligrams of calcium and 104 milligrams of potassium, celery packs a pretty sound nutritional profile. But does chewing it actually burn calories?
What's the Deal With Negative-Calorie Foods?
Celery is one of the top-referenced negative-calorie foods among grapefruit, broccoli and lettuce.
Although eating foods that burn more calories while you chew sounds like the ultimate diet hack, there's no actual science to support that certain foods can be calorically negative, according to Shelby Burns, RD. While digestion and chewing lead to some calorie burn, it's certainly not enough to create a calorie deficit, Burns says.
However, there is some truth to burning calories through digestion — which is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Certain foods require more energy to digest than others, according to Burns. Out of all three macros, protein requires the most energy to digest, burning about 20 to 30 percent of total calories, she explains. So, if you eat 100 calories of protein, your body uses somewhere between 20 and 30 calories to process it. While protein may have a high thermic effect, it's still far from calorically negative.
So, Does Eating Celery Burn Calories?
The TEF makes it theoretically possible for negative-calorie foods to exist, but there aren't any reputable scientific studies to prove that eating certain foods like celery burns calories, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although celery isn't a negative-calorie food, it's not one that you need to track too closely calorie-wise, advises Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD and author of Read It Before You Eat It — Taking You From Label to Table.
"At 14 calories per cup, celery isn't a food you need to be concerned about," Taub-Dix says. "It's also not a magical food that will jolt your metabolism to make pounds pour off."
The bottom line? If you're a fan of celery and want to reap the nutritional benefits, it's a veggie worth integrating into your diet. But the act of chewing it won't help you lose significant weight.