15 Foods That Burn More Calories Than They Contain

December 26, 2019


When it comes to losing weight it can be next to impossible to find snack foods that can help keep you on track. There are a few miracle foods however that are purported to be negative in calories.

These foods essentially contain more water than they do calories and require more calories to utilize them than they hold. Thus, making these foods essentially calorie free.

1. Celery

About 75% of a celery stick is actually water; the other 25% is fiber and other roughage.

As a result of the fact that this tasty vegetable is so full of water, it provides you with far fewer calories than it will take for your body to digest the snack.

In addition to burning more calories than it contains, celery is an excellent source of fiber that can help to keep you feeling fuller for longer, reducing the urge to snack.

The health benefits of celery don’t end at weight loss. Celery is full of nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin K.

Further, celery has anti-oxidant properties that may be able to improve cardiovascular health, reducing your chances of developing hardened arteries (and related heart problems like heart attacks and cardiovascular disease).

As a bonus, the fiber content promotes regular bowel movements as well as boosting digestive health more generally. There is even some evidence suggesting that a diet high in celery can improve the appearance of your skin.

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You can enjoy celery sticks on their own, or try lightly seasoning them with salt. You can also dip celery in hot sauce to make a spicy snack, or chop it up for a salad.


2. Grapefruit

This sweet and sour fruit is essentially all water with a bit of roughage thrown in.

Much like celery, this fruit is about 60% or more water, and most of the rest of this fruit is healthy fiber that boosts digestive health and promotes feelings of fullness.

The particular type of fiber that is found in grapefruit is called pectin, and it doesn’t just fill you up; it also reduces arterial hardening, helping to protect your body against heart disease.

Eating plenty of grapefruit may also help to boost your metabolism, helping your body to burn more calories at a faster rate. Grapefruit slices or grapefruit juice can also boost your energy in the morning or when you hit a slump during the work day.

In addition to being a great morning snack, grapefruit is a good choice at any time of day if you want to enjoy something sweet that is still exceptionally healthy. For example, this fruit contains phytonutrients called limonoids, which may help to reduce your chances of developing tumors in the stomach, colon and lungs.

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Meanwhile, people who eat the greatest quantities of red grapefruit typically have up to 16% lower levels of LDL cholesterol (i.e. ‘bad’ cholesterol).


3. Lettuce and Leafy Greens

Once again, the main reason that lettuce and leafy greens burn more calories than they contain is that they are largely made up of water.

This time, however, the ratio is roughly 50% water to 50% fiber. As a result, leafy greens are an excellent source of energy, and definitely help to reduce the urge to eat sweet treats.

If you’re looking to improve your overall health as well as lose weight by eating foods that burn plenty of calories, leafy greens are second to none.

For example, a juicy portion of kale provides you with anti-carcinogenic nutrients called glucosinolates, which are highly effective at reducing the risk of colon cancer as well as cancers of the prostate, ovaries, breast and bladder.

Meanwhile, just a single serving of Kale contains 1327% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin K and 192% of your intake of vitamin A, both of which promote strong, healthy bones.

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Spinach is just as impressive, and also provides unique benefits for dieters. One gram of spinach is packed full of more protein than a gram of steak, and protein causes your digestive system to work particularly hard. As it digests the spinach, you burn more calories than you would otherwise be using.


4. Watermelon

A popular fruit on a warm summer’s day, the crunchy watermelon is also extremely low in calories and great at helping dieters lose weight.

You can mix it with other fruits to form a refreshing fruit salad, or cut it into cubes and eat it on its own.

One reason why watermelon can help you to lose weight is that it is a very rich source of B vitamins, which increase your energy levels and reduce your need to eat extra foods (which you may be more tempted to do when you are feeling sluggish).

A watermelon contains virtually no fat and very few calories, so it’s unsurprising that it is an asset to anyone who is overweight.

Nutritionists working on the health benefits of eating watermelon also speculate that it might have the power to boost your metabolic rate to a higher level than other fruits, due to the fact that it contains so much fiber and protein.

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If you need extra motivation to include more watermelon in your life, keep in mind that it is another great source of lycopene, the antioxidant that may protect the body against cancers of the womb, breast, colon and respiratory system.


5. Low Calorie Lean Meats

Unlike some of the fruits and vegetables that we have just considered, low calorie lean meats do not contain zero calories, but they are worthy of inclusion on this list because they can help to keep the body going for hours.

For example, lean meats like turkey, chicken and low fat pork are excellent sources of protein, forcing the digestive system to work hard.

As a result, they temporarily boost your metabolism, ensuring that you burn more calories even when you are at rest.

Meanwhile, these meats provide you with so much energy that you’re unlikely to feel the need to eat for several hours. So, even though lean meats certainly contain more calories than a raw carrot stick, they will provide your body with more energy than other foods and ultimately help to make sure that you burn more calories in a full day.

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However, if you’re trying to shed excess fat, you need to be very careful about how you prepare your meat. In particular, you should always opt to oven-bake or grill your meat instead of frying it, and make sure that you don’t counteract the health benefits of your meal by adding a fatty sauce.


6. Broths

Though a bowl of broth may not seem like a traditional food, broths are great for providing you with tons of flavor without adding tons of calories.

Unlike gravy and other foods, broth can give you a much needed boost without the added calories.

Indeed, some people actually follow a broth diet (or certainly make broth a central part of their diet) in order to shed excess fat and lose weight.

It is easily digestible, and it suppresses your appetite by helping you to feel fuller. It also smells and tastes like something far richer, effectively ‘tricking’ you into feeling more satisfied after eating it.

It’s easy to whip up a pot of vegetable broth by using your favorite vegetables; popular examples include onions, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms and carrots.

All you need to do is add these vegetables to a pot of water, choose your favorite forms of seasoning, simmer the broth for at least a full hour, and then strain it so that the vegetables are separated from the liquid.

To make the chicken or beef equivalent, all you need to do is add approximately three pounds of meat to your pot of water (along with your favorite vegetables).


7. Yogurt

Again, yogurt is a bit higher in calories than other foods you may eat but it can help to regulate bowel movements, it promotes the maintenance and breeding of healthy cultures in the gut, and it can even help to keep your bones strong.

However, it is important to be careful when choosing a yogurt.

For example, although you might think that reduced fat yogurt is the healthiest option on the market if you want to lose weight, the truth is that most manufacturers add huge amounts of sugar to these yogurts in order to improve their taste.

Meanwhile, you may find that a yogurt that is advertised as being particularly low in sugar will turn out to be packed with fat in order to create a creamy texture.

If weight loss is on your mind, try to find a yogurt that contains a healthy balance of sugar and fat (i.e. one that contains a reasonably small amount of both).

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Alternatively, choose fat free yogurt that has no added sugar, and mix it with some dried fruit, nuts and cereal to create a tasty breakfast. Fat free yogurt is also an excellent addition to healthy smoothies (as a substitute for full fat milk).


8. Apples and Oranges

For those that have a sweet tooth, these fruits are a great option for snacking. Often, fruits have enough fiber to keep you full without tons of sugars that will go straight to your problem areas.

In addition to helping you lose weight if eaten in moderation, apple and oranges contain amazingly powerful nutrients that improve your quality of life.

Apples have been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer by 17% (when fed to rats on a daily basis). When the number of apple servings was increased to three, rats were 44% less likely to suffer from malignant mammary tumors.

In addition, there is some evidence that the quercetin found in apples could lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by protecting your body from the damage that can be caused by dangerous free radicals.

Meanwhile, oranges are wonderful for heart health in a couple of different ways. Firstly, they contain magnesium and potassium, which naturally regulate blood pressure.

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Further, they are a source of something called herperidin, which lowers levels of bad cholesterol. It is speculated that this second benefit might be the reason that daily consumption of oranges appears to cut stroke risk by almost 20%.


9. Chili peppers

Chili peppers that contain a compound called capsaicin will boost your metabolic rate, causing your body to burn more calories for a while after consumption.

Since chili peppers contain so few calories, they help you to burn way more than they actually contain.

People also tend to feel less hungry after consuming meals that heavily feature chili, so peppers can be a good choice if you want to curb your appetite.

So, whether you prefer sliced chilies, hot sauce or chili flakes, don’t be shy when adding chili products to your food. Chili peppers are incredibly versatile, so you can easily incorporate them into some of your favorite recipes and dishes.

For example, you can make spicy salads, hot pasta sauces, chili salsas and warming winter soups.

Habanero peppers are generally very rich in capsaicin, so they may be even better than most peppers when it comes to helping you shed fat.

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However, be sure that you don’t drown your chili-based meals in huge amounts of dressing, as these could add so much fat that your meal becomes unhealthy (and may even promote weight gain). Since the best chili peppers and hot sauces are so full of flavor, you are unlikely to need dressings anyway.


10. Tomatoes

A versatile staple, tomatoes can be used in lots of different recipes and are bursting with flavor (in spite of the lack of calories that they contain).

They can be blended together (or squeezed with your hands) to make the basis of a pasta sauce or to create a virgin Bloody Mary, they can be used to top a sandwich, or they can be the key ingredient in a healthy salad.

Like many of the foods on this list, there are also reasons to eat tomatoes that extend well beyond their benefits for weight loss.

For one thing, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the lycopene in tomatoes is capable of inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. Men may be especially interested to learn that tomatoes are particularly connected with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

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Meanwhile, if you suffer from type 2 diabetes or you’re concerned about developing type 2 diabetes at some point in your lifetime, you may also benefit from eating plenty of tomatoes. The chromium that they contain might help your body to regulate blood sugar levels, keeping them within healthy limits by controlling the amount of sugar that gets absorbed in your blood.


11. Arugula

You may not have encountered this particular green very often, but it turns out that arugula should definitely be featuring in your meals if you’re looking to burn more calories and lose weight in an effective but safe way.

Arugula has an enjoyable, peppery flavor, and it contains just four calories per serving (per cup). It is bursting with fiber to help keep your digestive system working properly and to keep your appetite under control, and it contains vital vitamins K, C and A.

If you’re looking for fun ways to incorporate arugula into your diet, start by considering soups.

With five ounces of arugula, an onion, some garlic and chicken broth, you can create the basis for an amazing and unusual soup that promotes weight loss.

By adding some fat free Greek yogurt to the mix, you can turn the soup into a creamy delight that is still perfectly acceptable when you are on a diet.

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As you might expert, arugula can also be added to salads, so consider pairing it with lettuce, sliced bell peppers, chopped onions and the lean meat of your choice. You’ll soon wonder how you ever managed without this leafy green!


12. Cucumbers

Like many of the foods that burn more calories than they contain, cucumbers are mostly made up of water.

In addition to helping you lose weight in this way, cucumber can keep you hydrated before or after a long workout at the gym.

For similar reasons, cucumber slices can be a delicious treat on a hot summer day. They taste great when dipped in reduced fat humus or sprinkled with a tasty seasoning.

Due to their high water content, many people mistakenly assume that cucumbers don’t do much else for your overall health. However, it is definitely worth noting that a diet rich in cucumbers may help to improve your resistance to disease (as long as you eat them with their skins intact).

The cucumber is one of the best vegetables when it comes to providing vitamin C, and there is plenty of evidence suggesting that a high intake of vitamin C is linked to an improved ability to resist invasion by bacteria and viruses.

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Further, eating plenty of cucumbers could end up reducing excessively high levels of inflammation in your body, as cucumbers contain enzymes that have an anti-inflammatory influence similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen).


13. Asparagus

When grilled and seasoned, eating asparagus can be so enjoyable that it is easy to forget that you’re eating a vegetable.

You can eat it on its own, add it to healthy pasta dishes, or choose to serve it as a side with a portion of lean meat. The tips are especially tasty.

Now, you may already know that it is linked to detoxification of the body due to the fact that it contains diuretic nutrients that help to remove toxins from your system, but it is definitely worth noting that asparagus consumption can also boost the metabolism.

In addition, asparagus is an especially good addition to the diets of pregnant women, as it is bursting with folate (which is connected to a reduced risk of life-threatening birth defects, such as spina bifida).

This folate is coupled with minerals like calcium, improving the chances of a baby being born at a healthy birth weight that helps it to thrive.

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Once you take the diuretic influence of asparagus into account and realize that it can also reduce troublesome bloating or swelling, it is clear that this vegetable is an ideal component of a woman’s diet when she’s expecting a baby.


14. Broccoli

Broccoli is one of the very best foods that you can eat, as it contains around 30 calories per serving and has a couple of different properties that make it an ally of those who are trying to lose weight.

The fiber content is huge, helping to keep you feeling full and satisfied after you eat broccoli, and the protein is equal to that found in rice (while it contains just a fraction of the calorie content of rice).

If you are also interested in improving your immune system’s ability to fight against invading infections, broccoli can also be an excellent addition to your diet.

Specifically, it is a source of beta-carotene, zinc and selenium, all of which have been shown to boost immune system function.

Your arteries will also thank you if you choose to make a habit out of eating broccoli. The carotenoid lutein in broccoli helps to combat arterial hardening, thereby cutting your risk of suffering from a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke.

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When you eat broccoli, however, make sure that you either steam it or consume it raw if you want to make sure that you preserve all of the nutrients that make this vegetable a superfood.


15. Coffee

Finally, although it should be enjoyed in moderation, coffee can be a real asset when you’re looking for foods and drinks that burn more calories than they contain.

A serving of coffee actually provides you with zero calories; it is only when you add syrups, sugar and milk that you begin to create a beverage that piles on the pounds.

Black coffee may seem very bitter when you first start drinking it, but it is well worth getting use to the taste.

It has the ability to change the levels of certain hormones in your digestive system that alert you to whether you are hungry or full, reducing cravings.

As you probably know, caffeine is also capable of boosting your metabolic rate, making sure that your body burns more calories whether you are active or at rest.

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The benefits don’t end there, either. Coffee is linked to a reduction in risk for several major illnesses, including liver cancer, Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes, so you have plenty of incentives to start having at least on cup per day.

19 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. James McInnis January 28, 2014 at 7:37 am -

    I always tie up my celery with twine.

    • Norma February 1, 2015 at 4:07 pm -

      Oh goodness! I know you posted this comment a year ago, but it made me laugh so hard! Your humor lives on…thanks 🙂

    • mnn2301 July 17, 2015 at 3:37 pm -

      The twine adds even more fiber and for those not want to eat it, it takes even more energy to untie it.

  2. Unknown January 30, 2014 at 3:46 am -

    Please be careful of warnings with prescription drugs and grapefruit!!
    And always tie up celery with twine ;0)

    • mscognizance June 3, 2014 at 8:08 pm -

      Earl Grey tea is flavored with an oil from a type of orange which contains the same substance that grapefruit does. Some soft drinks are also flavored with it. This substance interferes with many prescription medications. I love Double Bergamot Earl Grey Tea; I noticed there is no warning on the box though. I don’t know how much one has to drink to cause a problem, but I did read a post by a man who found his tea was causing a problem with his medication.

  3. satinswan February 12, 2014 at 9:14 pm -

    Re: Yogurt: Fat free yogurt isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For instance, if you’re adding it to fruit for breakfast, there are a good number of fat soluble vitamins and minerals that your body will not be able to make use of from that meal. A better option is yogurt made from 1% or 2% milk – it’s still lower in calories than the full-fat version, but the fat in it will help with absorbing those valuable micro-nutrients. Additionally, the body needs some fat to function, and the fat in cow/goat/other animal milks is a healthy form of fat in moderation.

    • Sam February 17, 2014 at 12:55 am -

      Actually, animal fat is good for you. In spite of all the propaganda we hear from the medical community, saturated fat does *not* cause heart disease. (Remember how they told us for 70 years that margarine was better than butter, and then they went, “Oops!!!!” 😉 ) Our ancestors knew nothing about low-fat diets and ate lots of saturated fat for thousands of years. And the reason we’re living longer today isn’t because of our diets–it’s because of better sanitation and health care, the elimination of famines, and the eradication of infectious diseases. Back then, things like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes (which are due largely to our unhealthy modern diets) were almost unheard of

      Anyway, in light of all this, the best yogurt for you is full-fat, assuming that it’s organic or comes from a local farm that allows its animals to graze and feeds them minimal grain, if any. Similarly, the best meat has plenty of fat as well, assuming it’s also raised in this manner.

      • mscognizance June 3, 2014 at 8:11 pm -

        That vitamin D enriched non-fat milk is a joke. Without fat, the body cannot utilize the fat soluble vitamin D. One has to eat something fatty with the non-fat milk; so, what’s the point, right?

  4. ezraa April 19, 2014 at 2:48 pm -

    great article and always tie celery with jute.(fruit torcher)

  5. Pedro Alves April 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm -

    We need fat! If it says, diet, low-fat, light, TRASH IT!

    • Katie Schultz December 20, 2014 at 6:47 am -

      We need fat, but like with many things, we need it in moderation. By all means, don’t cut out all fats (though that would be hard to do anyway) but also don’t go too heavy on the fat!

  6. pic man May 23, 2014 at 8:30 pm -

    Excuse me, but doesn’t this invalidate the laws of science?

    • al March 28, 2016 at 7:58 am -

      One word – digestion. Energy for that shit aint just gonna pop up outta nowhere.

  7. KarlH July 26, 2014 at 5:46 pm -

    grapefruit should never be eaten if you take statins to control your cholesterol levels. also other drugs in combination with grapefruit may cause some unpleasant side effects. Apart from this, worth while trying. I actually already each most of the food listed and keep fit and trim

    • sf_jeff March 29, 2015 at 4:26 am -

      If you are taking statins for cholesterol, you should also be eating fiber, whole grains, and nuts. It is likely that nuts provide as much cholesterol protection as statin drugs, but they don’t have a huge advertising machine behind them.

  8. loriboxer August 2, 2015 at 1:49 am -

    The idea that there are negative calorie foods—foods that are so low in calories that simply digesting them burns more calories than they contain—is nothing more than wishful thinking. Certain low-calorie, water-rich foods like celery or cucumbers are often touted as negative-calorie foods. However, digesting and absorbing everything you eat each day uses just 10% of your total calorie intake each day (about180 calories for someone who eats 1,800 calories per day). It is great to include low-calorie, high-fiber, and water-rich foods in your daily diet; these foods add nutrients, bulk, and volume to your diet and can help keep you full … but they still contain calories and should always be included in your calorie count. NOTHING in life is ‘free … and no food is a “free” food. Eating too much of any food can cause weight gain or inhibit weight loss.

    • brain October 19, 2015 at 8:37 am -

      You use energy to get food into your body, more to chew it and transport it through your gut, some more to produce the chemicals to digest it, more to absorb it, more to transport it around your body and more to process it. The chemical energy you get from some food is not enough to cover the energy cost. Celery is one of these foods. Quite simple really. If you want to test this out try living on celery. You will slowly starve.

  9. nosugardiet.co November 22, 2015 at 8:35 pm -

    Yeah it’s very hard to mix these without knowing exactly what are the side effects. If there are …

  10. Lauren January 13, 2016 at 8:05 pm -

    I’ve heard that apricots have negative calories, but is the same for dried apricots? I’ve asked more people than I can count and they’ve given me lectures so can you please answer yes or no I’d really apreciate it thank you.