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Does Celery have Negative Calories?

Dean Pomerleau

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While I wouldn't consider celery a key CR food from a health/nutrition perspective, it is often touted as special because it is thought to be so low in calories that it takes more energy to digest it than it provides - meaning the more you eat, the more calorie restricted you'll be! Today Dr. Greger posted a video investigating this idea to determine if its a myth or a fact, relying primarily on study [1] for the evidence.


The researchers had 15 women eat 100g of celery (2 large stalks = 16kcal). Then, using a ventilated-hood indirect calorimetry system, they measured diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) in the women over the next three hours. They found that on average, they burned 14 extra calories digesting the celery, effectively leaving a net energy balance of +2 calories for 100g of celery.


So while not a negative energy food per se, celery appears to provide only about 1 net calorie per large stack, meaning its pretty safe to conclude you can snack on celery to your heart's content without worrying about gaining weight!





[1] Proceedings of the Nutrition Society / Volume 71 / Issue OCE3 / January 2012, E217

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0029665112003084


Exploring the myth: Does eating celery result in a negative energy balance?


M. E. Clegg and C. Cooper


Functional Food Centre, Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane, Oxford, OX3 0BP, UK


With the prevalence of obesity increasing across the world, there is growing demand for effective strategies to reduce the severity of the problem and moderate risks for developing other associated diet-induced diseases. Celery is a readily available whole-food that has the ability to add bulk and flavour to a meal, without adding excess calories. Celery is also subject to a renowned health myth, that when consuming celery there is a ‘negative’ intake of calories and therefore the energy required for its digestion, assimilation and nutrient storage is assumed to be greater than the energy it itself contains. The aim of the current study is to explore the diet induced thermogenesis (DIT) associated with celery consumption. Fifteen healthy female volunteers (age: 23.5 (SEM 0.6) yr; height: 1.67 (SEM 0.02) m; weight: 59.6 (1.8 SEM) kg) came to the laboratory for testing following an overnight fast. In the laboratory they rested for 30 minutes in a supine position before resting metabolic rate (RMR) was measured for 30 minutes using an indirect calorimeter. During the last 10 minutes of the 30 minute rest period, the ventilated-hood of the indirect calorimetry system was placed over subject’s heads to acclimatise them to the hood environment. Following the 30 minutes RMR measurements, whilst still under the hood and measurements were being taken, the volunteers then consumed 100 g of celery (16 kcal(1) in 10 minutes. For the subsequent 180 minutes, DIT was measured at regular 30-minute intervals for 20 minutes. Throughout the assessment, subjects rested quietly but stayed awake. Energy expenditure and substrate oxidation were calculated using the equations developed by Lusk(2). RMR varied considerably between volunteers, ranging from 1283.56 to 1893.69 kcal/day, with a mean value of 1657 (SEM 40) kcal/day. During the first 20 minute DIT measurements, all subjects experienced an increase in EE and fat oxidation: mean increase 0.15 (SEM 0.02) and 0.08 (SEM 0.01) kcal/min, respectively. Total DIT was 13.76 (SEM 2.65) kcal and total fat oxidation was 8.31 (SEM 1.76) kcal. From the consumption of a 16 kcal (100 g) sample of celery, 13.76 kcal were expended in total. In conclusion, it was found that the consumption of celery (16 kcal) did not induce a negative energy balance in healthy women. However the DIT of 100 g of celery was 86% of the total energy intake. This fact combined with the high fibre and water content of celery does make it a good snack for inclusion in a diet for weight loss or management.

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