Does Celery Really Have “Negative” Calories? A Nutritionist Weighs In

You do burn calories chewing, after all.

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It’s a simple formula: take a low-calorie food, do some chewing, and you wind up burning more calories than you take in. Easy peasy, right?

Well, let’s break this down. Watery veggies like celery and cucumber are high in fiber and low in calories. If you’ve ever bitten into a celery stalk, you know it takes quite a bit of chewing (and digesting) to break down that veggie, and the act of chewing—like all our movements—burns calories.  

But negative-calorie foods are, in fact, just a myth, according to nutritionist Sharon Richter, RD. First of all, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that chewing gum burns about 11 calories an hour—and it definitely doesn’t take an hour to chew that celery stalk. The math doesn’t add up.

That said, foods like celery, cucumber, and lettuce are important for weight loss and management. For example, choosing to snack on celery instead of a cookie will obviously result in your consuming fewer total calories at the end of the day, which may help tip the scales over time. (Try dipping it in this artichoke and hummus dip for added fiber and protein, which may help curb your appetite throughout the day.)

Chewing celery won’t burn significant calories to have an independent effect on your weight or metabolism, however. “If you keep eating the cookies and add the celery, it’s not going to make a difference [for weight loss],” says Richter.

If you’re aiming to trim your calorie consumption, choosing some low-cal veggies is a smart move, but celery, cucumbers and the like shouldn’t comprise your entire diet. “They should be part of a well-rounded diet with plenty of other kinds of fruits and vegetables to ensure you’re getting a range of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs,” says Richter.

For activities that actually burn calories, try these 10 low-effort ways to burn 200 calories.