Fad diets and supposed health gurus often tout the benefits of "negative-calorie foods" such as celery, but this term is slightly misleading. All foods, including celery, contain calories, but your body also burns calories digesting food, leading to the possibility of an overall deficit. Even so, celery is not a magic ticket to weight loss.
A medium stalk of celery, about 8 inches long, contains only six calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By weight, a stalk of celery is more than 95 percent water. The remainder of it consists mostly of carbohydrates and sugars. Celery also contains some vital nutrients, including 11.7 micrograms of vitamin K, 1.2 milligrams of vitamin C, 104 milligrams of potassium and 0.6 gram of dietary fiber per medium stalk.
About 10 percent of the energy your body spends every day goes toward digesting food and storing nutrients. Because celery contains so few calories, your body, in theory at least, exhumes more energy digesting it than the celery provides. Many other fruits and vegetables, including broccoli, berries and cauliflower, similarly receive the "negative calories" label, but celery stands out because its fiber is particularly difficult for your body to digest. No reputable study, however, has ever quantified or even verified this negative calorie amount.
Although the negative calorie effect is feasible, simply adding celery to your diet will not cause you to shed pounds. At most, the calorie deficit provided by celery is a few dozen calories. In order to lose a pound of fat, you must create a deficit of about 3,500 calories. So, it would take eating more than a hundred stalks of celery to lose a single pound. Some diet gurus also claim chewing celery helps burn calories, but this is nonsense. Chewing burns about as many calories as watching grass grow, according to NBC News chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman.
While the benefits of negative-calorie foods might be exaggerated, eating more celery still can help you lose weight. Low-calorie foods like celery will help fill you up and provide nutrients while keeping your daily calorie count at proper levels. Of course, slathering cream cheese or other fatty dips on the celery will quickly offset its benefits. Besides celery, the American Council on Exercise suggests blueberries, artichokes, grapefruit, spinach, oranges and watermelons as low-calorie treats to promote weight loss.
Celery is a healthy food, but it does not provide all the nutrients you need daily. Fad diets that require you to eat large amounts of one food, such as celery, while skipping foods with protein and other vitamins and minerals will be detrimental to your health in the long-term. A combination of a balanced diet and exercise always will be your best route to weight loss.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.