Does Celery Really Have Negative Calories?

Negative calorie foods are every dieter's dream. You can just eat a ton of whatever and watch those pounds magically melt away! While thousands of snake-oil salesmen will try to sell you pills that also promise to do the same thing, the beauty of negative calorie foods is that you can buy them at the supermarket, usually on the cheap, and they won't have any side effects, as medication can.

Of all the foods frequently touted as having negative calories by food gurus such as celeb chef Rocco DiSpirito, one of the best known is good old celery. Perhaps the world's most boring vegetable, celery is basically just a bunch of green stringy stuff. It actually kind of makes sense that the effort you'd need to expend digesting all that fiber (not to mention chewing your way through it) could easily burn more than the mere 10 calories provided by a fairly sizable stick of the stuff.

Nope, celery doesn't really have negative calories

Sadly, negative calories — in celery, and in any other food — seem to be pretty much a myth. There was one study reported in Food and Wine that purported to "prove" celery's negative calorie effect, but it involved only one subject, British TV food presenter Matt Tebbutt. This study, which involved placing Mr. Tebbutt in a metabolic chamber for 12 hours, measured the number of celery calories he consumed by eating nothing but the stuff in various forms (poor guy) and the number of calories he burned. While the results of this experiment seem to show that he did, in fact, expend more calories than he consumed, nutritionist Alex Turoff, RD cast doubts on the results of this and similar negative calorie claims, saying they may be failing to take into account the subject's basal metabolic rate.

Dr. Tim Garvey, chair of the department of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, admits that in theory, there could be such a thing as a negative calorie effect in some foods, but asserts that this is definitively not the case with celery (via BBC). In his estimation, a human body would only burn off perhaps 2 of the 10 calories in a celery stick via the digestive process, so each stick you eat is still a net gain of 8 calories overall.

Celery isn't really a stand-alone snack, anyway

Yet another problem with celery as weight loss miracle is that — be real — who actually eats the stuff plain (except that unlucky British TV guy)? Yes, celery is super-healthy if you can choke it down au naturel, but it's so much better filled with peanut butter or cream cheese.

So anyway, yeah, sorry, no good news about celery magically burning off all those extra pounds. But as a consolation prize, here are some tips to help you enjoy celery as it was obviously intended to be consumed: alongside a plate of Buffalo wings.