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In The Family
Does Celery Really Have Negative Calories?

An urban legend says that you burn more calories eating celery than the vegetable contains. And it might be true! Kinda.

The “negative calorie diet,” popularized by pop-nutrition evangelists like chef Rocco DiSpirito, sure is compelling. Certain low-calorie foods, like celery, the theory goes, are so low in calories that the act of chewing and digesting them burns more calories than they provide.

As Food & Wine reported in 2016, a study by University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and the University of Warwick shows that in the case of celery, this may very well be true. A few stalks of celery can contain a couple dozen calories, while over a 12-hour period, a test subject burned 20 to 40 calories more than that amount, resulting in a slight net calorie loss. But before you switch over to an all-celery diet in an attempt to shed some pounds, keep in mind that these losses are really slight.

The demonstration used all of one participant, and everyone’s metabolic process is different. Plus net loss is the equivalent of skipping a teaspoon of two of sugar—not exactly major goals. So sure, eat more celery, but do it because it’s a great vehicle for peanut butter, not because it’s a shortcut to a beach body.

Also read: Stalking a Celery Salad. The Best Celery Salad.

Max Falkowitz

Max Falkowitz is a food and travel writer for The New York Times, Saveur, GQ, New York magazine’s Grub Street, and other outlets. He’s also the coauthor of The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook with Helen You.