The 7 Biggest Myths About Calories

You may think you know all about calories. Many people have been counting them, cutting them, and adding them up for most of their lives. But when it comes to weight loss, there’s actually still a lot of confusion out there about calorie counting. It turns out that many of the most common beliefs on the subject are really just myths. Here are seven of the most persistent calorie counting myths — plus the facts, straight from experts.

1. All Calories Are Created Equal

Plenty of people believe that as long as they stick to a certain number of calories per day, they’re eating healthy. This myth can get in the way of eating a balanced, nutritious diet. “You cannot compare 100 calories of salmon to 100 calories of soda,” says Samantha Cassetty, RD, former nutrition director of Good Housekeeping, who is based in New York City.

She points out that salmon is loaded with beneficial nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and protein — one reason the American Heart Association recommends eating it twice a week — that work really hard to nourish your body. “With soda, it’s the opposite — those calories are working against you,” she says. Not only are they lacking in nutrition, but they are also full of sugar, and drinking them has been associated with an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, past research shows. “It’s a total mistake to think all calories are the same,” Cassetty says.

2. Celery Has Negative Calories

With only about 9 calories a stalk, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s obvious how this myth got started. It’s easy to imagine that the act of chewing celery “erases” enough of those calories to take the food into negative calorie territory. “It’s an idea leftover from another era,” says Cassetty.

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