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How Natural Foods Burn More Calories

Dr. Abby Campbell is a Naturopathic Doctor & President of 911 Body ResQ, an online store providing organic and non-GMO supplements.


Do you know that natural foods will burn up to 50 percent more calories than pre-packaged, processed, and refined foods? Also, do you know that not all calories are equal?

What is a Calorie?

A calorie is a measure of energy. Energy status in the body, or body weight change, depends on energy intake versus energy expenditure. Energy intake is made up of the calories taken in by the foods you eat. Energy expenditure includes physical activity, vital function at rest, digestion of foods, and bodily waste. If energy expenditure is greater than the input, body weight is lost. If energy intake is greater than the output, body weight is gained. If energy intake and expenditure are equal, body weight is maintained. One pound of body fat stores 3,500 calories. To lose that one pound of body fat, energy will need to burn the same amount of calories (3,500).


Is a Calorie Just a Calorie?

You've probably heard that a calorie is just a calorie and all that matters in losing weight is dependent on how many calories you are taking into your body. Though this is true to an extent, there are many other factors to be considered. In fact, the types of food you put into your body matter. Please read the four main reasons why natural foods are a better choice for your diet and why they are calories worth their weight in gold below.

Take the Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Is bread natural or processed?
    • Natural
    • Processed
  2. Is canned or frozen a better choice for veggies?
    • Canned
    • Frozen

Answer Key

  1. Processed
  2. Frozen

(1) Natural foods burn more energy than processed foods.

Natural foods are made from the earth, animals, and fish. This includes foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, tubers, legumes, lean beef, poultry, eggs, fish, and seafood. Processed foods are commercially prepared foods for convenience. They are usually foods that have been altered or preserved in packages, boxes, jars, cans, or plastic such as frozen dinners, white bread, and boxed cookies. They also have a long shelf life. Research shows that whole foods are more thermogenic. In other words, they consume nearly 50 percent more energy when digested than the empty calories provided by processed foods.1


(2) Fiber in foods don't count as calories.

Fiber is a form of carbohydrates found in specific plant foods. They contribute to satiety (feeling full) but their calories don't count because they are not absorbed into the body as they pass through the intestine without being digested.2 However, the undigested fiber does absorb water which creates "bulk" to make the muscles work easier in pushing out food waste from the body. You may increase your fiber intake by including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, tubers, and legumes.

(3) Protein foods burn more calories than carbohydrates and fats.

The thermic effect of certain foods increase energy expenditure that comes from the digestion and processing of them. This specific dynamic action is different for natural proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Research has shown that the thermogenesis of protein such as lean beef, poultry, eggs, fish, and seafood boosts metabolism by 20 to 30 percent. Carbohydrates and fats are not as thermogenic as protein.However, the thermic effect or specific dynamic action of these two groups of foods are higher than empty-calorie junk foods. In fact, the thermogenesis of carbohydrates is 5 to 10 percent, while it is 0 to 5 percent for fats.3

A good ratio of macronutrients for burning fat is different for each person. Personal stats (i.e., gender, weight, height, age, health condition) must be taken into consideration. However, a good starting point would be 35 percent protein, 25 percent carbohydrates, and 40 percent fat. Carbohydrates should be mainly green leafy and cruciferous vegetables and low-glycemic fruits like berries as most other carbohydrates contain high amounts of sugar which deters weight loss.4 Fats may include egg yolks and cold-water fish like salmon or tuna, nuts like walnuts and pecans, flax and chia seeds, flax and olive oil, aged cheese, and avocados.

(4) Natural foods curb cravings.

Most people will be hungry or crave certain foods after ingesting processed foods such as frozen dinners, refined rice, or cereal. Because of this, more of that same processed food is eaten. The cycle is vicious and it seems to be never-ending. This has to do with the "feel good" hormones not being satisfied within the brain. However, your body is actually craving nutrients (i.e., vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients), and it's not receiving what it needs. When the body actually gets what it needs, the brain will be satisfied and turn the cravings off.

Take the Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. For every 100 calories you ingest, how many calories will burn for digestion and absorption for protein?
    • 20 to 30 percent
    • 5 to 10 percent

Answer Key

  1. 20 to 30 percent

Burn More Calories Today by Eating More Natural Foods

Make sure you are eating healthy, well-balanced meals that include natural protein, carbohydrates, and essential fats. Make sure your carbohydrates are high fiber foods such as green leafy and cruciferous vegetables, as well as low-sugar fruits like berries. If you're dieting to lose weight, your meals will be slightly off balance. In such cases, make sure you are eating foods high in nutrients.


[1] Barr, S.B. & Wright, J.C. (2010, July 2). Postprandial Energy Expenditure in Whole-Food and Processed-Food Meals: Implications for Daily Energy Expenditure. Food & Nutrition Research, 54, 5114. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v54:0.5144. Retrieved from

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[2] Slavin, J.L. (2008). Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108, 1716-1731. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2008.08.007. Retrieved from

[3] Institute of Medicine of the National Academics (2005). Energy. National Academy of Sciences. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (114). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

[4] Obadike, O. (n.d) Ask the Ripped Dude: Is There a Magical Macronutrient Ratio for Fat Loss? In online. Retrieved from

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on June 23, 2013:

Thank you for stopping by, starbright. I appreciate your comment very much. :-)

Lucy Jones from Scandinavia on June 20, 2013:

Thanks for sharing your insights on burning more calories with natural foods. Voted up and shared.

Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on June 19, 2013:

Thank you for commenting, Ias81071. Keep talking to your family. Sometimes transitioning little by little helps too. You and your family will feel so much better! :-)

las81071 on June 19, 2013:

I have really been talking to my family about this. We need to get off the processed foods and the refined sugars. I am certain we will all lose weight and feel better. Thanks for the info. voting up.

Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on June 19, 2013:

Thank you, travel_man1971. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting. :-)

Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on June 19, 2013:

Thank you for the vote of confidence, Rose. I appreciate you! :-)

Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on June 19, 2013:

Thanks for commenting, Kathryn. Yeah, processed foods usually increase cravings as our bodies aren't receiving the nutrients it needs. Therefore, the brain says, "Feed me! I'm starving!" LOL.

Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on June 18, 2013:

Well done! I agree that most of our food intake should be natural foods. Thanks for sharing this information. :)

rose-the planner from Toronto, Ontario-Canada on June 18, 2013:

You always have such interesting and informative articles. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on June 18, 2013:

I have noticed that processed foods don't shut my cravings down. This is a very informative article, and I like the quizzes! Voted up and sharing.

Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on January 17, 2013:

Thank you, Kimberley. I appreciate your comment. Lots more great hubs to come! ;)

freecampingaussie from Southern Spain on January 17, 2013:

Your photos make this hub attractive & make me hungry lol ! Great information . Came across you while hub hopping !

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