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The list of low-energy ingredients is full of treasures

Lettuce, tomato and no sauce, daily, at dinner time … to close the day well. This bleak picture of some low-calorie diets has its good side: it inspires those looking for low-energy foods to prepare their own dishes (many do not deprive themselves of extra virgin olive oil , which gives a very different perspective to the theme). But, as interesting as these classic foods are , inspiration ends up going away, which is unfair. So it is with the wide variety of foods that have almost zero calories and numerous nutritional advantages – options that we can all take advantage of. To get to know them better, BUENAVIDA consulted the Spanish Food Composition Databaseand identified 25 that have less than 40 calories per 100 grams of edible portion, the limit that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) sets for declaring a food low in energy. But we also find five authentic kings of gastronomy that slightly exceed this limit and that are not fruits or vegetables. One of them is meat, and just listening to its name will make our mouth water. A clue: no name starts with counter and ends with steak .. .

100 grams of edible portion of these delicious seasonal fruits only have 36 and 38 calories, respectively. And the unmistakable flavor of these delicacies from nature is not the only point in favor for the attentive diner: 100 grams of strawberries contain more vitamin C than an orange (60 against 50 mg). The vitamin C has high antioxidant power, a property he shares with other bioactive substances in this fruit such as anthocyanins and polyphenols. “In addition, their fiber content, common to the group of fruits and vegetables, makes these fruits an appropriate food for diets that deal with the problem of constipation”, says dietitian-nutritionist Manuel Moñino, from the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics .

Celsão: rightly a reference

According to one theory, celery is a food with negative calories. That is: when we take into account the effort that the organism makes to digest it, eating celery takes more calories from the body than it offers. The idea is bold, but ( according to a recent study ) wrong. Still, 100 grams of the vegetable contains only 11 calories. There are two celery harvests a year in Europe, one in winter and one in spring, but the best specimens arrive at the table in autumn and winter, according to documents from the Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN) consulted for this article.

Onion: could we live without it?

It is a tasty ingredient, especially attractive in the spring, without which Spanish (and Brazilian) cuisine would be impossible. The highlight is its content of antioxidants, known as flavonoids, protective substances that the body cannot synthesize. About 5,000 of them have already been cataloged. In many cases, antioxidants act as pigments in nature and, in fact, the purple or rosacea color of some onion varieties are the result of some flavonoids, anthocyanins. The preparation techniques do not remove significant amounts of these substances, nor do the calories vary excessively: raw food has 26 calories, while roast adds 38 and boiled, 18. “Onions are part of the traditional stew, key to the recipes of the Mediterranean diet. Along with the tomato, the eye,

Octopus, source of zinc

It is as smart as it is tasty, and its calories are relatively scarce. We would have to eat a lot to avoid it, considering that, cooked, the octopus has 69 calories per 100 grams. This, of course, without counting the calories of olive oil to prepare it in the Spanish style, an inevitable method (or is there a better way to eat octopus?). Its low calorie content is due to a combination of low fat content and high protein intake. And its amount of zinc is important: one serving provides 30% of the recommended intake for women aged 20 to 39 with moderate physical activity , and 76% for men, according to figures from FEN.

Endive, root of health

The history of this food is a mixture of chance and observation. In fact, it is a variety of chicory discovered by Belgian farmers in 1850, when they saw that they could give rise to roots of the plant when they stored it under certain conditions of temperature and humidity, and in total darkness. As for energy, eating endives is almost like not eating, as they only have 9 calories per 100 grams. But it is a food rich in fibers and nutrients such as folic acid, manganese and vitamin K. In any case, “when it comes to fruits and vegetables, calories should not be a barrier to choosing the one we like best, season or the one that is most available to comply with the recommendation to eat at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables ”, says Moñino.

Fungi: the ‘wizard’ of the Sun

The most popular mushroom has only 14 calories per 100 grams. And it contains ergosterol, a substance that, in contact with sunlight in the autumn, turns into a form of pro-vitamin D that, once ingested, becomes the active version of the vitamin in the kidney.

The classic orange (or tangerine?)

If it’s for the calories, there’s a technical draw. The first has 38, the second 40. As is well known, vitamin C stands out among all its nutritional virtues: a medium orange offers the recommended daily dose. What not everyone knows is that it loses fiber when ingested in the form of juice. The orange also increases the sugar content, since it can contain the sugar of 3 oranges, and “we start to consider this as an addition of sugar”, says Moñino. Undoubtedly, they are important reasons to eat the whole fruit.

Spinach: must not be missing

When boiled, it contains only 22 calories. It is a source of vitamins (B2, A, C, E, K and folic acid) and minerals (iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium). It also has soluble and insoluble fibers, which can play an important role in preventing many diseases and are essential for a healthy diet.

Watercress is not weed

The Romans liked him, but not everyone agrees with his imperial taste. This food was considered a weed for a long time. Its scientific name, Nasturtium , is derived from the combination of the Latin terms nasus and tortus , “nose” and “crooked”. The origin of the appealing “nose vise” comes from the fact that its spicy smell irritated the prominent organ. As for nutritional qualities, watercress contains vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin C, in addition to being a source of potassium, manganese and calcium. And it only has 12 calories.

Mussels: very (and delicious) iron

They contain only 48 calories, the same number as oysters. Of course, it is also necessary to consider the calories of the sauce and bread we dipped in it, but it is still worth opting for this delicacy. Better to prepare it grilled, sautéed or roasted if we want to stop the energy content. A portion of mussels (between 50 and 60 grams of the clean product) contains 85% of the reference value for iron. It also includes vitamins like niacin, in addition to being a unique source of gastronomic pleasure.

Zucchini, for its mucilage

This vitamin C-rich food is (surprise!) From the pumpkin family, but it has more water and less fiber. It stands out for its mucilage content, a type of soluble fiber much appreciated as a laxative. The boiled pumpkin contains 12 calories per 100 grams of edible portion, while the zucchini has 17.

Meatloaf: light protein

Not everything will be fruit and vegetables. If you like meat , you already know that there is a cut of the cow that costs as much as the calories it takes from your diet. That’s because the sirloin has only 110 calories per 100 grams – 75% of which are in the form of protein. Another cut that stands out for its low calorie content is the kidney, which is 80% water. Both kidney from cow and other animals bring a large amount of nutrients, including selenium: one serving contains more than 160% of the recommended intake for a 20- to 39-year-old man with moderate physical activity. “But it is a meat (the veal) whose consumption should be limited to a fortnightly frequency, with preference for poultry, rabbit or even lean cuts of pork”, a proposal that better fits the recommendations of a healthy diet, warns Moñino.

Skimmed and ‘devalued’ milk

In terms of energy, the difference is not very big between skimmed and whole cow’s milk. The skim has 34 calories; the whole, 65. The difference is in the fat content, which is 3.8 grams per 100 in whole milk and 0.2 in skim. “Despite the little difference, the feeding guides recommend to choose low-fat dairy products preferentially”, says Moñino.

Turnip leaves, a super-vitamin tradition

It is the Galician food resource par excellence, a classic that has dressed the tables of Galicia with its dark green for generations. Not only is it a low calorie food, only 11 kilocalories per 100 grams, it is also a good source of fiber, folic acid and vitamins C, K and A. In addition, it has iron and manganese. A 150-gram serving provides 175% of the recommended intake of vitamin A and 135% of folic acid.


This fruit already appears in Egyptian hieroglyphs, a testimony that about 3,500 years ago it was already cultivated on the Nile. It is undoubtedly a cultural contribution that every inhabitant of the Iberian Peninsula should be grateful for. With 95% of its weight in water, it is the fruit that contains more liquid and is an excellent dessert for peninsular heat. Bearing in mind that water contains zero calories, it is not surprising that 100 grams of watermelon only contribute 20 kilocalories.

… or melon?

For all it refreshes, no one is unaware that this summer fruit also has a lot of water – 92%, specifically. It can be tasted in Spain in at least eight varieties (although it is necessary to learn to distinguish the good from the bad) and, along with the strawberry and mango, it is one of the fruits with the highest folic acid content. If you miss it when autumn comes, you should know that you can buy Tendral melon from November to January. Its 27 kilocalories are not much more than those of watermelon, but in terms of fruit, it is not about calories, because the difference in the diet is marked by other foods rich in energy and poor in nutrients.

The healthy spicy touch of radish

Virtually 95% is water and is only 16 kilocalories per 100 grams. One of the most important components of this root is glucosinolates, substances common in other vegetables of the family, such as cabbage and cauliflower, which have a high antioxidant power and are responsible for giving this food its interesting spicy touch.

Pod, even pickled

No matter how busy the day, there is always time for pickled or frozen pods. It’s a quick and light option: only 12 kilocalories per 100 grams. “However, we must consider the supply of salt, so it is better to prefer frozen or preserved foods with little salt”, advises the nutritionist.

Fresh cod, a very thin fish

It is only about 83 kilocalories per 100 grams. As fat accumulates in the liver – from which an oil rich in omega 3 is extracted -, instead of in the muscles, cod is among the leanest fish that exist. It is also the protagonist of numerous and insurmountable recipes.

Cooked cauliflower, simple but safe

It has only 27 kilocalories, so you can season it with a little extra virgin olive oil that gives it an excellent flavor. More than 90% of it is water, which reflects its low energy value.

Is mustard the definitive sauce?

Sauces are the sin of the most appetizing dishes, but have they earned a bad reputation? Don’t suffer, there is also a low calorie solution here … and it is not a light resource . If you trust the words of Pythagoras, you will have to accept that memory increases, if you trust the scientific method, you will know that 100 grams of mustard have only 133 kilocalories. That is, you can use it without problems, since the quantities of consumption are much smaller. But it has a high proportion of sodium, which means that eating mustard should not become a habit, because the Spanish population consumes almost twice the amount of salt recommended by the World Health Organization, warns the nutritionist. If your taste is spicy, tabasco will interest you: it has only 15 kilocalories.

Cucumber, better with peel

Its freshness is comparable to its energetic lightness. 100 grams of cucumber contains only 12 kilocalories and, if you don’t like it raw, you can eat it tanned in vinegar, a variant that provides practically the same energy. Of course, it is very rich in salt, which makes it an occasional option – some athletes use it to eliminate cramps in the most demanding moments of the competition. It is not particularly rich in nutrients, and it is best not to remove the peel, as this makes better use of fibers, vitamin K and bioactive substances. “It is a basic ingredient for making salads, gazpachos and salmorejos [cold tomato-based soups]. It’s not just a matter of calories or nutrients, flavors and textures also make a difference, ”says Moñino.

Thistle, bitter as potassium

Its slight bitter taste is due to its high potassium content. “Not in vain, a 150-gram serving provides 30% (600 milligrams) of daily recommendations,” says the expert. It has the same energy as catnip , known as “cat’s grass” because its odor attracts cats and, by placing only 100 grams in the salad, more than half of the recommended daily vitamin C can be obtained. 100 grams of edible portion contains only 22 kilocalories.

Tomato, the ‘king’ of lycopene

This versatile food, which has an incomparable flavor and provides only 19 kilocalories per 100 grams, has numerous nutritional benefits. For example, it provides fiber and is rich in vitamin C. It also stands out for its high content of lycopene, an antioxidant whose effect is enhanced by the heat of cooking, one of the reasons for the masterful combination of the traditional braised. These carotenoids are more abundant in pear tomatoes, more ripe fruits and those that were grown outdoors and ripened in the plant.

Chili is a hit

It is a garnish that does not clash in a multitude of dishes and is calorically cheap: the raw pepper is only between 18 and 28 kilocalories per 100 grams of edible portion. And it is the vegetable that has the most vitamin C (129 milligrams per 100 grams, almost double that of strawberries, which has 67).

Chard, almost like eating water

This vegetable is 94.4% water, which justifies providing only 21 kilocalories per 100 grams of edible portion. Among its nutritional properties, it stands out that a portion of 150 grams of chard provides almost 30% of the recommended amount of iron, and almost 145% of folic acid, which help to form red and white blood cells, and DNA .

Red cabbage to lighten the banquet

Cooking it for Christmas is as classic in some regions of Spain as it is light in calories, a gift for Kings Day in a time of banquets and gastronomic fellowship – in which you can gain up to two pounds. This cabbage is only 18 kilocalories per 100 grams of edible portion, half of white, curly cabbage and Brussels sprouts. But as far as vegetables are concerned, it is not a question of calories, since they are, in general, low in energy. “While it is important to control total energy intake, it is more important to limit foods that, in addition to energy, provide few nutrients of interest and are rich in fats, sugars or salt, such as fast food , soft drinks, savory snacks, cakes and others highly processed foods, ”says Moñino.

Lettuce even on sandwiches

It is rightly a classic of diets. This crisp and showy vegetable contains only 16 kilocalories per 100 grams – in this respect, a competitor of it, the endive, is victorious with only 12. They say that a leaf of romaine has a single calorie, a calculation that makes it the ideal food controlling the energy you eat, although counting calories is not always the best way to lose weight.

Blackberry, a dark attraction

It is rich in fibers, a characteristic that it shares with the rest of wild fruits, and has a deep and attractive dark color. The characteristic shade of the fruit, which ranges from white to purple, passing through red, as it ripens, is the result of two antioxidant substances known as anthocyanins. This fruit also contains pterostilbene, a substance similar to grape resveratrol, which is a compound with a reputation for promoting longevity, although there is still much to investigate about it … And it only has 37 kilocalories per 100 grams.

What if we ordered lobster today?

This animal moves along the bottom of the sea its body of 91 kilocalories per 100 grams of edible portion. The crustacean offers proteins of high biological value and is rich in minerals, such as selenium, zinc or iodine, but it is also forbidden to people with gout, due to its purine content . Don’t turn your back on it, maybe you can order it from time to time, which does not mean that you will eat it every day.