Zero-calorie food: is there such a thing?

Sure. Foods like celery and cucumbers have less calories than the body uses to break them down so these foods should rank high on your diet. A good added benefit of eating them is that you consume them in large quantities without gaining weight.

Low-calorie doesn’t mean low in nutrients. It makes sense to substitute high calorie foods for higher calorie ones. Stock your fridge with the following 20 foods that are loaded with vitamins and minerals, not calories.

Cucumbers are high in water content and provides a unique way to get water without guzzling it throughout the day. Additionally, eating foods with high water content can help take up space in your stomach temporarily…slowing your food consumption. Cucumbers are loaded with vitamins K and C, potassium, and a little-known compound called silica, which helps to build and maintain connective tissue, like muscle, tendons, ligaments, and bone.

Citrus fruits like grapefruit and, of course, oranges can help attack belly fat. People who consume lots of citrus fruits have higher vitamin C levels have a lower hip-to-waist ratio (a great thing) than those who have less of the nutrient. Those higher levels of vitamin C can also account for more calories burned during a cardio workout.

Celery is a seriously crunchy nearly zero-calorie snack. With just 6 calories per stalk, celery delivers when it comes to nutrients. One cup has a third of your recommended daily intake of vitamin K, vitamin A, fiber, folate, and potassium. If that’s not impressive enough, it also contains compounds called phthalides, which can relax muscle tissue in artery walls and increase blood flow, contributing to lower blood pressure.

The old saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is timeless because it’s true. Eating one apple a day can help your body maintain its weight. The fiber contained in apples is an aid in digestion. Also, apples contain ursolic acid, a compound that may prevent the pounds from piling on.

Sea vegetables for the win! Kelp is a sea vegetable full of vitamin K, which helps strengthen bones. Additionally, kelp has fiber called alginate, which may help block fat absorption, according to recent research. Only 6 calories per 4-ounce serving, kelp is much like celery. To make a distinguished dish with it, try mixing it into into salads, soups, and stir-fried dishes.

Asparagus is a nice vegetable to add to your diet and meal ideas. It’s different, has a unique and flavorful taste and is pretty easy to prepare. A half-cup of cooked asparagus is only 20 calories. And, as with all the foods mentioned thus far, you’ll get a lot of nutritional bang for your buck. Asparagus is loaded with vitamins K and A, and B and folic acid. And, since B vitamins play a role in breaking down sugars and starches, eating this food may help regulate blood sugar and fend off type 2 diabetes.

Apricots are an orange food that can packs the beta-carotene punch. It has eyesight-saving qualities like carrots. They can also help fight cancer and heart disease. Eating three or more daily servings of fruit rich like beta-carotene and other vitamins may lower your risk of macular degeneration; which is the most likely cause of age-related vision loss.

Anytime is the right time for watermelon, but this fruit is wildly popular in the summertime. Watermelon is filled with a little known nutrient called arginine, an amino acid that may help weight loss. Studies showed that obese mice that were fed arginine supplements burned more fat and gained more lean muscle than those that did not receive them. That may not sound good for humans, but the result is promising and watermelon is delicious…so it can’t hurt to fill up on this juicy summertime treat.

The amount of lycopene in tomatoes makes them a fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) that you can enjoy and benefit from. For those looking for the fountain of youth, tomatoes can help keep skin looking young and refreshed by eliminating free radicals that build up when you’re exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Just thing: The UV rays from all the sunny San Diego days can be offset (to a degree) by eating tomatoes. That seems like a great trade off.

Broccoli is a vegetable that goes well in many dishes. It may get a bum rap, but it’s a great low calorie food. And, a little known fact is that broccoli packs just as much vitamin C as an orange. Try it raw with low-fat cottage cheese or ranch dressing or add it to meals to introduce a distinct flavor to any of your staple dishes.

Cauliflower is another low calorie food that can sometimes be misunderstood because many people don’t know how to prepare it. If you’re watching your carb intake and you want a texture that may resemble that of a potato, then try boiling, mashing, and seasoning cauliflower to get a potato substitute that tastes almost like the real thing. (Almost). A half-cup of boiled cauliflower contains just 14 calories, but it contains nearly half your daily recommended intake of vitamin C.

Strawberries are a staple of red berries in the U.S. One cup provides more than 100 percent of our daily recommended intake of vitamin C. And, strawberries are high on the list of antioxidant-rich fruits you can eat. Its nutrients can protect your body from the type of cell and tissue damage that’s linked to heart disease and certain cancers. Just remember that a strawberry shake is not a good substitute for the real thing.

Leafy greens are perfect – you really can’t go wrong with a plate full of salad greens. At 4 calories per cup, watercress is loaded with vitamins A, C and K,and this leafy green has cancer-fighting antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene. Spinach (at 7 calories per cup) is brimming with a slew of nutrients: vitamin K, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and selenium. Also, spinach contains a hormone that allows muscle tissue to repair itself faster. For that reason alone, spinach should be a staple of every boot camper!

Red chili peppers are a great way to add a little spice to your meals and lose weight as well. Capsaicin, the compound that gives red chili peppers its kick, has been shown to help your body burn more calories. And, research shows we tend to eat less of spicy foods because of the heat. So, pile on those red peppers, jalapenos and other heat-inducing peppers to your next meal.

One of my most favorite vegetables is mushrooms. No matter how you cook them, whether sauteed or raw, mushrooms are an often-overlooked as a super-food. Research has shown that as mushrooms are digested mushrooms, your body produces cancer-fighting, immunity-boosting metabolites.

Red bell peppers are a great source of nutrients and vitamins. A medium sized one provides 250 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, 75 percent of your daily vitamin A needs, and 10 percent of your fiber goals. In short, red bell peppers pack a lot of nutritional punch for minimal calories. Chop them up and pair with hummus or drizzle with olive oil salt and pepper for a healthy snack.

Squash of any kind, zucchini, butternut, or acorn, are full of vitamins and belly-filling fiber. But summer squash has one distinct advantage: you can eat more of it without gaining weight. In fact, you can have two times more summer squash than winter squash for the same number of calories. I’d suggest not going overboard with the summer squash consumption however. Make it a nice grilled treat combining different types of squash with olive oil, some seasonings of your choice and maybe some mushrooms for a well-rounded awesome side dish.

Turnips can get lost in the vegetable shuffle, but its nutritional benefits shouldn’t can’t be ignored. The root alone contains cancer-fighting glucosinolates and is a good source of fiber, calcium, and potassium. If you’re unsure of how to cook this delightfully flavorful food, Google some recipes online to find some interesting and tasty ways to enjoy turnips.

This is a list of zero (and low) calorie foods, but no list is complete without a few low-calorie liquid options. Green tea is one of them. Whether you like it hot or iced, unsweetened green tea is calorie-free and high in an antioxidant called ECGC. ECGC may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. The best part is that is may help speed the metabolism as well. If you choose to enjoy green tea with a hint of sugar that will make it no longer calorie free. Just remember to use natural brown sugar instead of bleached white sugar.

Finally, water…water…water and more water. Your body needs it to function and your metabolism needs it to stay on track. Drinking water throughout the day can help you stay hydrated and curb your appetite as well.