Can Anything Besides Water Have Zero Calories?

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Regardless of whether you consider yourself someone who eats to live, lives to eat or avoids the choice altogether by taking the Soylent route, we all need to provide our bodies with the energy required to do the work that keeps us alive. We get that fuel by consuming other living things that have stores of energy, which we measure in calories. And everything we eat or drink comes from something that was once alive; therefore, it has a certain amount of calories—except for water.

While certain foods are sometimes described as being naturally calorie-free—or even the paradoxical calorie-negative, i.e., foods such as apples and asparagus that allegedly take more calories to consume than they possess—all foods do have some calories, even if it’s a very small amount. The only way to achieve flavor without calories is to add something to water that has flavor, but has such small caloric value that it’s impact is negligible. Naturally occurring options include a squeeze of lemon juice or the herbs used to make tea.

You also can add flavor with materials that absolutely do not occur in nature—e.g., the artificial sweeteners in diet soda. These products aren’t metabolized upon consumption, but mimic the shape of the molecules that bond to taste receptors in your mouth, so you taste sweetness without absorbing any real energy (or nutrition for that matter). They’re like Jurassic World—an empty shell, impersonating a familiar experience, designed to trick your body into perceiving them as satisfying.

If you’re trying to give your metabolism a break, water is the only option. But this plan has a shelf life of 40 days or so, after which you better find some calories. Otherwise, you won’t be living to eat, or eating to live—you’ll be dying for some Soylent.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question—especially when it comes to your body, your health or your hygiene. Send us the things that you’ve always wondered about to bm@dollarshaveclub.com.