Low-carb and keto lifestyles are popular, and for good reason. While carbs can be part of a healthy diet, limiting them can be a smart choice for certain people, and focusing on quality carbs is a smart move for everyone.
Limiting carbohydrates, especially those that come from foods with empty calories, such as white, refined grains and sugar-sweetened beverages, can significantly improve your health.
A moderate to low carb lifestyle has been shown to help with chronic conditions related to blood sugar control, helping to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes. The diet has also been shown to help prevent cancer. A low-carb diet can even help boost your metabolism and aid in weight loss and maintenance.
Following a keto diet, or a low-carb diet, also encourages people to eat more vegetables. Few foods give more bang for your nutritional buck than vegetables. Vegetables not only provide vitamins and minerals, but can replace fiber from foods that tend to be limited on a low-carb or keto diet, such as whole grains, beans, and legumes.
Make sure to include at least five low-carb vegetables of different colors on your plate each day to maintain adequate fiber and nutrient status. Working with a registered dietitian to get you a low-carb meal plan can also help you stick with this lifestyle long-term.
Here are 20 low-carb and keto-friendly vegetables to try. (Note: Total carbs for a serving of each vegetable are net carbs, which is total carbs minus fiber).
Celery (0.2 carbs per small stalk)
Celery is an anti-inflammatory agent with many benefits, from lowering lipids and blood pressure to helping with weight management. The stem can be chopped and used in soups, salads or grain dishes. The stem also makes a great delivery system or cartridge for nut butters. Don’t forget the celery leaves! Studies have found that celery leaves can be beneficial for liver and cardiovascular health.
Asparagus (2.4 carbs per cup)
Asparagus can be a perfect choice if you are looking for more vitamins and minerals in your diet. This antioxidant-rich vegetable comes in green and purple, and one cup of asparagus provides an impressive amount of potassium, calcium, and folate. Asparagus is a great addition to main dishes, but you may wonder why it causes urine to smell after eating it. This happens due to the presence of asparagusic acid in asparagus. Once consumed, this acid breaks down into sulfur-containing compounds. The by-products of which create a unique odor that occurs during urination.
Fennel (3.65 carbs per cup)
While you may have fennel seeds in your spice rack, fewer people use fennel bulbs in everyday recipes. Fennel can be used in fresh or raw recipes as a sweet addition to salads, soups and sauces. Add it to your grocery list, especially if you’re a postmenopausal woman, as adding fennel to meals and snacks can benefit menopausal symptoms. A 2017 randomized controlled trial found that consuming fennel significantly reduced hot flashes, vaginal dryness, anxiety, and insomnia. An increase in belly fat is often typical of postmenopausal women, and a low-carb diet can help reduce belly fat. Too.
Eggplant (2.36 carbs per cup)
A 2019 randomized controlled trial found that eating eggplant can be beneficial for physical and mental health. Eggplant is rich in choline esters, which studies have shown to affect blood pressure and reduce psychological stress. Eggplant is also rich in fiber, which helps reduce overall carbohydrate digestibility. Enjoy eggplant as a tasty side by turning it into a nutrient-dense baba ganoush and serving it with low-carb crackers or vegetables.
Spinach (.34 carbs per cup)
Having more spinach today can mean a sharper brain tomorrow. Leafy greens are packed with magnesium, a mineral that a 2023 study found may reduce the risk of dementia in healthy people. A study found that people who consume at least 550 milligrams of magnesium per day (which is considered a higher intake) earlier in life may have a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases later in life. Add spinach to sauces, make a spinach salad with walnuts, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or add spinach to scrambled eggs in the morning.
Cabbage (3.5 g net carbs per cup)
Cabbage is colorful, versatile in recipes, rich in fiber and nutrients. It is also a vegetable that you may need to use more in your diet. Cabbage is a member of the cruciferous family (along with cabbage, kale, and broccoli) and has similar benefits to other cruciferous vegetables, such as prevention against certain cancers, better gut health, and improved blood vessel function. You can use kohlrabi greens in salads, and the bulb is a great medium for hummus, just peel and slice!
Brussels sprouts (4.54 carbs per cup)
Brussels sprouts have become a superstar in the cruciferous vegetable world, finding their way onto restaurant menus and family tables. They’re great baked, sautéed, or shaved into a protein bowl. They also have impressive health benefits, playing a role in improving blood vessel health, preventing certain cancers, and promoting gut health.
Tomatoes (4.84 carbs per cup)
Although technically a fruit, tomatoes are often used in meals and snacks like vegetables. The easiest way to consume tomatoes is in tomato sauce. Tomato sauce and tomato paste are rich in a carotenoid called lycopene, which has been shown in several studies to play a role in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Add tomato sauce to zucchini spirals and chicken meatballs for a low-carb version of the Italian favorite.
Radishes (1 carb per 1/2 cup)
Radishes may not be used as often as other vegetables, but their flavor lends itself to many uses. A 2023 study found that foods rich in anthocyanins (pigments found in red, blue, and purple plants) can help reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes. Julienne radishes and add to smoothie mixes or superb salads.
Arugula (0.41 carbs per cup)
Arugula stands out in the leafy green world for its peppery taste. However, taste isn’t the only thing it has going for it. It’s also rich in plant-based nitrates, which have been shown in studies to help improve blood pressure and overall heart health. Toss arugula greens with high quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice and top with grilled wild salmon.
Collard greens (2.02 carbs per cup)
Collard greens boast one of the highest sources of plant-based calcium. In fact, one serving provides over 20% of your daily mineral needs. This makes this herb a must have for anyone interested in maintaining good bone health. Greens are the perfect lettuce wrap for chicken or steak tacos.
Broccoli Rabe (0.06 carbs per cup)
Broccoli rabe is a blend of traditional broccoli stems paired with leafy greens, the best of both worlds! The combination also makes for a great way to get more folate; a B vitamin that many people don’t get enough of. Folate has been found to help reduce the risk of certain cancers and reduce the risk of neural tube defects in newborns. Saute broccoli with garlic and mix with chicken sausage for a delicious and filling meal.
Shallots (1.4 g net carbs per 1 tablespoon)
If you like to use onions and garlic to flavor dishes and snacks, then shallots will offer the best of both worlds. Shallots are part of the same family as onions and garlic in the allium family. Allium-rich foods release a chemical called allicin when crushed or chopped. This chemical is also associated with the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and the prevention of certain cancers.
Kale (0.067 carbs per cup)
This keto-friendly cruciferous vegetable comes in several varieties and is a nutritional powerhouse. Studies show that lutein is one prominent component; a powerful carotenoid can help protect and preserve brain function and improve eye health. Make kale your go-to snack by replacing high-carb snacks (think: chips and pretzels) with homemade kale chips.
Spaghetti Zucchini (7.53 carbs per cup)
No spaghetti on your low-carb plan? No problem! Not only is spaghetti squash a great low-carb alternative to spaghetti, but this super squash can also aid in overall weight loss and digestive health due to its high fiber status. To keep the carb content of spaghetti squash even lower, choose pesto or alfredo sauce instead of tomato sauce.
Portobello mushrooms (2.16 carbs per mushroom)
Want to be low on carbs while eating less meat? Portobello mushrooms are a perfect choice. Regardless of how you use mushrooms, studies show that the benefits to your health will be abundant. This is because mushrooms contain a large variety of antioxidants that have been shown to improve health markers. Stuff portobello mushrooms with cheese, herbs, and keto-friendly breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for a decadent meal or snack.
Cauliflower (3.27 carbs per cup)
Another superstar crusader in the keto world, cauliflower can be used like rice or even eaten as a frozen snack. A study published in the journal Hepatology found that cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower can help reduce the severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition that affects nearly 30% of all Americans and is the leading cause of liver cancer.
Borage (4.27 carbs per cup)
There is nothing boring about green beans and they will be your best companion when it comes to satisfying hunger on a low carb diet. That’s because green beans are low in calories but high in filling fiber. Steam green beans and pair them with grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and chopped almonds.
Zucchini (2.62 carbs per cup)
Zucchini is a low-carb wonder for meals and snacks. Vegetables are rich in water, which means they not only boost your health, but also hydrate you. Try Air Fry Zucchini Sticks as a satisfying side dish or snack.
Bell peppers (4.38 carbs per cup)
Peppers contain one of the most important signs of high nutrient density, rich color. Whether you use green, orange, yellow or red, these slightly sweet additions can enhance your meals while supporting a healthy immune system. That’s because bell peppers are a great way to get adequate vitamin C (essential for the immune system) while limiting more carb-rich citrus. Pair chopped peppers with mushrooms and onions and mix them with scrambled eggs for a nutrient-dense, protein-rich omelet.
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