Low-carb eating patterns have been linked to some major health benefits, such as improving blood sugar and triglyceride levels and promoting weight loss.
Though there are many types of low-carb diets, some of which are more restrictive than others, all low-carb eating plans involve reducing the consumption of high-carb foods, such as grains and starchy vegetables, while prioritizing foods low in carbs, such as non-starchy vegetables and protein sources like fish.
If you’re following a low-carb diet or are interested in transitioning to a lower-carb way of eating, it’s important to know which foods to focus on.
Here are 25 nutritious, low-carb foods and helpful tips for people following low-carb eating patterns.
A smart way to stay healthy and keep your digestive system moving when following low-carb diets is to prioritize fiber-rich, low-carb foods. Artichokes are packed with fiber, providing 6.84 grams per cooked medium artichoke. The same serving contains just 14.4 grams of carbs, making it a good choice for people on low-carb diets.
In addition to fiber, artichokes are high in vitamin C, folate, and several other nutrients essential to overall health.
Avocados are low-carb, high-fiber fruits that are a staple in low-carb eating patterns, like the keto diet. A half of an avocado provides 6.75 grams of fiber and just 8.5 grams of carbs. They’re also packed with vitamins and minerals, such as folate, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and vitamin E. What’s more, avocados are a good source of antioxidant compounds, such as carotenoids, which can help protect cells from oxidative damage.
Rich in protein and healthy fats and low in carbs, eggs are a go-to when eating low-carb. One large egg contains 6.3 grams of protein, 5.3 grams of fat, and less than one gram of carbs. Eggs are rich in vitamin A, B12, selenium, and many other nutrients.
In fact, egg yolks, which are the most nutrient-dense part of eggs, contain every vitamin except vitamin C. Eggs can be mixed with low-carb vegetables and cheese to make a high-protein, low-carb, filling breakfast.
Asparagus is another low-carb vegetable that has an impressive nutrition profile. A one-cup serving of cooked asparagus contains just 7.4 grams of carbs, yet provides 15% and 67% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C and folate, respectively. It’s also a good source of powerful antioxidants, such as glutathione, and quercetin, which can help boost your body’s natural antioxidant defenses.
If you’re looking for a low-carb-friendly vegetable that’s beneficial for your skin, immune system, and more, look no further than peppers. Not only are peppers low in carbs, but they’re one of the best sources of vitamin C, a nutrient that plays essential roles in immune function and collagen synthesis, that you can eat. One large sweet red pepper contains just 5.5 grams of carbs but covers over 130% of the DV for vitamin C.
When following a high-fat, low-carb diet, such as the keto diet, choosing foods that are concentrated in healthy fats yet low in carbs is essential. Fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and trout, are high in fatty acids, such as omega-3 fats; docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which play important roles in health, including regulating inflammation. All fresh seafood is low in carbs and high in protein, making fish and shellfish an excellent choice for those on low-carb diets.
Cauliflower is commonly used as a low-carb replacement for grains and grain products. For example, cauliflower can be chopped finely and used as a substitute for white rice in dishes like stir-fries. One cup of cooked cauliflower contains just 5.1 grams of carbs and 28.6 calories yet is high in nutrients like folate and vitamin K.
Though Brussels sprouts aren’t the most popular vegetable, they’re highly nutritious, low in carbs, and delicious when cooked in the right way. Brussels sprouts can fit into most any low-carb diet as they’re naturally low in carbs and high in fiber, providing six grams of fiber and just 14.4 grams of carbs per cooked cup.
Not only are Brussels sprouts low in carbs, but they’re high in beneficial compounds, such as carotenoids and sulfur-containing substances called glucosinolates, which have powerful antioxidant activity and may help protect your cells against oxidative damage. If you haven’t enjoyed Brussels sprouts in the past, try them roasted with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, or try them raw and thinly shaved in a salad.
Coconut is a high-fiber, low-carb ingredient that’s commonly used in low-carb recipes. Coconut flour and coconut flakes can be used to make low-carb baked goods and can be added to other recipes to increase the fiber and fat content.
A 1-ounce serving of unsweetened dried coconut meat provides 6.69 grams of carbs, 4.62 grams of fiber, and 18.3 grams of fat. This is why coconut is a favorite of people following the very low-carb keto diet. Just make sure you’re purchasing unsweetened coconut products, as sweetened coconut flakes can be very high in carbs.
Adding mushrooms to your diet can help support your intake of critical nutrients such as fiber, potassium, and selenium, a mineral that’s needed to create special types of proteins called selenoproteins, which help protect cells from oxidative damage and are necessary for the production of thyroid hormones.
Mushrooms are low in carbs and high in fiber, with a one-cup serving of cooked white button mushrooms providing 3.43 grams of fiber and just 8.25 grams of carbs.
Collard greens are amongst the most nutritious greens you can add to your diet. Collard greens are low in carbs, yet high in fiber, calcium, vitamin K, and several other vitamins and minerals.
One cup of cooked collard greens provides 5.59 grams of fiber, which covers nearly 20% of the DV, and just 7.5 grams of carbs. Try adding chopped collard greens to soups and stews or sautéing collard greens with olive oil for a healthy side dish.
Raspberries are amongst the lowest-carb fruits you can eat. They also happen to be high in fiber and other important nutrients, like vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin K, plus a variety of powerful antioxidant plant compounds, like anthocyanins and ellagitannins.
A 1-cup serving of raspberries provides a whopping 9.75 grams of fiber, which covers nearly 35% of the DV for fiber intake, which is currently set at 28 grams, and just 17.8 grams of carbs, which is relatively low for fruit.
Though small in size, chia seeds pack a serious punch when it comes to nutrition. Not only are these tiny seeds high in fiber, calcium, iron, and magnesium, but they can safely be added to low-carb diets, as they contain just 11.9 grams of carbs per ounce.
Many people on low-carb diets struggle to meet their daily fiber needs, which can increase the risk of side effects like constipation. Adding high-fiber foods, like chia seeds, to low-carb diets can help promote digestive health and ensure you’re providing your body with enough fiber to stay healthy.
Poultry products, like chicken, turkey, and duck, are a staple in low-carb diets as they’re carb-free, so long as they’re not marinated or breaded in carb-containing products.
Adding protein-rich foods, like chicken and turkey, into your diet can help improve feelings of fullness after meals, which can support healthy weight loss. Protein intake is also essential for muscle maintenance, immune function, and many other critical processes in the body.
Nuts and seeds vary in their carb content, making some nuts a better choice for people on low-carb diets than others. Pecans are lower in carbs than most other nuts, containing just 3.94 grams of carbs per ounce.
Pecans are an excellent choice for a low-carb snack, as they’re rich in fiber and vitamins and minerals like thiamine, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. They’re also high in healthy fats, which is a plus for people following low-carb, high-fat dietary plans, like keto.
Like pecans, macadamia nuts are low in carbs, yet high in other nutrients important for overall health, like manganese, thiamine, and copper. Macadamia nuts provide 3.91 grams of carbs per ounce, which is similar to pecans.
Macadamia nuts can be enjoyed as a low-carb snack and, when chopped in a food processor, can be used as a low-carb breading to coat protein sources like fish and chicken.
Red meat and organ meats, like liver, can be enjoyed on low-carb diets. These meat products are very low in carbs, yet high in protein and essential nutrients like B12 and iron, which are both important for healthy red blood cell production. A 3-ounce serving of steak contains zero grams of carbs and 23.8 grams of protein, making it a filling choice for people on low-carb diets.
If you’re following a low-carb diet, high-carb baked goods, like bread and cake, are off-limits. However, you can make low-carb-friendly baked goods using low-carb flour replacements, like almond flour.
Almond flour contains just 5.99 grams of carbs, which is significantly lower than the 23.85 grams of carbs found in the same serving of all-purpose flour. Try combining almond flour with other low-carb ingredients like eggs and monk fruit to make low-carb baked goods.
Turnips can be steamed and mashed to make a delicious, low-carb dish that’s a perfect substitute for mashed potatoes. A 1-cup serving of mashed turnips contains 11.6 grams of carbs, which is 25.4 grams less than what’s found in the same serving size of homemade mashed potatoes. In addition to being low in carbs, turnips are high in vitamin C and potassium.
Cacao nibs are small pieces of crushed cacao beans that have a rich, chocolatey flavor. Unlike most chocolate products, cacao nibs are low in carbs, containing 14 grams per ounce. This is because cacao nibs are unsweetened. Cacao nibs are also highly nutritious and loaded with antioxidants like the flavonoids catechin and epicatechin, which have powerful antioxidant properties.
Try adding cacao nibs to low-carb desserts, like monk fruit-sweetened chocolate avocado pudding.
Cheeses, like cheddar cheese and goat cheese, are very low in carbs, yet high in protein, healthy fats, and nutrients like calcium. Cheese can be added to dishes to boost their protein and fat content, which is important for people following low-carb diets like the keto diet.
A 1-ounce serving of cheddar cheese provides 6.78 grams of protein, 9.46 grams of fat, and less than 1 gram of carbs.
Olives are salty, low in carbs, and high in healthy fats and fiber, making them a nutritious snacking choice for people following low-carb diets.
A ¼ cup serving of olives contains 1.29 grams of carbs, so olives can be used to add flavor to salads, fish and meat dishes, snack boards, and other low-carb recipes without impacting their carb load.
For people following high-fat, low-carb diets, like the keto diet, regularly consuming healthy fat sources is key to reaching and maintaining ketosis. Oils, like coconut oil and olive oil, are carb-free, which is why they’re commonly used by keto dieters.
Choosing healthy sources of fat, like antioxidant-rich olive oil, can also help promote heart health. Olive oil contains antioxidant compounds like polyphenols, which help protect against atherosclerosis, a medical term used to describe the buildup of plaque in the arteries that increases the risk of heart disease.
Protein powders are a helpful way to boost your protein intake, especially for those on plant-based diets. Unfortunately, many plant-based proteins, like beans and lentils, are also high in carbs, making it difficult for people on plant-based, low-carb diets to meet their protein needs while limiting their carb intake.
Unsweetened protein powders, like pea protein powder, usually provide around 20 grams of protein and fewer than two grams of carbs per serving. Protein powders can be added to low-carb desserts, soups, smoothies, and other dishes to boost the protein content without impacting carbohydrate intake.
Like raspberries, blackberries are low in carbs and high in nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Just 1 cup of blackberries contains 13.8 grams of carbs and just under eight grams of fiber, which covers 28.5% of the DV for this important nutrient.
Blackberries are also rich in folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, and manganese, a mineral that’s necessary for energy metabolism and immune function.
Though anyone can enjoy low-carb foods as part of a healthy diet, low-carb foods should make up the majority of low-carb dietary patterns, such as the keto diet.
Low-carb foods can also be helpful for people with diabetes, as foods that are low in carbs have less of an impact on blood sugar levels compared to high-carb foods.
Here are a few other reasons a person may want to add more low-carb foods into their diet:
- To promote ketosis
- To control high blood sugar levels
- To support weight loss
- To help reduce triglyceride levels
Additionally, people with certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), may also benefit from transitioning to lower-carb dietary patterns.
“Net carbs” is a term that’s used to describe the number of carbohydrates left after subtracting the total fiber content and half the amount of sugar alcohols in a particular food or food product.
Net carbs are thought to be the carbohydrates your body actually absorbs. However, net carbs aren’t recognized by the FDA or the American Diabetes Association, and it’s unclear if counting net carbs is more useful than counting the total amount of carbs contained within food. This is due to individual digestive responses and the varying contribution of different types of fiber and sugar alcohols to total carbohydrate counts. This is why the American Diabetes Association recommended that people with diabetes count the total number of carbs found in a food, not net carbs.
Low-carb diets, which prioritize low-carb foods, have been linked to several health benefits, such as lowering blood sugar levels and promoting weight loss.
For people following low-carb diets, there are plenty of low-carb foods that are rich in important nutrients such as protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals to choose from.
Pecans, fish, cheese, avocados, olive oil, and Brussels sprouts are just some examples of nutritious, low-carb foods that can be enjoyed while following a low-carb diet.