Fresh vegetables are nutritious, healthy, and an essential piece of the healthy diet puzzle. Most veggies are generally low in fat and calories and contain doses of “just what the doctor ordered” – disease-preventing fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Yet, if you’re following a ketogenic or a low-carb diet, you may be seeking a different prescription altogether, one that steers clear from high-carb vegetables. In fact, there are certain veggies that are totally off limits, which we’ll explain in the next section. Just after, we’ll take a look at which low-carb vegetables work within the bounds of a carb-controlled meal plan.
Before we dive into the best healthy low-carb vegetables, let’s point out some of the high-carb veggies you’ll want to watch out for. On the 8fit meal plan, we encourage adding lots of non-starchy vegetables to your plate but we advise that you tread gently with the starchy ones such as potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, beets, parsnip, peas and corn. These should only be added when a recipe specifically asks for them. We’re not doubting their healthiness, but they add a fair amount of calories and starch.
In diet plans such as the ketogenic diet when it is advised to keep your carb level at less than 10% of total calories, starchy vegetables can kick you out of ketosis. A good rule of thumb when determining if a vegetable has a higher carb count is the taste and texture. Now enough about the starchy ones, let’s learn about the low-carb vegetables that’ll take your healthy diet to the next level.
How to taste high-carb:
Low-carb vegetables list
We’ve decided to classify these low-carb vegetables by their notable benefits and categories — cruciferous, nightshade, leafy, and stalky green veggies, without forgetting the fungi.
Cruciferous vegetables get their name from the Neo-Latin word “cruciferae,” which means cross-bearing because their four petals resemble a cross. These are unique because they possess sulfur-containing compounds which have been shown to possess strong cancer-fighting properties.
Brussels sprouts are high in antioxidants and have a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids which give them powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Glucosinolates in brussels sprouts can help protect the lining of the digestive tract. They’re best when roasted, grilled, steamed, or lightly fried (boiling them can make them soggy). Try them with onions, pecans, or raisins for perfect flavor complements.
Containing more than 100% of the recommended daily value (RDV) for vitamins C and K, this rockstar vegetable aids in bone health and immunity. Chop it finely and add it to a salad, boil it, or bake it. Don’t let the stem go to waste, peel off the outer layer and slice the stem finely, add some yogurt, raisins, and apple cider vinegar for a healthy broccoli slaw.
An excellent source of vitamin C which helps immunity and collagen formation, cabbage is also rich in soluble fiber which feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut. Cabbage takes center stage in a variety of dishes including sauerkraut, kimchi, and coleslaw. During the process of making sauerkraut and kimchi, the fermentation adds healthy probiotics.
Cauliflower is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. It’s packed with vitamin C, potassium, and choline which is known to help brain development. The mild taste of cauliflower makes it an excellent substitute for potatoes, rice, pizza crusts and even for adding creaminess to smoothies.
Leafy greens, also called salad greens, vegetable greens, or simply greens are the leaves of a plant, eaten as a vegetable. Sometimes they also include the stems. Leafy vegetables have many nutrients but their high levels of vitamin K are what makes them stand out.
Known as a superfood, spinach is stacked with bone-supporting vitamin K, vision-helping vitamin A, and DNA-protecting folate. It’s also a source of plant-based iron, which is best absorbed when eaten with a vitamin C source. Don’t be shy with your portions of spinach whilst cooking, its high water content means it reduces to about a quarter in size.
Kale is a good source of filling fiber as well as lutein and zeaxanthin which help eye health. It is also high in vitamin C which helps maintain healthy skin. If you want to eat it raw, remove the stem and massage the rest with some oil and vinegar – this will soften the tough fiber. Intrigued by kale chips? Try out the Kale Chips with Peanuts recipe we have in the 8fit app.
Nightshade vegetables have been named as so because these plants tend to prefer to grow in shady areas, with some even flowering at night. These veggies are full of amazing nutrients but due to their alkaloid components which give them their bitter taste, they may cause problems in some people with autoimmune diseases.
Tomatoes are a rich source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also high in vitamin C, potassium, and folate. In order to get the most out of the lycopene, make sure to eat the skin too and have your tomatoes with some healthy fat (think homemade tomato sauce).
The skin of eggplants is full of phytonutrients called anthocyanins that help prevent cancer and reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Being part of the nightshade family and causing trouble for some people, it was reportedly nicknamed “mad apple” in the Mediterranean due to the myth that eating too much would cause insanity. To lessen the bitter taste, add salt to sliced eggplant, wait 30 minutes, then rinse before cooking.
These colorful antioxidant-rich peppers have been shown to decrease oxidative damage linked to cancer and to reduce inflammation. They’re one of the highest food sources of vitamin A and C, helping to maintain bone health and improve immune function. Blend them into your pasta sauce or munch on them raw.
These lean, mean, and long green vegetables deserve recognition for their high amounts of water and electrolytes, both of which help keep you hydrated and prevent bloating.
One of the cucumber’s best benefits is its hydrating effects, being 95% water. Cucumbers help bowel movements because they hydrate with water content and contain pectin, a soluble fiber. Eat the peel for the maximum amount of nutrients, just make sure you’ve washed it properly.
Celery is full of electrolytes (potassium) plus antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components that help reduce blood pressure. Due to its high amount of water and possible diuretic effect, it can help reduce bloating. Celery is perfect for a grab-and-go snack. Simply add some natural peanut butter or hummus.
This summer squash is packed with energizing B vitamins as well as minerals like potassium and other electrolytes which help decrease inflammation. Look for medium-sized ones as larger ones tend to be more bitter. Save time and boost your nutrients by leaving the skin on.
Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin A, C, and K, as well as chromium, which helps balance insulin and blood sugar. Naturally detoxifying, asparagus helps fight free radicals and break down compounds that are cancer-causing. An easy way to cook asparagus is to bake them.
How to bake asparagus:
All mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms. Since some mushrooms are poisonous, take care if you’re out collecting wild mushrooms. Edible mushrooms include many types that are either harvested wild or cultivated.
Mushrooms are very low in carbs and contain strong anti-inflammatory benefits. They contain B vitamins and a powerful antioxidant called selenium which helps support the immune system and prevent cell damage. When mushrooms are cooked quicker, they retain more nutrients. Try grilling compared to boiling or frying.
Mushrooms and vitamin D:
Low-carb vegetables chart
Enjoy this low-carb vegetable chart, sorted from lowest carbs to highest. These carb counts are based on the USDA nutrient database and the Choose My Plate guidelines for what counts as 1 cup of a vegetable.