April 24, 2024

Many people follow a low-carbohydrate diet to lose weight, lower blood sugars, or treat certain diseases. It may be challenging for people who are just starting out to prepare nutritious low carb meals. But eating low carb doesn’t have to be complicated — there are plenty of healthy low carb foods to choose from.

Here are 43 low carb foods, most of which are healthy, nutritious, and delicious.

The carb content for standard servings and carbs in a 100-gram (g) portion is at the end of each chapter.

However, remember that some of these foods are high in fiber, which may lower the digestible net carb content even further.

Eggs and all types of meat are close to zero carbs. Organ meats are an exception, such as liver, which contains about 4% carbs (1).

Eggs

Eggs are low in carbs and contain a wide range of healthful nutrients. Eating eggs has links to improved memory in older age and a reduced rate of eyesight degradation (2, 3).

Carbs: Almost zero (4).

Beef

Beef is highly satiating and contains important nutrients like iron and vitamin B12. There are dozens of different types of beef, from ribeye steak to ground beef to hamburger.

Carbs: Zero (5).

Lamb

Like beef, lamb contains many beneficial nutrients, including iron and vitamin B12. Lamb tends to be high in the beneficial fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) (6).

Carbs: Zero (7)

Chicken

Chicken is among the world’s most popular meats. It’s high in many beneficial nutrients and an excellent source of protein.

If you’re on a low carb diet, it may be better to go for fattier cuts like wings and thighs.

Carbs: Zero (8).

Pork, including bacon

There are many forms of pork products, with bacon being a common part of low carb diets.

However, bacon is processed meat, so some bacon products may contain additional ingredients that raise its carbohydrate content.

It is important to check the nutritional content of any bacon products before adding them to the diet. Try to buy your bacon locally, without artificial ingredients, and ensure not to burn it during cooking.

Carbs: Zero, but read the label (9).

Jerky

People can cut and dry various cuts of meat to make jerky. As long as it doesn’t contain added sugar or artificial ingredients, jerky can be a useful low-carb snack.

However, like bacon, some jerky products are highly-processed and may contain added ingredients. This may be true of highly-seasoned or specially-flavored products.

Making jerky yourself can help ensure it has a low carb content.

Carbs: Depends on the type (10).

Other low carb meats

Other healthful meats with naturally-low carbohydrate content include:

Fish and other seafood tend to be incredibly nutritious and healthy.

They’re particularly high in B12, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids — all nutrients many people don’t get enough.

Like meat, almost all types of fish and seafood contain next to no carbs.

Salmon

Salmon is one of the most popular types of fish among health-conscious individuals — for good reason.

It’s a fatty fish, which contains significant amounts of heart-healthy fats — in this case, omega-3 fatty acids.

Salmon also contains vitamin B12, iodine, and a decent amount of vitamin D3.

Carbs: Zero (11).

Trout

Like salmon, trout is a type of fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other important nutrients.

Carbs: Zero (12).

Sardines

Sardines are oily fish that you typically eat whole, including their bones.

Sardines are a particularly nutrient-dense food and contain high amounts of calcium, selenium, and vitamin B12.

Carbs: Zero (13).

Shellfish

Most shellfish are low in carbs and contain high quantities of many nutrients. In fact, they rank close to organ meats in their nutrient density.

Carbs: 0–4 g of carbs per 100 g of shellfish (14, 15, 16, 17).

Other low carb fish and seafood

  • shrimp
  • haddock
  • lobster
  • herring
  • tuna
  • cod
  • catfish
  • halibut

Most vegetables are low in carbs. Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables have particularly low levels, and most of their carbs consist of fiber.

On the other hand, starchy root vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes are high in carbs.

It is important to note that all nutritional values in this section relate to the weight of raw, unprocessed vegetables.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a tasty cruciferous vegetable that you can enjoy raw or cook in many different ways. It’s high in vitamin C, K, and fiber and contains potent cancer-fighting plant compounds (18).

Carbs: 6 g per cup, or 7 g per 100 g (19).

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are technically fruits or berries, but many people classify them as vegetables. They’re high in vitamin C and potassium.

Carbs: 7 g in a large tomato or 4 g per 100 g (20).

Onions

Onions are common in many dishes and add powerful flavor to your recipes. They’re high in fiber, antioxidants, and various anti-inflammatory compounds (21).

Carbs: 11 g per cup or 9 g per 100 g (22).

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are highly nutritious vegetables that are part of the same cruciferous family as broccoli and kale. They are very high in vitamins C and K and contain numerous beneficial plant compounds.

Carbs: 8 g per cup or 9 g per 100 g (23).

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that you can use to make various interesting dishes in your kitchen.

It’s high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate.

Carbs: 5 g per cup or 5 g per 100 g (24).

Kale

Kale is a very popular vegetable among health-conscious individuals, offering numerous health benefits.

It contains high levels of fiber, vitamins C and K, and carotene antioxidants.

Carbs: 1 g per cup, or 4 g per 100 g (25).

Eggplant

Eggplant is another fruit that people commonly consume as a vegetable. It has many interesting uses and is very high in fiber.

Carbs: 5 g per cup or 6 g per 100 g (26).

Cucumber

Cucumber is a popular vegetable with a mild flavor. It consists mostly of water, with a small amount of vitamin K.

Carbs: 4 g per cup or 4 g per 100 g (27).

Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are popular fruits/vegetables with a distinct flavor. They’re very high in fiber, vitamin C, and carotene antioxidants.

Carbs: 9 g per cup or 6 g per 100 g (28).

Asparagus

Asparagus is a highly delicious spring vegetable. It’s very high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, vitamin K and carotene antioxidants.

What’s more, it contains more protein than most vegetables.

Carbs: 5 g per cup or 4 g per 100 g (29).

Green Beans

Green beans are technically legumes, but people often consume them similarly to vegetables.

Calorie for calorie, they’re extremely high in many nutrients, including fiber, protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium.

Carbs: 7 grams per cup or 7 g per 100 g (30).

Mushrooms

Though they’re technically not plants, many people categorize edible mushrooms as vegetables.

They contain good amounts of potassium and are high in some B vitamins.

Carbs: 2 g per cup or 3 g per 100 g (white mushrooms) (31).

Other low carb vegetables

  • celery
  • spinach
  • zucchini
  • Swiss chard
  • cabbage

Except for starchy root vegetables, almost all vegetables are low in carbs. That’s why you can eat many of them without exceeding your carb limit.

While many fruits are rich in nutrients, they’re highly controversial among people following a low carb diet.

That’s because most fruits are high in carbs compared to vegetables.

Depending on how many carbs you aim for, you may want to restrict your fruit intake to 1–2 pieces per day.

However, this does not apply to fatty fruits like avocados or olives. Low-sugar berries, such as strawberries, are another excellent choice.

Avocado

The avocado is a unique type of fruit. Instead of being high in carbs, it contains high amounts of fats.

Avocados are also extremely high in fiber and potassium and contain decent amounts of other nutrients.

When looking at the listed carb numbers below, remember that most of the avocado carbs are fiber. Therefore, it contains almost no digestible net carbs.

Carbs: 12 g per avocado or 9 g per 100 g (32).

Olives

The olive is another delicious high fat fruit. It’s very high in iron and copper and contains a decent amount of vitamin E.

Carbs: 8 g per cup or 6 g per 100 g (33).

Strawberries

Strawberries are among the lowest-carb and most nutrient-dense fruits you can eat. They’re very high in vitamin C, manganese, and various antioxidants.

Carbs: 12 g per cup or 8 g per 100 g (34).

Grapefruit

Grapefruits are citrus fruits that are similar to oranges. They’re very high in vitamin C and carotene antioxidants.

Carbs: 17 g per half of a grapefruit or 11 g per 100 g (35).

Apricots

The apricot is a delicious fruit. Each apricot contains few carbohydrates but plenty of vitamin C and potassium.

Carbs: 4 g per apricot or 11 g per 100 g (36).

Other low carb fruits

  • lemons
  • kiwis
  • oranges
  • mulberries
  • raspberries

Nuts and seeds are very popular on low carb diets. They tend to be low in carbs but high in fat, fiber, protein, and various micronutrients.

Nuts are often eaten as snacks, while seeds can add crunch to salads or recipes.

In addition, people can use nut and seed flour, such as almond flour, coconut flour, and flaxseed meal, to make low carb bread and other baked goods.

Almonds

Almonds contain fiber and vitamin E and are a great source of magnesium.

What’s more, almonds are incredibly filling studies show they may promote weight loss (37).

Carbs: 6 g per ounce or 22 g per 100 g (38).

Walnuts

The walnut is another delicious type of nut. It contains various nutrients and is particularly high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid.

Carbs: 4 g per ounce or 14 g per 100 g (39).

Peanuts

Peanuts are technically legumes, although many people consume them like nuts, much as the name suggests.

They’re high in fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, and other important vitamins and minerals.

Carbs: 5 g per ounce or 16 g per 100 g (40).

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are a popular health food. They contain high levels of many important nutrients and are usable in various low-carb-friendly recipes.

What’s more, they’re a rich source of dietary fiber.

When looking at the listed carb numbers below, remember that about 86% of the carbs in chia seeds are fiber. Therefore, they contain very few digestible net carbs.

Carbs: 12 g per ounce or 42 g per 100 g (41).

Other low carb nuts and seeds

  • hazelnuts
  • macadamia nuts
  • cashews
  • coconuts
  • pistachios
  • flaxseeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sunflower seeds

If you tolerate dairy, full-fat dairy products are excellent low carb foods. Nonetheless, be sure to read the label and avoid anything with added sugar.

Cheese

Cheese is a common ingredient in low carb meal plans. It can be delicious on its own or as part of a recipe.

Cheese is also highly nutritious. A single thick slice contains a similar amount of nutrients as an entire glass of milk.

Carbs: 0.7 g per ounce or 2.4 g per 100 g (cheddar) (42).

Heavy cream

Heavy cream contains very few carbs and little protein but is high in dairy fat.

Some people on a low carb diet put it in their coffee or use it in recipes. A bowl of berries with whipped cream can be a delicious low carb dessert.

Carbs: 1 g per ounce or 3 g per 100 g (43).

Full-fat yogurt

Full-fat yogurt is exceptionally healthy, containing many of the same nutrients as whole milk.

Yet, thanks to its live cultures, yogurt also contains beneficial probiotic bacteria.

Carbs: 11 g per cup or 5 g per 100 g (44).

Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt, also called strained yogurt, is thicker than regular yogurt. It’s very high in many beneficial nutrients, especially protein.

Carbs: 10 g per cup or 4 g per 100 g (45).

Many healthy fats and oils are acceptable on a low carb, real-food-based diet.

Butter

Butter is a common ingredient in various foodstuffs, from sandwiches to curries. Choose grass-fed butter if you can since it’s higher in certain nutrients (46).

Carbs: Zero (47).

Extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is a staple on the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet and contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Carbs: Zero (48).

Other low carb fats

Most sugar-free beverages are perfectly acceptable on a low carb diet. Keep in mind that fruit juices are very high in sugar and carbs, and people wishing to limit carbs should be mindful of this.

Water

Water should be your go-to beverage, regardless of the rest of your diet.

Carbs: Zero.

Coffee

Coffee can be a healthful addition to the diet. It is also a large source of dietary antioxidants (49).

What’s more, studies show that coffee drinkers may live longer and have a lower risk of several serious diseases, including type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s (50, 51, 52, 53).

Carbs: Zero (54).

Tea

Tea, especially green tea, has been the subject of many studies. Green tea is rich in natural antioxidants and may even slightly boost fat burning (55).

Carbs: Zero (56).

Club soda / carbonated water

Essentially, club soda is water with carbon dioxide. It’s perfectly acceptable in a low carb diet as long as it’s sugar free. Read the label to make sure.

Carbs: zero.

Lastly, some foods don’t quite fit any other category.

Dark chocolate

This may surprise some people, but quality dark chocolate is a perfect low carb treat.

Choose real dark chocolate with at least 70–85% cocoa content. This ensures that it doesn’t contain much sugar.

Dark chocolate has numerous benefits, such as improved brain function and blood pressure (57, 58).

When looking at the listed carb numbers below, keep in mind that about 25% of the carbs in dark chocolate are fiber, which lowers the total digestible net carb content.

Carbs: 13 g per 1-ounce piece or 46 g per 100 g (59).

Herbs, spices, and condiments

There is an almost endless variety of delicious herbs, spices, and condiments. Most of them are very low in carbs but pack a powerful nutritional punch and help add flavor to your meals.

Some notable examples include salt, pepper, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, mustard, and oregano.

Eating fewer carbs can have impressive health benefits and doesn’t have to be complicated.

Most low carb foods are healthy, nutritious, and incredibly delicious.

They’re highly diverse, covering many major food categories, including meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and many more.

A healthy, low carb diet based on real foods can help you lose weight and improve your health.

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