Keto, "if it fits your macros" (IIFYM), and low-carb paleo all agree: Eating low-carb can help you lose fat, increase muscle, and control hunger.[1]

Here are some of the best low-carb foods. Even if you don't want to count macros, you can easily eat low carb just by choosing foods from this list.

Low-Carb Vegetables

Zucchini

Carb count: 7 grams per 1 medium squash

Juicy zucchini can stand in for pasta or hash browns.

Zucchini

Cauliflower

Carb count: 5 grams per cup

Cauliflower can be used for a lower-carb version of mashed potatoes, rice, or even pizza crust.

Swiss Chard

Carb count: 1 gram per cup

Steam chard or use whole, uncooked leaves instead of tortillas for tacos and wraps.

Swiss Chard

Mushrooms

Carb count: 2 grams per cup

Mushrooms are low in carbs but rich in flavor.

Mushrooms

Celery

Carb count: 1 gram per stalk

Celery has next to no carbs or calories since it's about 95 percent water.

Cherry Tomatoes

Carb count: 6 grams per cup

Cherry tomatoes add nutrients like lycopene to your diet.

Spaghetti Squash

Carb count: 7 grams per cup

This squash is high in vitamin C, which helps you recover from exercise.[2]

Squash

Other Low-Carb Veggies

  • Radish
  • Asparagus
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Bell pepper
  • Watercress

Low-Carb Fruits

Apricots

Carb count: 8 grams per 2 fruits

Apricots are high in beta-carotene, which is good for your brain. [3]

Avocado

Avocado has lots of fiber and healthy fat.

Avocado

Strawberries

Carb count: 11 grams per cup

Strawberries are delicious and a great source of vitamin C.[4]

Strawberries

Red Grapefruit

Carb count: 9 grams per 1/2 fruit

Red grapefruit has less sugar than an orange and is also high in vitamin C.

Other Low-Carb Fruits

  • Rhubarb
  • Watermelon
  • Peaches
  • Star fruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Blackberries

Low-carb Meats And Fish

Catfish

Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

Farmed catfish is a cheap, sustainable way to load up with protein.

Canned Pink Salmon

Carb count: 0 grams per 1/2 can

Canned salmon is rich in omega-3 fats that can help your muscles grow.[5]

Salmon

Chicken Drumsticks

Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

Drumsticks are budget-friendly and juicier than chicken breast.

drumsticks

Ground Turkey

Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

Inexpensive ground turkey is an easy way to add carb-free protein to your meals.

Pork Tenderloin

Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

Pork tenderloin has a great 6:1 protein-to-fat ratio.

Pork Tenderloin

Top Sirloin Steak

Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

This cut of beef is one of the leaner proteins at the supermarket, and has zero carbs.

Steak

Roast Beef

Carb count: 0 grams per 2 ounces

Roast beef is one of the leanest and lowest-sugar deli meats.

Bison

Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

Range-fed bison is richer in omega-3 fats than traditionally-raised cattle.[6]

Other Low-Carb Meats And Fish

  • Cornish game hen
  • Halibut
  • Ground beef
  • Turkey breast
  • Chicken thighs
  • Canned sardines

Low-Carb Dairy

Gruyere Cheese

Carb count: 0 grams per ounce

This cheese is a good source of calcium, a mineral your bones need.

Butter

Carb count: 0 grams per tablespoon

Butter is carb-free and not actually terrible for you.[7]

Butter

Eggs

Carb count: 1 gram per 2 large eggs

Eggs are a good source of antioxidants to fight cell damage.[8]

Cottage Cheese

Carb count: 6 grams per cup

Cottage cheese is packed with slow-digesting casein protein (28 grams per cup).

Plain Greek Yogurt

Carb count: 9 grams per cup

This yogurt has 23 grams of muscle-boosting protein per cup.

yogurt

Goat Milk

Carb count: 11 grams per cup

Goat milk is rich in omega fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).[9]

goat milk

Other Low-Carb Dairy Products

  • Brie cheese
  • Goat cheese
  • Monterey cheese
  • Ricotta
  • Plain kefir
  • Sour cream
  • Cream cheese

Low-Carb Plant Proteins

Tofu

Carb count: 3 grams per 3 ounces

Tofu is an inexpensive low-carb protein option for both vegetarians and meat eaters.

Tempeh

Carb count: 9 grams per 3 ounces

Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans, so it’s a good protein source.

Canned Pinto Beans

Carb count: 18 grams per 1/2 cup

Pintos are one of the lowest-carb beans.

Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)

Carb count: 5 grams per ounce

The few carbs in pumpkin seeds are slow-digesting and give you lasting energy.

seeds

Other Low-Carb Proteins

  • Hemp seeds
  • Edamame
  • Unsweetened soy milk

Low-Carb Snacks

String Cheese

Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounce

Prepackaged string cheese is a convenient and tasty low-carb snack.

string cheese

Jerky

Carb count: 3 grams per ounce

Jerky is a high-protein, low-carb snack you can find anywhere.

Walnuts

Carb count: 4 grams per ounce

Walnuts have a high level of omega-3 fatty acids.

walnuts

Kale Chips

Carb count: 8-12 grams per ounce

Kale chips are as addictively crunchy as potato chips, but much lower in fat and full of vitamins.

Other Low-Carb Snacks

  • Sausage sticks (Pepperettes)
  • Mixed nuts
  • Pecans
  • Hazelnuts
  • Sunflower seeds

Low Carb Grains And Flours

Almond Flour

Carb count: 6 grams per 1/4 cup

Almond flour is paleo-friendly and contains vitamin E.

Shirataki Noodles

Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounce

These translucent noodles are made mostly of fiber.

Amaranth

Carb count: 23 grams per 1/2 cup

Amaranth has lower carbs than other grains and is rich in manganese.

Other Low-Carb Grains/flour

  • Hazelnut flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Peanut flour
  • Low-carb wraps
  • Wheat germ

Low-Carb Drinks

Unsweetened Iced Tea

Carb count: 0 grams per cup

Unsweetened tea is carb-free, and green tea has antioxidants too.[10]

unsweetened tea

Maple Water

Carb count: 3 grams per cup

Maple water has half the sugar of coconut water.

Tomato Juice

Carb count: 10 grams per cup

Tomato juice is high in antioxidants, which could speed-up recovery.[11]

Other Low-Carb Drinks

  • Club soda
  • Sugar-free seltzer water
  • Unsweetened hemp milk
  • Herb tea
  • Water with BCAAs

References

  1. Volek, J. S., Sharman, M. J., Love, D. M., Avery, N. G., Scheett, T. P., & Kraemer, W. J. (2002). Body composition and hormonal responses to a carbohydrate-restricted diet. Metabolism, 51(7), 864-870.

  2. Bryer, S. C., & Goldfarb, A. H. (2006). Effect of high dose vitamin C supplementation on muscle soreness, damage, function, and oxidative stress to eccentric exercise. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 16 (3), 270.

  3. Kesse-Guyot, E., Andreeva, V. A., Ducros, V., Jeandel, C., Julia, C., Hercberg, S., & Galan, P. (2014). Carotenoid-rich dietary patterns during midlife and subsequent cognitive function. British Journal of Nutrition, 111 (05), 915-923.

  4. Hemila, H., & Chalker, E. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 1.

  5. Lembke, P., Capodice, J., Hebert, K., & Swenson, T. (2014). Influence of Omega-3 (N3) Index on Performance and Wellbeing in Young Adults after Heavy Eccentric Exercise. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 13(1), 151.

  6. Rule, D. C., Broughton, K. S., Shellito, S. M., & Maiorano, G. (2002). Comparison of muscle fatty acid profiles and cholesterol concentrations of bison, beef cattle, elk, and chicken. Journal of Animal Science, 80(5), 1202-1211.

  7. Pimpin, L., Wu, J. H., Haskelberg, H., Del Gobbo, L., & Mozaffarian, D. (2016). Is butter back? A systematic review and meta-analysis of butter consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and total mortality. PLoS One, 11(6), e0158118.

  8. Nimalaratne, C., Lopes-Lutz, D., Schieber, A., & Wu, J. (2011). Free aromatic amino acids in egg yolk show antioxidant properties. Food Chemistry, 129(1), 155-161.

  9. Ceballos, L. S., Morales, E. R., de la Torre Adarve, G., Castro, J. D., Martinez, L. P., & Sampelayo, M. R. S. (2009). Composition of goat and cow milk produced under similar conditions and analyzed by identical methodology. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 22(4), 322-329.

  10. Sae?tan, S., Rogers, C. J., & Lambert, J. D. (2014). Voluntary exercise and green tea enhance the expression of genes related to energy utilization and attenuate metabolic syndrome in high fat fed mice.Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 58(5), 1156-1159.

  11. Harms-Ringdahl, M., Jenssen, D., & Haghdoost, S. (2012). Tomato juice intake suppressed serum concentration of 8-oxodG after extensive physical activity. Nutrition Journal, 11(1), 29.

About the Author

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MSc., is a registered dietitian based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. He works full-time as a freelance nutrition writer...

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Diet