Low-carb vegetables – the best and the worst

What low-carb vegetables are good? There’s a very simple rule:

  • Vegetables growing above ground are low carb and can be eaten freely.
  • Vegetables growing below ground contain more carbs, so you’ll have to be more careful with them (especially potatoes).

Like any rule it is not perfect, so have a look below.

Above ground

All numbers are net carbs per 100 grams (3½ ounces).1  
Low Carb veggies

Below ground

Low-carb vegetables growing below ground

All numbers represent percent of net carbohydrates.2 This means that a hundred grams (3½ ounces) – the weight of an average tomato – of any vegetable will contain this number of grams of carbs.

E.g. an average tomato has about 3 grams of carbs. A whole cauliflower head weighs a lot more though, perhaps ten times more, and may thus contain about ten times 4 grams, i.e. 40 grams of carbs.

Please note the difference between above-ground and below-ground vegetables.

Vegetables with less than 5 percent carbs may be eaten relatively freely. If you’re on a not-too-strict low-carb diet (more than 20 grams per day), you can probably eat all you want of all these low-carb vegetables.

If you’re on a keto low-carb diet (below 20 grams a day), you may need to be a bit careful with some of the vegetables. You should probably be especially careful with peppers or tomatoes – these carbs quickly add up towards the 20 grams-a-day limit. Just one medium-sized pepper may contain 6-8 grams of digestible carbs.
 

Top 10 low-carb vegetables

Low-carb veggies top 10

Here are the ten greatest low-carb vegetables, tasty and nutritious but with very few carbs. They’re sorted by how popular and useful they are in low-carb cooking.

All numbers are net carbs per 100 grams (3½ ounces).3

  1. Cauliflower – 4 g. The most classic and iconic of all low-carb vegetables. The base of cauliflower rice and cauliflower mash. Check out our top 18 cauliflower recipes
  2. Cabbage – 3 g. Another great low-carb vegetable. Who doesn’t love butter-fried green cabbage or the truly addictive Asian cabbage stir-fry? For more, here are our top 21 cabbage recipes
  3. Avocado – 2 g. Not just low carb, but also full of nutritious fat. Avocado can be eaten in all kinds of ways, including on its own, perhaps with some mayonnaise, or it can be used to make guacamole. But that’s just the start, here are more awesome avocado recipes
  4. Broccoli – 4 g. Another great option that can replace pasta, rice or potatoes. Just fry it in butter or add some cheese for great-tasting side dishes. More recipes
  5. Zucchini – 3 g. Try our zucchini fries or zucchini chips. Zucchini can also be used to make low-carb pasta, like in this low-carbonara. More recipes
  6. Spinach – 1 g. An extremely low-carb vegetable, that can be used in many ways. Check out our very popular low-carb frittata with fresh spinach or any of our many other spinach recipes
  7. Asparagus – 2 g. Tasty and nutritious and very low carb. Top recipes
  8. Kale – 4 g. Recipes
  9. Green beans – 4 g. Recipes
  10. Brussels sprouts – 5 g. Recipes

Vegetable sticks and dip

Low-carb snacks: vegetable sticks

 

Numbers are digestible carbs per 100 grams (3½ ounces).

Vegetable sticks are relatively low carb, except for carrots that have slightly more carbs.

Dip: Add cream cheese or any really low-carb and high-fat dip sauce. Here are our top recipes:

More

 

 
 

Peas, corn, beans, lentils, quinoa

Carbohydrates in peas, corn, beans, lentils, quinoa

Peas, corn, beans, lentils and quinoa are not vegetables and contain more carbohydrates than vegetables. Be careful with them on a strict low-carb diet, eating them in very small amounts or not at all.

Most of these plant foods are not classified as vegetables but as grains or legumes. They are not good low-carb options.

 

Grains and pure sugar

Grains, sugar, starches.

Wheat is not a vegetable, it is a grain. And anything made with wheat flour contains lots of rapidly digested carbs. Avoid this as much as possible when on a low-carb diet. Whole-grain products are just less bad – it’s like cigarettes with filter.

Bread, pasta, rice, cookies etc. are not vegetables, and they are full of carbohydrates.

High fructose corn syrup – the sugary nutrient in soda – comes from plants (corn), but it is not a vegetable and it most certainly is not low carb.

 

 
 

Low-carb vegetable recipes

Top cauliflower recipes

Cauliflower may be the most popular low-carb vegetable of all. Here are our top cauliflower recipes:

 

Top cabbage recipes

Cabbage is another very versatile low-carb vegetable. Here are our top cabbage recipes:

Food for thought

A ketogenic diet and fewer vegetables
 

Visual low-carb guides

Meal plans

Get lots of weekly low-carb meal plans, complete with shopping lists and everything, with our premium meal planner tool (free trial).
 
  • Keto pasta with blue cheese sauceMon
  • Creamy low-carb broccoli and leek soupTue
  • Low-carb eggplant gratinWed
  • Keto avocado pieThu
  • Low-carb mushroom cauliflower risottoFri
  • Low-carb cauliflower pizza with artichokesSat
  • Keto spinach and goat-cheese pieSun

 

More

A low-carb diet for beginners
Low-carb foods
 
14-day low-carb diet meal plan
  1. Net carbs = digestible carbs, i.e. total carbs minus fiber.

  2. Net carbs = digestible carbs, i.e. total carbs minus fiber.

  3. Net carbs = digestible carbs, i.e. total carbs minus fiber.

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173 Comments

  1. John Fagley
    Good info. However, need to take into account setting size as well. For example, a thin slice of raw onion in a salad has a good ratio of flavor to grams digestible carbs. However, a whole raw onion that is slowly sauteed down to a single serving of caramelized onion will have significant digestible carbs.
  2. Dr. Sylvia
    Hi Team,

    Can you please address resistant starch. For example a new diet recommends sweet potatoes because of their resistant starch but they have a high 17 grams of carbs per 100 grams. All the nutrition "gurus" are jumping on board. I also read resistant starch " fights" candida.

    Thanks!

  3. Karen Glatz
    You don't talk about sprouts. Extremely high nutrition in tiny packages. Soil sprouts are very easy and inexpensive to grow all year long with just one north window and a bag of germination soil. Fresh, home grown, highly nutritious veggies all winter long from about 5 minutes per day of "gardening".
  4. Geraldine D. Kuss
    I get 100% Cocoa chocolate here in Brazil. The vegetable list is quite deficient. There are no LEEKS! No Radishes , no Turnips. The fruit list doesn't have Goji berries. Noni Fruit which is supposed to be good for slimming. Nobody's updated these lists since they were first published. I expected more of Diet Doctor.
  5. Geraldine D. Kuss
    Honey is sugar.

    What about honey?

  6. Shirley
    Give me some low carb deserts, please
  7. Debora
    I have to include in my diet high fiber aliments, however most of them are very reach in carbohydrates. can you tell me if chia seeds and flaxseeds are good for a keto diet? Any suggestion of a high fiber aliment that is also low in carbhydrates?
    Reply: #160
  8. Angie
    How does Tofu fit into the Keto diet?
    And Homemade Italian Red Sauce (spaghetti sauce w/o any added sugar)?
  9. Florence
    I am diabetic AND have high cholesterol. My concern about the diet is it will increase my LDL and triglycerides. Any suggestions?
  10. DTW
    Deb, in a low carb diet, you can eat all the fiber you want. You can also subtract the sugar alcohols to some degree to get the actual carb count in foods that give you the dietary intake. Fiber does not raise your insulin levels like simple carbs, so fiber away!!
  11. Tom Spector
    Thank you for this wonderful page.

    However, this paragraph is confusing as it appears to suggest that cauliflower is not an appropriate low-carb food. I read it multiple times and still didn't understand the point you were making. If the reader doesn't continue down the page they could be left with that misconception. I suggest it should be rewritten for clarity.

    "E.g. an average tomato has about 3 grams of carbs. A whole cauliflower head weighs a lot more though, perhaps ten times more, and may thus contain about ten times 4 grams, i.e. 40 grams of carbs."

  12. Ulrik
    Google tells me that all your info regarding carbs per 100 grams is wrong. For example according to Google 100 grams of avocado contains 9 carbs instead of your 2 grams. This is recurring throughout with every thing you've listed, as a quick Google search on each vegetable and fruit tells me the actual carbs in each is significantly higher than what you've listed. Why is this? Does Google have the wrong information?
    Reply: #163
  13. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    Hi Ulrik!

    We count Net Carbs ( Total Carbs - Fiber).

    Google tells me that all your info regarding carbs per 100 grams is wrong. For example according to Google 100 grams of avocado contains 9 carbs instead of your 2 grams. This is recurring throughout with every thing you've listed, as a quick Google search on each vegetable and fruit tells me the actual carbs in each is significantly higher than what you've listed. Why is this? Does Google have the wrong information?

  14. kanzee
    This is one of the best sites for food/diet learning. thanks to the makers of this .
  15. Anna
    Hi,

    I need to be on a low carb diet for my insulin resistance (this means full fat dairy is allowed) but i have high cholesterol so does this mean im literally a rabbit eating salad and meat for the rest of my life? kinda disheartening for me as food is part of my life and culture

  16. Teddy
    Avocados are fruit - not vegetables
  17. Becca
    are artichoke hearts ok? I'm lactose intolerant, does that limit me greatly if I will follow this diet?
  18. Ginette
    What about a vegan plan please we not all vegetarian eating animal based products
  19. herbie
    Hello

    Where do the various winter squashes fall on the carb scale? They are one of my go to veggies for the winter months.

    Reply: #174
  20. John
    Anyone find information on winter squash, spaghetti squash?
  21. Janetteluparia
    Years ago I hit my goal by choosing broccoli and cucumbers most often. Trying to get back there and struggling but this was a good refresher.
  22. Pamela Lee
    I've printed off some recipes and ready to start this WOE. Thanks for all the valuable information. I am excited to start this new journey....
  23. JudyM
    TOO MUCH NIT-PICKING HERE. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
    EAT WHEN HUNGRY; PROTEIN, FAT AND UNLIMITED ABOVE GROUND VEGETABLES, IF DESIRED, EVERY MEAL,DONE.

    Obviously if medical issues can be an issue,if so, contact DietDoctor. com. Traditional medicine may not support any of this. Go by how you feel on this program, and the benefits.

  24. sonnia
    I was also wondering, that is my favorite as well.

    Hello
    Where do the various winter squashes fall on the carb scale? They are one of my go to veggies for the winter months.

  25. 1 comment removed
  26. Cindy Kelley
    How many grams of fat should have daily
    Reply: #177
  27. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    Hi Cindy!

    That's hard to tell it differ between persons. I would recommend that you focus on the carbs (around 20 grams per day). Then eat until satisfied.

    How many grams of fat should have daily

  28. Stacy
    Oh my gosh, no! In reply to Cindy: google a Keto Calculator, that will tell you exactly how much fat, protein and carbs to eat. Trying to lose weight? Stick to 20g of carbs and eat a 5:1 ration of fat; 20g carbs: 100g (healthy) fat, but find a calculator and it will help guide you. "Eat until satisfied" is very misleading advice. Keto does take planning.
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