Low- and zero-carb diets, such as the keto diet, are commonly used for weight loss. To avoid going over your carb limit, stick to low- or no- carb vegetables. This is a great way to get the nutritional benefits of veggies without the high-carb content.
Many vegetables are rich in complex carbohydrates, which provide energy and fiber. Since veggies are typically higher in carbs than fat and protein, finding no-carb vegetables is nearly impossible. However, some vegetables are significantly lower in carbs than others.
If you follow a low-carb diet for weight loss, you will likely reserve your daily carb allotment for keto vegetables to kickstart ketosis. Since the keto diet is very restrictive, it should only be followed temporarily. While on the diet, you can get your vitamins and minerals from lower carb veggies.
There are very few no-carb vegetables that truly contain zero carbohydrates. However, there are plenty of low-carb veggies, such as leafy greens, celery, broccoli and cucumber.
Low-Carb vs. No-Carb Vegetables
Restricting carb consumption was popularized by the Atkins diet. Now, the keto diet is the leading low-carb weight loss plan.
On the Atkins diet, you can consume 20, 40 or 100 net carbohydrates per day. The ketogenic diet prescribes cutting carbs to a maximum of 20 net carbs or 5 percent of calories from carbs per day.
None of the low-carb diet plans recommend zero carbs per day, so a truly no-carb diet does not exist. "No carb" typically refers to the strictest low-carb diet of 20 grams per day at the most. Generally, very low-carb diets have 5 percent or fewer calories from carbs.
You can calculate net carbs by subtracting the amount of fiber from total carbs. For example, the total carbs in broccoli is 6.6 grams per 100-gram serving. When you subtract the 2.6 grams of fiber, you get the 4 grams of net carbs in broccoli.
Read more: A No-Carb Diet Food List
Low-Carb Keto Vegetables
The keto diet is associated with mostly animal products. Many people assume that keto foods consist of nothing but butter, cheese, meat, fish and eggs. While they eat a lot of these foods, keto followers can also consume keto-friendly vegetables.
Vegetable consumption is encouraged on a low-carb diet, such as keto or Atkins. This is because vegetables provide essential nutrients. Since these diets already restrict calories, carbs and sometimes protein, it is important to get vitamins and minerals from vegetables. This does require consuming some carbs, but there are low- and no-carb vegetables to choose from.
The amount of net carbs per 100-gram serving in the following keto vegetables are:
- Net carbs in endive: 0.3 grams
- Net carbs in romaine lettuce: 1.2 grams
- Net carbs in spinach: 1.4 grams
- Net carbs in asparagus: 2.1 grams
- Net carbs in zucchini: 2.1 grams
- Net carbs in cauliflower: 3 grams
- Net carbs in cabbage: 3.3 grams
- Net carbs in green beans: 3.5 grams
- Net carbs in radicchio: 3.6 grams
- Net carbs in bell peppers: 3.9 grams
- Net carbs in broccoli: 4 grams
Many of the compliant vegetables are leafy greens. Cooking the vegetables can reduce the carb content slightly, but raw vegetables may be preferred as you can consume a larger volume of them and retain more fiber. Consuming low-calorie foods like raw veggies can increase feelings of fullness without increasing calorie consumption significantly.
Read more: 6 Reasons the Keto Diet is NOT For You
Keto Vegetables for Weight Loss
Low-carb vegetables can be used to induce ketosis. Many people strive to get into a state of ketosis to lose body fat. Some consider keto the next low-carb diet that accelerates weight loss, while others revere the diet for its health benefits.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, ketosis occurs when the body shifts to using fat molecules as an energy source in the absence of energy-rich carbs. It usually takes two to four days on a carb-restricted diet to get into a state of ketosis. Because of the restrictive nature of the diet, it is not recommended to follow long-term for general health purposes.
While not a long-term solution, the keto diet has been proven to yield consistent weight loss results. Both animal and human studies confirm the weight management benefits of the keto diet. A May 2017 study published in Nutrients considers the keto diet to be beneficial for heart health and obesity. However, the benefits are usually short lived and difficult to maintain once off the diet.
Because the keto diet is low-carb, moderate protein and high fat, certain vegetables like avocados are frequently consumed. Followers of the keto diet also consume leafy greens like spinach and veggies from the chicory family, such as endive.
Read more: Signs & Symptoms of Low-Carb Diets
High-Carb Vegetables to Avoid
Vegetables are commonly thought of as healthy foods to increase consumption of rather than limit. While followers and proponents of the keto diet acknowledge the healthy properties of vegetables that are higher in carbs, they recommend avoiding certain vegetables for the duration of the low- or no-carb diet.
Higher-carb vegetables to avoid on the keto diet include the following, as demonstrated per 100-gram servings:
Often times consuming one serving of these vegetables will account for half or more of your net carbs for the day. Low-carb diets come down to the numbers. You can choose to distribute your 20 net grams of carbs on a larger volume of low-carb veggies or a lower volume of high-carb veggies.
Read more: Negative Side Effects of a Low-Carb Diet
Risks of Low-Carb Diets
No-carb diets have proven health benefits, but they also have proven risks. Lower carb diets are not recommended long-term, but you should still practice caution to preserve your health.
An August 2018 study published in the European Society of Cardiology found that a low-carb diet is linked to greater risk of premature death due to coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer. They recommend avoiding low-carb diets altogether. Other risks include impaired athletic performance and insulin resistance.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of the keto diet do not outweigh the risks. The research supports the use of the diet for patients with epilepsy, but the research on other benefits is mixed.
Certain people should not do very low-carb diets. Cleveland Clinic warns against it for people with eating disorders, metabolic issues and low body weight. The keto diet is also not recommended for children who do not have epilepsy.
Carbs in a Balanced Diet
The human body needs carbs, so you should not eliminate carbs completely. A low-carb diet can aid in weight loss, but it is very restrictive and poses some health risks. Therefore, a carb-restricted diet should only be followed short-term.
Even if you conclude your low-carb diet, you can still enjoy keto vegetables and recipes that use no-carb vegetables. These veggies tend to be lower in calories, so you can still incorporate them into a weight loss plan that includes a lower to moderate amount of carbs.
Knowing the macronutrient content in common vegetables, such as the carbs in broccoli, can help you make more informed choices. Once you return to the recommended amount of carbs for your age, you can stick to complex carbs like sweet potatoes and green beans that can be part of a balanced diet.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Ketogenic Diet: Is the Ultimate Low-Carb Diet Good For You?"
- Nutrients: "Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies"
- Mayo Clinic: "The Truth Behind the Most Popular Diet Trends of the Moment"
- Cleveland Clinic: "What Is the Keto Diet (and Should You Try It)?"
- The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness: "Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet Impairs Anaerobic Exercise Performance in Exercise-Trained Women and Men: A Randomized-Sequence Crossover Trial"
- European Society of Cardiology: "Low Carbohydrate Diets Are Unsafe and Should Be Avoided"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Endive"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Romaine Lettuce"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Spinach"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Asparagus (Cooked)"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Zucchini"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Cauliflower"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Cabbage"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Cooked Green Beans (Previously Frozen)"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Radicchio"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Sweet Red Bell Peppers"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Broccoli"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Cassava"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Butternut Squash"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Peas"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Cooked Yellow Sweet Corn"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Cooked Sweet Potatoes"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Baked Potatoes"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nutrient Data Laboratory