Learn the Best (and Worst) Vegetables When You're On a Low-Carb Diet

The Best and Worst Choices You Can Make

  Illustration by Joshua Seong. © Verywell, 2018.

While vegetables are considered a cornerstone of a low-carb diet, there are some that are clearly better than others. To make the right dietary choices:

  • Choose vegetables that are less starchy or sweet.
  • Watch your intake. Ideally, a half cup of cooked or one cup of raw vegetables should contain no more than five to six grams of carbohydrates.
  • Remember that cooking a vegetable often decreases the volume while increasing the carbs per serving. As such, adjust your calculations if a cup of raw vegetables cooks down to a half cup.

    The amount of carbohydrates in a vegetable is largely related to the type of vegetable it is. Broadly speaking, they can be classified as leafy vegetables, stem vegetables, seeded vegetables, or root vegetables.

    Leafy Vegetables

    Leafy vegetables have the least carbohydrates overall as well as the least impact on blood sugar. They are also rich in vitamin K, phytonutrients, and minerals. Among the best options:

    • Alfalfa sprouts and other sprouts have 0.1 grams net carbohydrates per half cup.
    • Spinach has 0.2 grams per half cup.
    • Swiss chard has 0.4 grams per half cup.
    • Lettuce and other salad greens (such as endive, escarole, radicchio, and romaine) have around 0.5 grams per half cup.
    • Bok choy has 0.5 grams per half cup.
    • Heartier greens (such as collard greens, mustard greens, and kale) have around one gram per half cup.

    Stem Vegetables

    Stem vegetables have slightly more carbohydrates per serving but are still safe for most low-carb diets.

    The best options include:

    • Mushrooms have 0.3 grams net carbohydrates per half cup.
    • Celery has 0.7 grams per half cup.
    • Cabbage has 1.3 grams per half cup.
    • Asparagus has 1.8 grams per half cup.
    • Fennel has two grams per half cup.
    • Cauliflower has 2.5 grams per half cup.
    • Broccoli has three grams per half cup.
    • Brussels sprouts have 5.5 grams per half cup.

      Seeded Vegetables

      Botanically speaking, vegetables that contain seeds are classified as fruits. While some are considerably higher in carbs, others keep well below the six grams threshold. Among the better options:

      Roots Vegetables

      People often presume that root vegetables are high in carbohydrates, but that's actually not true. When limited to a half-cup serving, most are more than suitable for a low-carb diet. These include:

      • Radishes have one gram net carbohydrates per half cup.
      • Jicama has 2.25 grams per half cup.
      • Beets have 5.6 grams per half cup.
      • Leeks have 6.5 grams per half cup.

      Higher-Carb Vegetables

      The vegetables to be avoided on a low-carb diet are those that are sweeter and/or have a starchier texture. Examples include:


      U.S. Department of Agriculture. " USDA Food Composition Databases." Washington, D.C., updated May 2016.