The Best (And Worst) Vegetables for a Low-Carb Diet

low carb vegetables chart
Illustration by Joshua Seong. © Verywell, 2018.

While vegetables are considered a cornerstone of a low-carb diet, there are some that are clearly better choices than others. In general, it's best to choose vegetables that are less starchy or sweet and to watch your intake. Ideally, 1/2 cup of cooked or 1 cup of raw vegetables should contain no more than 5 to 6 grams of carbohydrates. Remember that cooking a vegetable often decreases the volume while also increasing the carbs per serving. A great way to find the number of nutrients in many foods is to search in the USDA's Food Composition Database.

The amount of carbohydrates in a vegetable is largely related to the type of vegetable it is. Broadly speaking, these 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 your blood sugar. They're also rich in vitamin K, phytonutrients, and minerals. Some of the best options include:

  • Raw alfalfa sprouts have 0.7 grams of carbohydrates per 1 cup.
  • Spinach has just over 1 gram per 1 cup raw and 3.4 grams per one-half cup when it's cooked.
  • Swiss chard has 1.4 grams per 1 cup when eaten raw. When it's cooked, it has 3.6 grams per one-half cup.
  • Lettuce and other salad greens (such as endive, escarole, radicchio, and romaine) have around 1 gram per 1 cup eaten raw.
  • Bok choy has 1.5 grams per 1 cup, raw and shredded.
  • Eaten raw, heartier greens such as collard greens and raw mustard greens have around 2 grams per 1 cup.
  • Raw kale has less than 1 gram per 1 cup.

Stem Vegetables

Stem vegetables have slightly more carbohydrates per serving but they're still safe for most low-carb diets. The best options include:

  • White mushroom pieces or slices have 2 grams of carbohydrates per 1 cup when raw. Cooked, they're 4 grams per one-half cup.
  • Celery has 3 grams per 1 raw, chopped cup and 3 grams per cooked, chopped one-half cup.
  • Shredded raw cabbage has 4 grams per 1 cup and 4 grams for one-half cup cooked.
  • Asparagus has 5 grams per 1 cup when raw and nearly 4 grams for one-half cup cooked.
  • Fennel has 6.4 grams per raw, sliced 1 cup.
  • Cauliflower has 5.3 grams per 1 cup when it's raw and chopped and 2.5 grams per one-half cup of cooked, chopped cauliflower.
  • Broccoli has 6 grams per 1 cup raw and chopped and 5.6 grams per one-half cup when it's chopped and cooked.
  • Brussels sprouts have about 4 grams per one-half cup when raw and 5.5 grams per one-half cooked 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 6-gram threshold. Some of the better options for seeded vegetables are:

  • Avocados have around 6.5 grams of carbohydrates per one-half cup, raw and cubed.
  • Cucumbers with their peels have about 2 grams per one-half cup when sliced and raw.
  • Green beans have 3.5 grams per raw one-half cup. One-half cup of cooked green beans is 5 grams.
  • Eggplant has 4.8 grams per 1 raw cubed cup and 4.3 grams per one-half cup of cooked cubes.
  • Okra has 3.7 grams per raw one-half cup.
  • Summer squash has about 5 grams per 1 sliced raw cup and 3.4 grams per cooked sliced one-half cup.
  • Zucchini has around 3.5 grams per 1 cup when raw and sliced. One-half cup of cooked, sliced zucchini has 2.4 grams.
  • Raw chopped or sliced tomatoes have 3.5 grams per one-half cup. The same amount has 4.8 grams when cooked.
  • Green bell peppers and red peppers have around 3.5 grams and 4.5 grams respectively per one-half cup when raw and chopped.
  • Raw peas with edible pods like snow peas and sugar snap peas have 3.7 grams per one-half chopped cup. When they're cooked, one-half cup contains 5.6 grams.

Root Vegetables

People often assume that root vegetables are high in carbohydrates, but that's actually not true. If you limit most of these to 1/2 cup serving, they're more than suitable for a low-carb diet. Root vegetables to consider include:

  • Radishes have almost 2 grams of carbohydrates per one-half cup of raw slices.
  • Jicama has around 5 grams per one-half cup raw and sliced.
  • Green onions (scallions) have almost 4 grams per one-half cup when raw and chopped.
  • Turnips have a little over 4 grams per one-half cup when raw and cubed.
  • Rutabagas have 6 grams per one-half raw, cubed cup.
  • Raw chopped celery has around 1.5 grams per one-half cup.
  • Carrots, when raw and chopped, have around 6 grams per one-half cup. Raw baby carrots have about 4 grams per one-half cup.
  • Onions have nearly 7.5 grams per one-half chopped raw cup.
  • Beets have 6.5 grams per one-half raw cup.
  • Leeks have 6.3 grams per one-half raw 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:

  • Parsnips have almost 12 grams of carbohydrates per one-half cup of raw slices.
  • Winter squashes, such as butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash, have over 10 grams and up to 15 grams in the case of acorn squash per one-half cup when cooked.
  • Corn, when cooked and cut, has close to 16 grams per one-half cup.
  • Potatoes have over 29 grams in one small baked potato with skin. One-half cup of boiled potatoes with or without skin have almost 16 grams.
  • Water chestnuts have close to 10 grams in just 1 ounce.
  • Sweet potatoes have almost 21 grams per one-half cup when cooked with skin.
  • Artichokes have nearly 14 grams per medium-size artichoke.
  • Baked yellow plantains have 29 grams per one-half cup. Boiled green plantains have 20 grams per one-half cup.
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Article Sources
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. USDA Food Composition Databases. Washington, D.C. Published April 2018. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list