The Best Low-Carb Vegetables

Carbs in vegetables illustration

Verywell / Joshua Seong

Vegetables are considered a cornerstone of a low-carb diet, but some are better choices than others. Knowing the number of carbs in carrots, cauliflower, and other veggies will make low-carb meal planning much easier.

Overall, choose vegetables that are less sweet and starchy. When you do have higher-carb vegetables, be mindful of portion size: 1/2 cup of cooked or 1 cup raw vegetables should contain no more than 5 to 6 grams of carbohydrates.

Vegetables are broadly classified as leafy, stemmed, seeded, or root, and carb count will vary according to type. Carb counts also differ depending on whether you eat your veggies raw or cooked.

Leafy Vegetables

Leafy vegetables have the fewest carbohydrates and the lowest impact on blood sugar. The carbs they do have are mostly fiber, which digests slowly and keeps you feeling full for longer. Dark leafy greens are also rich in vitamin K, phytonutrients, and minerals.

While greens are the obvious choice for salads, they're also great additions to smoothies, omelets, and wraps. You can even replace a slice of bread or roll with a leaf of lettuce to create a low-carb sandwich or burger.

Leafy Vegetables: Carbs Per Serving*
Alfalfa sprouts 0.7 grams
Spinach 1.1 grams
Swiss chard 1.4 grams
Lettuce, green leaf 1 gram
Bok Choy 1.5 grams
Collard greens 2 grams
Mustard greens 2.6 grams
Kale 1.4 grams
*Per one cup, raw. Carb count increases when cooked.

Raw vs. Cooked

The carb count of some greens increases when they're cooked. Eaten raw, spinach has 1.1 grams of carbs per cup. Cooked up, a one-cup serving of spinach will have about 6.8 grams of carbs. Similarly, a one-cup serving of cooked Swiss chard has about 7.2 grams of carbs.

Stem Vegetables

While you can't eat the stem on just any plant, some vegetables have more edible bits than others. In fact, some are entirely edible. Although many vegetables have a substantial amount of stem tissue, the term "stem vegetables" only refers to above-ground stem vegetables. While these veggies have slightly more carbohydrates per serving than leafy vegetables, they're still a good option for low-carb diets.

Since these veggies are technically the plant's strong stems, the crisp, firm texture holds up well when put through various cooking methods. They're also rich in flavor and packed with vitamins.

Stem Vegetables: Carbs Per Serving*
Celery 3 grams
Cabbage 7.4 grams
Asparagus 5.2 grams
Fennel 6.4 grams
Cauliflower 5.3 grams
Broccoli 6 grams
Brussels sprouts 7.9 grams
*Per cup, raw. Carb count may change when cooked.

Raw vs. Cooked

When cooked, the carb count of vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower will actually decrease: one half-cup of cooked cauliflower has 2.6 grams of carbs. One half-cup of cooked broccoli has 5.6 grams (opposed to 6 grams raw).

A vegetable's carb count may change depending on whether you eat it raw or cooked.

Seeded Vegetables

Botanically speaking, edible plants are considered fruits if they have seeds. If it is seedless, it is a vegetable. However, some plants are mislabeled as fruits because they lack sweetness. Unlike vegetables, these fruits tend to be considerably higher in carbs. Look for options under the 6-gram threshold.

Seeded Vegetables: Carbs Per Serving*
Avocados 12 grams
Cucumbers 3.8 grams
Green beans 7 grams
Eggplant 4.8 grams
Okra 7 grams
Summer squash 3.8 grams
Zucchini 3.5 grams
Green bell peppers 4.3 grams
Peas 4.8 grams
*Per cup, raw. Carb count may change when cooked.

Raw vs. Cooked

When cooked, the carb count of zucchini and summer squash changes. A one-cup serving of cooked zucchini has 4.8 grams of carbohydrate. A one-cup of cooked summer squash has 7 grams.

Peas, on the other hand, actually have fewer carbs when eaten raw. When cooked, the carb count increases to 11 grams per one-cup serving.

Root Vegetables

When you think of root vegetables, you probably think of tubers like potatoes—which are notoriously high-carb. The association leads to the assumption that all root vegetables must be high in carbohydrates. Adding root vegetables to your low-carb diet is doable as long as you keep preparation and portion in mind.

As you can see from the table below, the carb count and the fiber content of root vegetables vary a great deal depending on how you cook them.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Root Vegetables

Preparation of root vegetable Carbs (grams) Fiber (grams)

Potato

1 cup unskinned, diced, raw potato

1 cup boiled mashed potato

1 cup boiled skinned potato

1 large unskinned baked potato

 

26

30.4

31.3

63.2

 

3.2

4.4

2.7

6.6

Turnip

1 cup raw cubed turnip

1 cup boiled cubed turnip

1 cup boiled mashed turnip

 

8

8

11.6

 

2.3

3.1

4.6

Rutabaga

 

1 cup raw cubed rutabaga

 

1 cup boiled mashed rutabaga

 

1 cup boiled cubed rutabaga





12

 

16.4

 

11.6

 



3.2

 

4.3

 

3.1

Sweet potato

1 cup raw cubed sweet potato

1 cup boiled mashed sweet potato

1 medium boiled sweet potato

 

26.8

58.1

26.8

 

4

8.2

3.8

Yam

1 cup raw cubed yam

1 cup boiled cubed yam

 

41.8

37.4

 

6.2

5.3

Celery Root (Celeriac)

1 cup raw celeriac

1 cup boiled celeriac pieces

 

14.4

9.1

 

2.8

1.9

Carrot

1 cup raw chopped carrot

1 cup boiled sliced carrot

 

12.3

6.4

 

3.6

2.3

Parsnip

 

1 cup raw sliced parsnip

 

1 cup boiled sliced parsnip

 



23.4

 

26.5

 



6.5

 

5.6

Beet

1 cup raw cubed beet

1 cup boiled sliced beet

 

13

16.9

 

3.8

3.4

Radish

1 cup raw sliced radish

1 cup boiled sliced radish

 

3.9

5

 

1.9

2.4

Some root vegetables, such as scallions (green onions) and leeks can be used in soups. A half-cup of raw scallions has 3.5 grams of carbs, but when used as a garnish for a salad or to flavor a soup, you may not even need a full serving.

Similarly, raw leeks have 6.5 grams of carbs per half-cup. But if you're only adding a few to your omelet (to give it a milder flavor than onions, for example) you may not need a full half-cup.

Higher-Carb Vegetables

Vegetables with a sweeter taste and starchier texture are higher in carbs. Here are a few vegetables to avoid on a low-carb diet:

  • Parsnips have 13 grams of carbohydrates per one-half cup raw.
  • Winter squashes, such as butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash, can have up to 15 grams per one-half cup when cooked.
  • Corn, when cooked and cut, has 18 grams per one-half cup.
  • Water chestnuts have close to 14.8 grams in one-half cup.
  • Sweet potatoes, baked with skin, have about 41.4 grams per one cup.
  • One medium-sized artichoke has about 13.6 grams.
  • Baked yellow plantains have 29 grams per one-half cup. Boiled green plantains have 20 grams per one-half cup.

Low-Carb Alternatives to Potatoes

One small baked potato with skin has over 29 grams of carbohydrates. One-half cup of boiled potatoes (with or without skin) has about 16 grams of carbohydrates.

Potatoes are also very high in starch and have a high glycemic index (the only root vegetable with a higher glycemic index is parsnip). Carbohydrates in foods with a high glycemic index are rapidly turned into sugar and absorbed into your blood.

You don’t have to avoid root vegetables entirely, though: when baked and roasted, radishes make great low-carb potato swaps.

With half the carbs, mashed turnips work well as a substitute for mashed potatoes, and sliced rutabaga makes a great swap for french fries.

For an even lower carb count, try cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower. One cup of cooked cauliflower has only 5.2 grams of carbs.

Once cooked, cauliflower can be lightly seasoned and mashed. If you’re missing other carbs, like pasta, try pulsing whole, cooked, cauliflower in a food processor and swap for rice. Larger chunks can be used as a base for low-carb potato salad.

Fruits and Fungus

Though technically a fruit, tomatoes are a frequent addition to salads, stews, and pasta dishes. One half-cup of raw, chopped or sliced tomatoes has 3.5 grams of carbohydrate. Cooked, they'll pack 4.8 grams.

Using the same fruits-as-veggies logic, olives are another popular choice. With 7 grams of carbohydrate per cup and plenty of inflammation-fighting properties, olives are great as a topping or popped on their own as a quick snack.

Finally, while they're not technically a vegetable—or even a plant—mushrooms are another low-carb option. The nutrition-packed fungus can be used to top salads, thrown into an omelet, or eaten in slices. A cup of raw white mushroom pieces has just 2.3 grams of carbohydrates. Cooked, they're 4 grams per one-half cup.

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Article Sources

  1. Slavin J, Carlson J. Carbohydrates. Adv Nutr. 2014;5(6):760-761. doi:10.3945/an.114.006163

Additional Reading

  • 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