Low carbohydrate and keto lifestyles are trending – and for good reason. Limiting carbs, especially those coming from high glycemic and ultra-palatable sources such as white refined grains and sugar sweetened beverages can make significant improvements to your health. Multiple studies show that low-carb dietary patterns may help reverse type 2 diabetes, reduce the severity of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), enhance fat lossreduce appetite, and improve glucose and lipid levels. Low-carb diets may even help increase metabolism and assist with weight-loss and maintenance.
Few foods provide more bang for your nutritional buck than vegetables. Vegetables not only provide vitamins and minerals, but can replace the fiber from things most likely limited in a low-carb or keto diet such as whole grains, beans and legumes.
Here are 10 low-carb superstars to try. (Note: The total carbs for a serving of each vegetable is the net carbs, which is total carbs minus fiber).
Arugula (0.41 carbs per cup)
Arugula stands out in the vegetable world for its peppery flavor. Flavor is not its only attribute, however. It’s also high in plant-based nitrates which have been shown in studies to help contribute to improvements in blood pressure and overall heart health. Pair arugula greens with high quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice and top with grilled wild salmon.
Collard greens (2.02 carbs per cup)
Collard greens boast one of the highest sources of plant-based calcium. In fact, one serving provides over 20% of your daily needs for the mineral. That makes this plant a must for anyone interested in maintaining good bone health. Collard greens are the perfect keto-friendly lettuce wrap for chicken or steak tacos.
Rabbit broccoli (0.06 carbs per cup)
Broccoli rabe is a mix between traditional broccoli stalks paired with leafy greens – the best of both worlds! The combination also makes it a great way to get more folate; a B vitamin that many individuals don’t get enough of. Folate has been found to help reduce the risk of certain cancers and reduce the risk for neural tube defects in infants. Saute broccoli rabe with garlic and mix with chicken sausage for a delicious and filling meal.
Bell peppers (4.38 carbs per cup)
Bell peppers contain one of the most important signs of high nutrient density – abundant color. Whether you use green, orange, yellow or red, these slightly sweet additions can improve your meals while supporting a healthy immune system. That’s because bell peppers are a great way to get adequate vitamin C (an essential immune system) while you limit more carb-heavy citrus fruits. Pair chopped bell peppers with mushrooms and onions and toss with scrambled eggs for a nutrient dense and protein-packed omelet.
Kale (0.067 carbs per cup)
This keto-friendly cruciferous vegetable boasts several varieties and is a nutritional powerhouse. Studies show that Lutein is one standout component; the powerful carotenoid may help to protect and preserve brain function and improve eye health. Make kale your go-to snack by replacing carb-heavy snacks (think: chips and pretzels) with homemade kale chips.
Portobello mushrooms (2.16 carbs per mushroom)
Want to go low carb while staying low meat as well? Portobello mushrooms are a perfect choice. No matter how you use fungi, studies show that the benefits to your health will be abundant. That’s because mushrooms contain large varieties of antioxidants shown to improve health markers. Stuff portobello mushrooms with cheeseherbs and keto-friendly breadcrumbs and roast in the oven for a decadent meal or snack.
Cauliflower (3.27 carbs per cup)
Another cruciferous superstar in the keto world, cauliflower can be used as rice or even eaten as a freeze-dried snack. A recent study in the journal “Hepatology”Found that cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower can help reduce the severity of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition impacting almost 30% of all Americans and a leading cause of liver cancer.
Spaghetti squash (7.53 carbs per cup)
No spaghetti on a low-carb plan? No problem! Spaghetti squash not only makes a great low-carb alternative to spaghetti, but this super squash may also help with overall weight loss and digestive health due to its high fiber status. To keep the carb content of your spaghetti squash meals down, choose pesto or alfredo sauce over tomato sauce.
Green beans (4.27 carbs per cup)
There’s nothing boring about green beans and they will be your best companion when it comes to keeping your hunger satisfied on a low-carb diet. That’s because green beans are low in calories, but high in filling fiber. Steam green beans and pair them with shaved parmesan, salt and pepper and slivered almonds.
Zucchini (2.62 carbs per cup)
Zucchini is a low-carb wonder for meals and snacks. It’s a high-water vegetable, meaning that it not only fuels your health, but keeps you hydrated as well. Try air frying zucchini sticks for a satisfying side dish or snack.
Aim to get at least five low-carb veggies of different colors on to your plate each day to maintain adequate fiber and nutrient status. Working with a registered dietitian to get a nutrient dense, low-carb meal plan can also you stick with this long term lifestyle.