If you’re looking to curtail your carbs, veggies are the perfect food group to add to your diet. Most vegetables are low in carbohydrate and have a low glycemic index, meaning that they will not cause a rapid spike in your blood sugar after a meal. As an added bonus, veggies also contain thousands of phytonutrients needed to optimize your health and keep you protected against chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
There’s a reason that Popeye ate tons of spinach. Leafy greens are the most nutrient-dense of all vegetables, containing very few calories while packing plenty of vitamins and minerals. Plus, a 1-cup raw or ½-cup cooked serving contains fewer than 5 grams of carbs. Eating more leafy greens reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, macular degeneration and cataracts, an even greater reason to include them in your diet every day. Arugula, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard and turnip greens all count.
Cruciferous vegetables’ claim to fame is knocking out cancer. Their sulfur-containing phytochemicals help remove carcinogens from your body, prevent destruction of DNA and appear to be particularly effective in preventing the growth of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, brussels sprouts and radishes are all members of the cruciferous family. With fewer than 5 grams of carbs per serving, feel free to fill up on these low-calorie, high-fiber veggies.
The allium family of vegetables includes onion, garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions and chives. These veggies provide another potent cancer-fighting punch. Similar to the cruciferous family, allium veggies contain organosulfur compounds that boost the enzymes that destroy carcinogens. Garlic may be the king of this realm, as it stops the growth of brain, breast, kidney, lung, pancreatic, prostate and stomach cancer cells. Allium veggies are low in calories and contain only about 6 grams of carbs per serving.
Other Low-carb Veggies
Other low carb-veggies to add to your pantry are artichokes, asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, cucumber, eggplant, mushrooms, okra, peppers, summer squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, tomatoes and turnips. Aim to eat four to six servings of a wide variety of vegetables each day to maximize your health and reduce your risk of chronic diseases. Being low in calories, high in fiber, nutrient-dense, cholesterol-free and low in fat, vegetables are the perfect foods to help you maintain a svelte figure on the outside and a healthy system on the inside.
While everyone needs at least 130 grams of carbohydrate per day for energy and to fuel the brain, you may need to limit your carbs if you have been diagnosed with insulin resistance or diabetes. The good news is that the list of starchy vegetables is short: beans, corn, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, acorn squash and butternut squash. For these vegetables, a 1/2-cup cooked serving provides about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Fill a quarter or more of your plate with non-starchy veggies at every meal if you are trying to limit your carb intake.
- American Diabetes Association: Non-Starchy Vegetables
- Eat To Live; Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
- Superfoods Rx; Steven Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews
- Nutrition Concepts and Controversies 10th Edition; Frances Sizer and Ellie Whitney
- USDA: ChooseMyPlate.gov
Tara Martine is a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian/nutritionist based in North Carolina. She specializes in sports nutrition, plant-based nutrition and weight loss. Martine holds a Master of Science in nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.