The keto diet is that trending craze where high fat and moderate protein makes up the menu, while carbs are oftentimes scorned. Of course, it’s impossible to avoid carbohydrates altogether and, in fact, many studies say that our bodies need at least a small amount of healthy carbohydrates for proper functioning.
One of the best sources of healthy carbs — especially for those practicing the keto diet — is in veggies! Yep, veggies contain carbs. In fact, some vegetables are so high in carbs that they are oftentimes recommended against on the keto diet.
Alright, so what’s keto diet safe in the veggie world?
Here’s a rundown of those super nutritious, carb-friendly vegetables to integrate into your keto diet!
Keto Diet 101
The keto diet is actually pretty simple — very low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high healthy fat. Basically, the keto diet focuses on pushing the human body into a state of ketosis.
Let’s back up a moment, why does healthy fat cause ketosis?
This is where the simplicity ends and science takes over. The human body prefers to use glucose — sugars — for energy. Next up on the list? Fat. Once your body has used up its source of glucose, it will start burning fat for energy. Recent studies have discovered that burning fat for energy actually provides a longer, more sustainable energy source.
When it comes to the keto diet, you’re basically reducing your carbohydrate consumption — therefore reducing those sugars — so that you’re body goes into ketosis and begins using those stores of healthy fat instead. This not only provides a better source of energy, but it also burns adipose fat quicker. Ketosis refers to a “metabolic state” in which fat is turned into “ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain.”
Veggies and Carbs
It’s easy to villainize carbohydrates these days, yet not all carbs are bad. In fact, many carbohydrates are super healthy!
First off, carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients — along with fat and protein — that our bodies need to function optimally. When it comes to carbs in our food, we’re actually referring to three different types including sugars, — “short-chain carbohydrates” such as “glucose, fructose, galactose, and sucrose” — starches, — “long chains of glucose molecules, which eventually get broken down into glucose in the digestive system” — and fiber, — an indigestible substance that’s necessary for our digestive health.
If you’re looking for a simple way to delegate carbs in your diet, just steer clear of refined carbohydrates. These are oftentimes found in processed foods such as “sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice, and other” products. Refined carbs have been linked to various health issues including type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even cancer.
Luckily, veggies don’t contain refined carbs, but super healthy “whole” or “complex” carbs. With that said, just like most foods, all veggies contain a different amount of carbohydrates, some of which fit with the keto diet and others that will put you over your carb limit very quickly. Therefore, it’s important to get to know your keto-friendly veggies.
10 Keto-Friendly Low Carb Veggies
First and foremost, what is a low carbohydrate vegetable? Technically, there’s no one single definition that will help us sort this out. With that said, most vegetables that are categorized as “low carb” fall “under 150 grams of carbs per day, and some go as low as 20 grams per day.” Depending on your specific version of the keto diet — the ratio of fat to protein to carbs — you’ll need to carefully choose your specific low carb veggies for the day. Here are 10 veggies that are lowest on the carb spectrum to help make your choice just a bit easier!
These lovely sweet peppers are not only crispy and juicy, but they’re also a wonderful low carbohydrate vegetable that pairs swimmingly with many high-fat foods such as nuts and seeds. When it comes to carbs, “one cup (149 grams) of chopped red pepper contains [nine] grams of carbs, [three] of which are fiber.”
Cheesy Cauliflower Rice Stuffed Bell Pepper, Southwest Salad, Roasted Corn and Pepper Soup, Roasted Red Pepper, Chickpea, and Spinach Curry, Roasted Red Pepper Pesto, or this Corn and Bell Pepper Fritters.
This may have been your least favorite food as a kid, but now that you’re all grown it’s time to get way more of this superfood into your diet. It’s not only low in carbs — “one cup (91 grams) of raw broccoli contains [six] grams of carbs, [two] of which are fiber” — but it’s also a cruciferous veggie which has been linked to decreased “insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes,” as well as contains protective compounds “against several types of cancer.”
It may be a curious little vegetable to actually cook with, but asparagus is definitely a keto-friendly, low carb addition to your weekly regimen. Perfect for those tofu scrambles or as a simple vegan butter slathered side at dinner! Not only does asparagus contain “vitamins A, C, and K,” but “one cup (180 grams) of cooked asparagus contains [eight] grams of carbs, [four] of which are fiber.”
Spring Miso Broth With Stir-Fried Asparagus, Romaine, Scallions, and Mint, Asparagus and Pea Soup, Two-Tone Soup With Asparagus, Green Spring Minestrone With Orzo and Asparagus, or this Asparagus Soup With Wild Garlic.
Zucchini is a keto-ingredient king! In fact, if you flip through a keto cookbook, you’ll most likely see either a whole section devoted to zucchini or at least a handful of creative recipes using this wonderful squash. Even though this is a summer veggie, it’s easy to find year-round. When it comes to carbs, “one cup (124 grams) of raw zucchini contains [only four] grams of carbs, [one] of which is fiber.” If zucchini is your jam, but you love some squash take a look at yellow Italian squash instead!
Alright, so avocado technically isn’t a vegetable, but it’s impossible to have a keto list without mentioning avocado!
Next to zucchini, avocado is a huge staple in the keto diet. It’s got that creamy, delicious texture that offers a range of diverse uses — from raw to desserts to smoothies — and it’s also jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all while being super low on the carb count. While it may seem like it has a bit more carbs than others — “one-cup (150-gram) serving of chopped avocados has 13 grams of carbs” — 10 of those carbs are actually fiber.
Summer Daikon Rolls With Avocado and Micro Greens, Creamy Chilled Avocado Soup With Wheatgrass, Low-Carb Avocado Sweet Potato Toasts, Swiss Chard Enchiladas With Avocado Cream, or this Buckwheat and Avocado Tabbouleh.
Along with broccoli, cauliflower is a must-have cruciferous veggie in a keto kitchen. Yet, cauliflower’s keto popularity doesn’t stem from its wonderful flavor — it’s actually quite bland — but from its malleability. You can still enjoy your favorite rice dish, pizza, or buffalo wings on the keto diet by simply substituting cauliflower in the mix! So, what about that carb content? One cup of “raw cauliflower contains [five] grams of carbs, [three] of which are fiber.”
Curried Cauliflower Rice Pilaf, Mexican Fiesta Cauliflower Rice, Fermented Sweet and Sour Cauliflower, Tahini Roasted Cauliflower With Lemony Herb Oil, or this Curried Cauliflower Soup With Sweet Potato Noodles.
Oftentimes forgotten in the keto world, green beans are curiously low in carbs — one cup has “10 grams of carbs, [four] of which are fiber — while still offering a meaty and filling meal. On top of that, green beans are high in a compound called chlorophyll, which may have qualities that protect your body against cancer. Making green beans the center of your plate may be difficult, but these low carb veggies are great as a side dish.
Get some color on that plate of yours with semi-spicy, flavorful radishes! Along with green beans, these veggies are oftentimes forgotten about. With that said, they’re totally keto-friendly with “one cup (116 grams) of raw sliced radishes contains [four] grams of carbs, [two] of which are fiber.” Admittedly, radishes aren’t really a central piece for the plate, but they’re a wonderful flavorful addition to other keto-friendly foods.
Eggplant is oftentimes mistaken as a high-carb veggie due to its meaty texture, yet this awesome meat-substitute is super low in carbs with “one-cup (99-gram) serving of chopped, cooked eggplant contains [eight] grams of carbs, [two] of which are fiber.” While it’s not super impressive on the vitamin and mineral front, eggplants have been linked to lower cholesterol and improved heart health markers.
I get so many reactions whenever I mention kale. It’s definitely one of those love or hate veggies, which is a bit of a bummer because it’s a wonderful cruciferous superfood. Plus, it’s super keto-friendly — one cup of “raw kale contains [seven] grams of carbs, [one] of which is fiber” — and it’s also got an “impressive 206 [percent] of the RDI for vitamin A and 134 [percent] of the RDI for vitamin C.”
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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