What are the Best Foods to Eat on a Low Carb Diet?
Max Carmody, MSc
The best foods to eat on a low carb diet are vegetables like lettuce or mushrooms, meats like poultry, dairy like eggs, raspberries or blackberries for fruit, and tea or coffee for little treats.
What is a Low Carb Diet and What are the Benefits?
Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient (like protein and fat) made up of starches, fibers, and sugars. They are found in grains, fruits, vegetables, and milk. Carbs are the main energy source for the body. There are two different main types of carbs, simple carbs, and complex carbs. Complex carbs take longer to digest, and are a more stable energy source than simple carbs. Simple carbs are in foods like syrup and table sugar, complex carbs are in foods like bread and pasta.
A low carb diet is one that is low in carbohydrates, which are usually found in sugary foods, pasta, and bread. It generally emphasizes fats and proteins. With a low carb diet, generally you consume less than 130 grams of carbs a day. On some low carb diets you eat 50 or even fewer grams of carbs a day, down to 20. Common low carb diets are high fat and moderate protein, although some can be higher in protein.
There are multiple benefits to following a low carb diet. Low carb diets reduce your appetite. When people cut carbs and eat more protein and fat, they end up eating fewer calories. Cutting carbs can lead to more weight loss than other types of diets at first, such as low fat diets. This advantage may be lost in the long run, but for at least the first 6 months or so it appears to be easier to drop weight on a low carb diet than most other types.
When cutting all this weight, on low carb diets, a lot of the fat seems to come from the abdomen. This can lead to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Low carb diets can lead to increased levels of good cholesterol, and triglycerides, fat molecules that circulate in your bloodstream, tend to drop drastically. Low carb diets may lower blood sugar and insulin and blood pressure, and decrease rates of bad cholesterol. There are many other types of benefits possible from low carb diets, but these are just a few.
Best Foods to Eat on a Low Carb Diet
Vegetables are great to eat on a low carb diet. What sorts of vegetables you eat will depend on exactly how low carb you are going. Most vegetables are low in carbs though besides starchy root vegetables. You can eat a lot of them without going over your carb limit. They can be very filling, because you can eat so many of them without worrying about gaining weight, because they are so low carb and so low calorie. Even besides weight loss, vegetables are just super good for you in general. If you would like to read more about what to eat on a low carb diet, you can find another article here that I wrote on the subject.
Here I am only listing vegetables that contain 4 grams or less of carbs per cup. Lettuce is one of the lowest carb vegetables around. One cup of lettuce contains 2 grams of carbs. Celery is also extremely low carb, at 3 grams of carbs per cup. A one cup serving of mushrooms contains only 2 carbs. Cucumbers and Zucchini both have 4 grams of carbs per cup.
It’s tough to do a low carb diet if you’re a vegetarian. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, tough luck, this may not be the diet for you. So I’m going to suggest eating meat and seafood. Every type of meat has 0 carbs. Meat contains protein. Protein builds muscle, and fills you up. So eat lots of meat. Every type of meat may be more or less the same in terms of a low carb diet, but they may not be created equally health wise. Some studies show that red meats can have too high levels of saturated fats, and may lead to increased risk of cancer. I’ll take my chances with that though, I love me a good steak, the rarer the better. Especially steak tartare…
To eat a relatively balanced diet, you will probably wanting to be getting a bit of fruit. You don’t HAVE to eat fruit of course, and to be perfectly honest I often skip it myself, but I really feel like we should have some. And the best fruit to eat on a low carb diet, hands down, is berries. Especially raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, rather than blueberries, blueberries contain more carbs than the others. Raspberries are the best, a half cup of them has 3 carbs. A half cup of blackberries has 4 grams of carbs. And 8 medium sized strawberries contains 6 grams of carbs. If you would like to read about foods high in carbs to avoid, here is an article I wrote on that topic.
A nice little treat can be coffee and tea. They have 0 carbs, and are pretty good for you, studies have shown other health benefits. I partake in these liberally. Especially when I’m going on a diet, I feel like coffee and tea really just help me get through the day. I drink them much more when I’m dieting than when I’m not dieting, I find. Of course, I do take them with a little bit of milk or cream. You don’t have to, but I need a bit of milk with mine.
Another potentially good food to eat on a low carb diet, depending exactly on what type of low carb diet you are doing, is dairy. Dairy is especially big on the keto diet. I have been trying the keto diet (a form of very low carb, high fat diet) recently myself, and I absolutely love that it allows you to eat so much dairy. Eggs (although some don’t consider them dairy) are probably one of the best things to eat on a low carb diet. An egg has only .6 carbs. And they are so filling and delicious. I eat eggs every single morning when I’m doing low carb, they are absolutely a staple for me.
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