Are there any foods with 0 carbs?
Max Carmody, MSc
The only foods that literally have 0 carbs are fats and oils such as olive oil. However, many other foods have a low enough amount of carbs, less than 1 gram per serving, that they are considered to be low carb. Some of these include meats, certain leafy vegetables, eggs, and some condiments.
What are Carbs?
Carbohydrates (carbs) are a type of macronutrient. Macronutrients are the nutrients that we need in larger quantities that provide us with energy. The other types of macronutrients are fat and protein. Carbs are made up of sugars, starches, and fibers. They are in foods like grains, fruits, and dairy. Your body turns carbs into glucose to function. Your digestive system breaks down carbs into glucose, or blood sugar. There are different types of carbs. Two main types are simple carbs, and complex carbs. How quickly your body digests the carb, and it’s chemical structure, determines whether it is simple or complex. Complex carbs are less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar. They also contain minerals, vitamins, and fiber that your body needs.
Limiting Carbs on a Low Carb Diet?
Probably the main reason that you would be trying to reduce carbs would be because you are on a low carb diet. On a low carb diet, you are trying to reduce your daily carb intake. Generally, low carb diets involve eating under 130 grams of carbs a day. However, some types of low carb diets, such as the keto diet, involve eating under 50 grams, and even as low as 20 grams of carbs, in a day. When you reduce your daily carbs, you need to make it up with either fat, or protein, or both. There are many different types of low carb diets, such as Atkins, and they all involve eating foods and food groups in slightly different amounts. Here is another article that I wrote on the best foods to eat on a low carb diet, if you’re interested.
The benefits of Eating Fewer Carbs
Going low carb has many potential health benefits. One of the main benefits is the possibility of fairly quick weight loss. It may be possible to lose more weight on low carb diets than other types of diets. You will probably be less hungry on a low carb diet than other diets, like counting calories, because protein and fat are so filling. Triglycerides, fat molecules that circulate in the bloodstream, tend to drop drastically. You may have higher levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. Reduced blood sugar and insulin levels are possible. You may lose more fat from your abdominal cavity, which is considered to be “toxic” fat. Low carb diets are effective against metabolic syndrome, which is a condition that is highly associated with your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
What do we Consider “0” Carb?
Many food labels print food as having 0 carbs. Companies are allowed to print “0 carbs” on a label if the food has less than 1 gram of carbs. Almost every food has a small trace amount of carbs. In general, the only foods that LITERALLY have 0 carbs are fats and oils. Things like meats and seafood that are commonly considered to be 0 carb actually have small trace amounts of carbs, usually less than 1 gram, sometimes as low as .1 or .2 grams. So because the companies are allowed to call these foods zero carbs, for the purposes of our list we will consider certain items with less than 1 gram of net carbs (a food’s total carbs subtracting fiber) to be 0 carbs. If you would like to read about foods high in carbs to avoid on a low carb diet, you can find an article here that I wrote on the topic.
Vegetables, those growing above ground that are non-starchy vegetables at least, tend to have a very low amount of carbs. So in the category of less than 1 grams of carbs, “0” carbs for our purposes, would fall only some leafy greens basically. These are lettuce, watercress, arugula, and spinach. Herbs such as dill and chives, are also generally considered to be 0 carb, because we consume them in such small amounts that the amount of carbs is inconsequential. Keep in mind that these are all raw, and that preparing them in a recipe or adding dressing will generally add some more carbs.
Fats and Oils
The fats and oils are the only things that are GENUINELY 0 carb, as we mentioned earlier, all of the others have at least trace amounts. Olive oil, grass fed butter, Ghee, avocado oil, coconut oil, lard, macadamia nut oil, and MCT oil all are truly 0 carb. Keep in mind though, that although these are 0 carbs, and entirely fat, not all fat is great for you. Most vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can become inflammatory if you consume them to excess.
I’m putting eggs in their own category. Things like milk, actually have a fair amount of carbs, about 12 grams per cup. Eggs however, are very special in my eyes. I eat them for breakfast almost every morning (often with chipotles mixed in) and they are such a staple of my diet. Eggs generally have about .2 grams of carb per egg, so almost nothing. They are great for you though, and have lots of health benefits. They are something of a superfood. They are a valuable source of protein, and they provide 13 essential vitamins and minerals, along with important omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
Meats are super low in carbs, containing only small trace amounts. They are even lower than eggs in the amount of carbs. The major players are beef, lamb, chicken, pork, and turkey. Beef is very good at filling you up, and contains important nutrients like vitamin B12 and iron. Lamb also contains these nutrients. It tends to be high in a beneficial fatty acid, CLA acid. Chicken is a very popular meat, it is an excellent source of protein. And as for pork, bacon is big on many low carb diets, although it may not be the healthiest.
And finally, we’ll wrap up with the condiments. The main ones that have 0 (actually trace amounts) of carbs are hot sauce, mustard, and plain vinegar. Some of the condiments you’ll want to avoid if you’re trying to do extremely low carb however would include tomato paste, most premade sauces, or full sugar ketchup.
Looking to lose weight or get in shape, and want help doing it? We work with a variety of amazing programs who we can share your answers with, matching you up with the best one for you, many of whom offer private or group coaching. If you would like to receive a quote about a personalized weight loss or fitness program please fill out this brief, 30 second form: