A low carb diet is one which has less carbohydrate content and focusses on high protein and fat intake. Studies have shown that a low carb diet helps to reduce weight and to lower down blood sugar level thereby preventing the risk of diabetes. (1) A low carb diet is also called as keto diet or ketogenic diet which refers to a diet where ketone bodies are produced to meet the energy demand of body when carbohydrate intake is reduced. In this diet, you cut down the consumption of sugar and starches. The best low carb foods include veggies such as bell pepper, broccoli, mushrooms; fruits such as watermelon, apricot, berries, and you have various other low to no carb foods’ options from meat to fishes and eggs.
How low carb diet helps in staying healthy?
Fat deposition is mainly found in abdominal region and liver thereby becomes a hub of diseases and deteriorates health.
It is well known that a low carb diet is beneficial for our health as it helps to reduce our body weight. But before you go on a low carb diet, you need to know the mechanism working behind it.
Our body functions from the energy we obtain from various foods and the carbohydrates present in the food are the major source of energy. When the intake of carbohydrate is reduced, the body looks for alternatives to maintain the supply of energy.
Also, when the intake of carbs is reduced, the insulin levels in the blood go down. The hormone insulin is responsible for maintaining fat storage in body fat cells at various regions. When insulin goes down the fat is released into the blood and is used to derive energy for the body. Hence, the phenomenon of the release of fat from fat cells helps in weight loss. (2)
What does a low carb diet involve?
There are a lot of people who don’t know the meaning of low carb diet. Specifically, we can say that they don’t know what foods to add and what to eliminate from your meal to make it a low carb diet.
Let me introduce you to all the features of such diet. When we talk about a low carb diet, we mean to reduce the daily caloric intake, especially from carbohydrate-rich products.
You are advised to take only 50-100g of carbohydrate a day. In a strict ketogenic diet, people only take 20-50g of carbohydrates.
When you focus on low carb products, you expose yourself to foods that are rich in proteins and fats. It has been proved in some studies that a low carb diet help you lose more weight than a low-fat diet (3).
Some of you might be confused that fats are known to increase the weight so how come such a diet will help reduce it. Nothing to worry about here as the fats you will consume in a low carb diet are saturated fats which are beneficial for the body.
Besides, the fats are utilised as an alternative to carbs for energy. For those who are on a low carb diet, they can freely consume foods high in fibre and water content.
Fibre-rich foods make your stomach filled easily and are difficult to absorb so you won’t get hungry again and thereby help you to prevent putting on extra weight.
List of 45 healthy and tasty low carb foods and how to include them in your diet
People at times hesitate to avoid low carb foods thinking they won’t be tasty enough to meet their satiety. On the contrary, low carb foods can be equally tasty as any other food. Here are the examples of low carb foods you can include in your low carb diet plan:
1. Bell peppers (6g carbs per 100 g)
These are amazing colourful vegetables and have high water content. Bell peppers are known to be rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants and contain a small percentage of carbohydrates.
2. Broccoli (6g carbs per cup)
It is cauliflower-like green veggie. You can use it either raw in salads, or you can use it after cooking. It is rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin K.
3. Asparagus (2g carbs per 100 g)
It is a very delicious and protein-rich veggie. It has a very high fibre content that makes you control your cravings. It has high Vitamin C, K and carotene antioxidants.
4. Mushrooms (3g carbs per 100g)
It is not a plant as such. They have a high amount of potassium.
5. Spinach (3g carbs per 100g)
It is a green leafy vegetable. Highly rich in iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Also, spinach has a high amount of magnesium and potassium, making it one of the best low carb foods.
6. Onions (3g carbs per 100g)
It is the most widely cultivated veggie. It is also a good source of dietary fibre, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and magnesium.
7. Lettuce (1g carb per 100g)
It is most often grown as a leafy vegetable. You can use its leaves in salads, sandwiches and burgers. Its stem and seeds are also used for consumption. Highly rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin A, also loaded with lots of magnesium making it an almost no carb food.
8. Kale (10g carbs per 100g)
It is highly favourable for health-conscious people. Richly supplied with fibre and antioxidants.
9. Eggplant (6g carbs per 100g)
Eggplant is found in two colours white and purple. It is rich in fibre and can be used either cooked in butter or can be eaten by simply roasting it.
10. Swiss chard (3.7g carbs per 100g)
It is widely used veggie in Mediterranean region. It has high nutrient density and antioxidants.
11. Green beans (7g of carbs per 100g)
They belong to a group of legumes but used as a vegetable. It has a high content of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium and magnesium.
12. Cucumber (4g carbs per 100g)
It is a green veggie, highly filled with water and some amount of Vitamin K. You can use it in salads.
13. Cauliflower (5g carbs per 100g)
It is a white and green vegetable. It can be used in a versatile manner in the kitchen. It contains Vitamin C, Vitamin K and folate.
14. Brussel sprouts (7g carbs per 100g)
This veggie belongs to the group of broccoli and kale. It is highly nutritious and is rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin K
15. Tomatoes (4g carb per 100g)
This vegetable is highly rich in Vitamin C and potassium. Used in almost all kind of dishes, you can use it in raw form as well like in salads.
Low Carb Fruits
Not only veggies but fruits are also there to add up a fruit salad in your diet and get refreshed. Let’s check it out:
16. Watermelon (7.5g carbs per 100g of serving)
It is a highly juicy red coloured fruit. Rich in water content and iron as well.
17. Strawberries ( 7.6g carbs per 100g)
These are most nutritious fruit. Richly supplied with Vitamin C, antioxidants, manganese and also rich in potassium
18. Cantaloupe ( 8.1g per 100g of serving)
It is yellow coloured fruit like melons. It is a good source of dietary fibre, Vitamin B and folate.
19. Peaches (9.5g carb per 100g)
It is wonderfully delicious fruit. Packed with the benefits of antioxidants, vitamins and dietary fibres.
20. Avocado (8.5g carbs per 100g)
It is an amazing fruit because along with low carbs it is also rich in healthy fats. Good in fibre content and potassium.
21. Olives (6g carbs per 100g)
It is also a high-fat fruit. Rich in copper and iron content with some amount of Vitamin E
22. Apricots (11g carbs per 100g)
Apricots contain plenty of Vitamin A & C and potassium and are rich in fibre. Apricots benefit your heart, blood, skin and bones too.
23. Grapefruit (11g carbs per 100g)
It is a citrus fruit with a high amount of Vitamin C and carotene antioxidants to help you fight against cancer.
24. Honeydew (9g per 100g)
It is similar to Cantaloupe fruit from the family of muskmelons. It is richly filled with Vitamin B6 and A.
25. Berries (14g carbs per 100g)
It is a highly nutritious fruit. It contains a good amount of antioxidants and various vitamins to help you boost your immune system.
Eggs & Meat – No carb foods
Low carb diet is a boon for non-veg lovers. No need to restrict your favourite food item but its just to be a little specific while you choose.
26. Egg white (0 carbs)
These are the most healthy food known to have a huge impact on the development of the body. You can consume eggs as omelettes or in scrambled form. It improves your eye health also due to a component called choline. (4)
27. Pork (0 carbs)
It is one of the most favourite foods among people mainly in the USA. You can consume it in the form of bacon.
28. Chicken (0 carbs)
It is a highly proteinaceous diet. You can use it either in baked, grilled or steamed form. Better to choose thighs and wings of chicken for a better effect
29. Beef (0 carbs)
It is a delicious food that satisfies your hunger well. Richly filled with iron and Vitamin B12. You can have it either in ground form or hamburger, and both are as amazing as the other.
30. Lamb (0 carbs)
Like any other meat, it contains iron and Vitamin B12 as well. It contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is beneficial for health. (5)
31. Tuna (0 carbs)
It is a delicious fish rich in Vitamin B12, B6, Vitamin A and magnesium. You can enjoy it either baked, steaks or steamed. It helps you to lose weight, boosts immune and boosts your energy levels.
32. Haddock (0 carbs)
It is a good source of Vitamin B12, B6, magnesium and phosphorus. It is rich in protein content so will help you build your body mass.
33. Salmon (0 carbs)
It is among the most popular type of seafood. This fish is rich in omega – 3 fatty acids which are good for heart health. It also contains Vitamin B12, iodine and some amount of Vitamin D3.
34. Sardines (0 carbs)
It is filled completely with nutrients. It contains almost every essential nutrient for the human body.
35. Shellfish (4g carb per 100g serving)
We have rarely seen people using this fish in their diet. But it is worth eating due to its high nutrient density.
Low Carb Cereals & Nuts
If you want to add other minerals too, go on to check these cereals and nuts:
36. Walnuts (14g carbs per 100g)
It is an amazing nut. Richly filled with omega-3 fatty acid and ALA which is very good for heart health.
37. Almonds (22g carbs per 100g)
It is a brown coloured, tasty nut. It contains fibre, Vitamin E and magnesium. These are shown to promote weight loss according to a few studies. (6)
38. Chia seeds (44g carbs per 100g)
It is considered as a very healthy food because of its very popular benefits. It is rich in dietary fibre.
39. Flax seeds (29g carbs per 100g)
It is one of the best food for your heart health and to boost your immune system. You can use it in various dishes. It is richly filled with iron, calcium, magnesium and Vitamin B6.
40. Cashews (26.7g carbs per 100g)
It is an oily and very rich flavoured nut. It can be used in the kitchen in various gravies and to top up on smoothies or cakes. It contains magnesium and dietary fibre in good amount.
Low Carb Drinks
And to end your meal perfectly, just add up some drink out of these:
41. Tea (0.2g carbs per 100g)
It is a refreshing drink which you can have in the morning as well as in the evening. It does not increase your calories intake. It is known to boost fat burning acc to a study.(7)
42. Coffee (0 carbs)
Coffee is another alternative beverage with no carbohydrate at all. It is also known to reduce risks of many diseases acc to some studies due to plasma carotenoids (8). So you can have it without any thought but do not over consume it as it will lead to electrolyte imbalance.
43. Sugar-free carbonated beverages (0 carbs)
You can have sugar free grapefruit soda. It contains no calories so can help you reduce your weight.
44. Fresh juice (11 carbs per 100g)
Obviously fresh things are always healthy, but since you are on a low carb diet, so you have to keep in mind the amount of carbs you are ingesting.
45. Coconut water (3.7g carbs per 100g)
What to avoid when on a low carb diet?
Now when you know what to add up to your meals, you must know what all to avoid especially the foods high in sugar and carbohydrates are a complete no-no when it comes to a low carb diet
- Sugar: Sweetened fruit juices, soft drinks, ice cream
- Starchy Veggies and seeds: Corn, grapeseed, canola oils and cottonseed.
- Gluten rich foods such as Barley, rye, wheat and spelt, oats, basically all grains
- Artificial sweeteners: Saccharin, sucralose, etc.
Here is how you can plan your low carb diet
This is just a sample of diet; you have to plan it according to your taste. Make sure that you take between 50-100g of carbs in the whole day. For maximum benefits and smooth consumption, it is suggested to divide the low carb foods according to your meals. You can have 20g carbs in each meal and 10g carbs in your evening snack. Take care that you do not starve yourself.
- Empty stomach: A glass of lukewarm water with added lemon juice in it, this will help you in detoxification
- Breakfast: A glass of skimmed milk, one omelette, one brown bread, a bowl of fruits like avocado, cranberries and peaches
- Lunch: One bowl of lentil, a cup of brown rice, two pieces of baked chicken or fish, half a bowl of veggies and salad
- Evening snack: Green tea or lemon tea
- Dinner: A cup of rice, some lentil and a bowl of curd.
Some of the commonly used ‘Low-carb’ recipes
- Garlicky Zucchini pasta with turkey meatballs
- Steamed rosemary chicken with broccoli
- Baked salmon with mushrooms and cobb salad
- Chilli salmon with tomato and asparagus
- Baked eggs with bell pepper and tomatoes
- Tortilla with ground beef and salsa
- Baked mini bell peppers stuffed with tofu marinated in yoghurt
- Chicken stir-fried with zucchini noodles
- Cheese crusted omelette
- Baked shrimp with sesame bread
- Any Sausages cooked along with butter
- Chicken Ghee roast
Benefits of low carb diet foods
- Manages blood sugar and insulin levels: Eating carbs has the biggest impact on blood sugar level and insulin level and thereby plays a significant role in many chronic diseases. Hence by lowering carbs intake, we reduce blood sugar level and hence insulin levels are reduced. This prevents many lethal and chronic diseases.
- Calms hunger: A low carb diet is rich in fibres and protein. High fibre intake makes us feel full soon. Your craving for food is decreased. So this satiety-promoting effect of low carb diet is a boon for those who want to lose weight.
- Healthy heart: Low carb diet have a good impact on heart disease management. Mainly they are concerned with the reduction of triglycerides and henceforth increases the concentration of good HDL. Decreases inflammation to protect from atherosclerotic issues. (9)
- Physical endurance: Ketogenic diets can enhance your physical fitness immensely due to a constant supply of energy from fat stores. Fat stores last for a longer time to provide energy.
Closing thoughts on low carb foods
Any human body is working continuously, and so they need a constant supply of energy. But due to a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy food habits, we are gaining weight and exposing ourselves to many diseases. So just to keep a check on our health, we need to introduce a low carb diet in our routine life.
A low carb diet mainly refers to reduced net carb content intake. It is generally in a range of 50-100g, or it can be as low as 20g as in ketogenic diet.
The low carb diet is healthier and tastier as well. They will help you not only to reduce your unnecessary weight but also to keep a check on your diabetes and heart health.
A low carb diet can involve non-starchy veggies, fruits like strawberries and peaches, nuts and seeds and you can add non-veg things too. They help you to satisfy your satiety and to reduce your craving for food. Depending on your health choose your diet plan and if you are not well, consult your physician before going on a strict low carb diet.