Low carb vegetables: A complete list of what to pick from during a keto diet

low carb foods spinach

Last Updated July 18th, 2019

What’s the deal with carbs and calories?

One gram of carbohydrates offers 4 calories. The thing is that staple foods such as bread are calorie rich and offer calories since these are dense in carbs. About 100 g of pasta offers 131 calories, white rice offers 130 calories per 100 g, brown rice offers 111 calories per 100 g, etc.

Even healthy foods like oatmeal contain a good amount of calories. Calories are not a bad thing. They are the fuel for your body. Your body cannot function without this fuel. Processes like DNA synthesis, metabolism, waste removal, immunity, etc, require energy and energy means calories. An adult woman must consume 1600 to 2400 calories per day, and an adult man must consume 2000 to 3000 calories per day.

The issue with a high carb diet

High carbs or high sugar levels block the activity of insulin (insulin is a hormone that reduces blood sugar levels). This affects metabolism. The liver gets excessively loaded with these sugars and will convert them into fat. Consumption of high amounts of sugar especially fructose will result in belly fat build up.

This does not mean you exclude calories. Instead, you can restrict them from an excess level of consumption. Refined sugars or “white carbs” like wheat, rice, pasta, bread, soft drinks, etc., are some of the common sources for this condition.

During such cases, your body responds by lowering the blood sugar levels but lands up overdoing it and this results in a sharp dip in the blood sugar or energy levels. Finally, you feel more tired and hungry and this leads you to eat more. When you eat more, you consume more carbs or fat and this surpasses the capacity of the cells and liver to suppress the high blood sugar levels. That is why you tend to put on weight.

Too many carbs mean a surge in the blood sugar. Normally, when you eat any food, during carbohydrate digestion, the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream will result in spiking the blood sugar levels. Now, a hormone called insulin reduces the blood sugar levels by directing the cells to take in the glucose. If the intake of glucose flares up beyond the capacity of the cells,  the insulin directs the liver to convert this excess glucose into a storage form of energy sugar called glycogen.

If the sugar levels go beyond the capacity of what the liver can store, then the insulin will signal the liver to convert the excess glucose into fatty acids. It also directs the fat cells to terminate the fat breakdown. So, on one hand, it is the liver building the fat and on the other, the fat cells stop their function of utilizing fat for energy.

Too much of carbs means digestive problems

low carb foods nutsThere are fiber-based carbohydrates as well. They are very helpful but consuming such sources in excess isn’t good either. Fibers are very useful in bringing down your blood sugar levels. They slow down the digestion and absorption of carbs and thus prevent the sudden spike in the blood sugar levels.

Consuming such fibers will also make you feel full for a long time and beat the incidence of any cravings or tendencies of eating more. These fibers absorb water and form a gel-like substance and this is the underlying base for loosening your stools and ease in your bowel evacuation.

Too much of these carbs based fibers isn’t good either. If you suddenly start taking these fibers in large amounts, you will experience flatulence, bloating and stomach discomfort. It can also make your stool too lose and result in diarrhea. Also, if you don’t consume much water upon a fiber intake, it can dry your stools up and result in constipation. This does not mean you should refrain from eating such fiber based carbs. You can consume them in moderation. You can begin with 5 grams and build on it every 2 weeks. The maximum limit must be 25 – 35 grams/ day.

Why go for low carb vegetables?

low carb foods spinachYou pass by a grocery store or a farm market. You see fruits and vegetables lush in color. Your eyes feast on the fresh colored vegetables laden uniformly. You are thinking of a salad of tomato, lettuce and some swiss chard, you can prepare guacamole, etc. There are a whole variety of recipes available to make healthy eating tasty.

You need to know that these fresh fruits and vegetables are of low in their calorie or fat content.  low in fat and calories, but they contain various levels of carbohydrates and sugars. And for some people trying to manage their intake, carb content is helpful to know.

Here are some of the low carb vegetables you can include in your daily diet.

Tomatoes

  • Per 100 g, tomatoes contain about 94% water, 3.89 g of carbohydrates (18 kcal of energy), 10 mg calcium, 11 mg of magnesium, 237 mg of potassium, 13.7 mg of vitamin C and more.
  • They contain lycopene which is an important compound in cancer prevention. You can add them to your salads, curries, sandwiches, chutneys, etc. They provide a unique tangy flavor to the food.
  • Tomatoes contain vitamin C which is very helpful for immune functioning and also important for collagen production. Collagen is vital for your skin, nails, and hair.

Lettuce

  • About 100 g of lettuce contains 15 kcal energy, 2.87 g of carbs, about 95% water, 1.3 g of fiber, 36 mg of calcium, 9.2 mg vitamin C and more.
  • Immune system functioning is aided by vitamin C. The calcium in lettuce helps in maintaining good bone strength and also enables muscle contraction or relaxation. Vitamin A aids in cell growth and also protects the eye from blindness. Vitamin K in lettuce helps in blood clotting in case of any injuries and also prevents resorption of bone cells and thus maintains good bone strength. Potassium helps in lowering the blood pressure and also for muscle relaxation. In this manner, you can include lettuce in your diet not just for low amount of calories but also for other nutrients as well.
  • You can incorporate lettuce in sandwiches and soups. You can also prepare a salad with lemon juice, a few cherry tomatoes, lettuce and blue cheese.

Green beans

  • This is also called runner beans or snap beans. They are legumes and are proteinaceous.
  • About a 100 g of green beans contain 90 g water, 31 kcal energy, 7.13 g of carbs, 3.4 g of fiber, 1.8 g of protein, 37 mg calcium, 209 mg potassium, 25 mg magnesium, 16.3 mg vitamin C, etc.
  • The amount of carbohydrates in green beans is comparatively lower than other legumes.
  • Green beans contain chlorophyll which is responsible for their green color. This pigment guards against cancer.
  • They also contain carotenoids which are powerful antioxidants. This trait combats aging and enhances brain function. Various kinds of stresses result in the generation of damaging substances called ROS or Reactive Oxygen Species. They are electron hungry and eventually damage vital molecules and cells. Antioxidants prevent cellular damage by neutralizing the ROS.

Spinach

  • A 100 g of spinach contains 3.6% carbohydrates (about 23.18 calories). Apart from this, spinach also contains vitamin A, vitamin K, protein, calcium, iron, magnesium. Apart from these components, it also contains polyphenols (like quercetin, zeaxanthin, kaempferol, etc.) which confer to its anti-inflammatory characteristics.
  • This dark green, leafy vegetable is a “superfood” stacked with nourishment.
  • Spinach is known for its antioxidant properties and this is because of the component alpha-lipoic acid. This promotes insulin sensitivity and protects from ROS damages incurred in diabetes (high blood glucose levels).
  • The dark green color is because of the pigment called chlorophyll. This possesses anti-inflammatory properties and aids in skin healing as well. It also lowers the risk of cancer.
  • There are reports pointing out to spinach minimizing the damage on DNA. Spinach also protects the heart health and lowers the risk of eye-related conditions like cataract (a condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy), etc.
  • Blood flow in the body happens via blood vessels or capillaries (tubular structures that transport blood). Any interference to this flow will cause changes in the blood pressure. Too mch blood pressure results in stroke and even heart ailments. You can consume spinach to combat this.
  • Spinach contains a great amount of nitrates. These nitrates are converted to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is not just good for battling infections but is also directs the blood vessels to dialate or expand and thus helps in lowering the blood pressure.
  • You need to know that raw spinach contains lesser amount of carbs than the cooked ones. When you cook spinach, the cells lose their volume and the carbs become more concentrated (1 cup raw spinach = 1 g carbs; 1 cup cooked spinach = 7 g of carbs).

Eggplants

  • Low-carb - Bacon and brusselsEggplants or what we all commonly call brinjal is known for its violet coloured glaze and is a tasty addition to various dishes. You have many ways to cook this vegetable.
  • About 100 g of eggplant offers 25 calories and it is zero in fat or cholesterol. It contains about 3 g of dietary fiber, 229 mg potassium, and other components like sodium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, etc.
  • It is rich in anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid which are potent antioxidants and also have anti-inflammatory properties. Chlorogenic acid prevents the oxidative damage of the bad cholesterol and also reduces its levels in the blood. Chlorogenic acid also amplifies the insulin sensitivity and it helps in treating type 2-diabetes (a condition of high blood glucose levels caused due to insulin resistance).
  • The polyphenols in brinjal also have an anti-cancer trait and this helps in preventing the growth and spread of cancer cells.
  • The anthocyanins in eggplant prevent any inflammatory reactions in the brain and prevent any age-related damage. It improves the cognitive abilities of individuals.

Bell peppers

  • Or in other words, they are called as “capsicum”. These are of varied eye catchy colours (green, yellow or red). About 100 g of bell peppers contain 92% water. They offer about 31 calories along with a good dose of potassium, sodium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and more.
  • Vitamin B6 works along with the hormone called melatonin in regulating the sleep and wake up patterns. It also assists in the synthesis of the “feel good” hormone called serotonin.
  • It is a compact pack of antioxidants like luteolin, zeaxanthin, etc., that protect the inner walls of the eye from oxidative damage and lower the onset of any eye ailments like macular degeneration (a condition of age-related vision loss). Yellow bell peppers are rich in anthocyanins.
  • Low levels of iron results in low levels of healthy red blood cells for oxygen transport. Oxygen is vital for many energy production processes. Red bell peppers are rich in iron. Iron helps in the manufacture of the protein called haemoglobin in the body. This protein is present in the blood cell and is vital for the transport of oxygen throughout the body.
  • The vitamin C in bell peppers, also enable the absorption of iron in the body along with promoting immune functions.
  • You can prepare gravies containing bell peppers, or use them in salads, sandwiches, curries, etc. You can include a combination of different colored capsicums to make it appealing.

Ladies finger

  • It is also called as okra. They are known for their sliminess and are a yummy addition to your diet. 100 g of ladies finger offers 33 calories. Apart from this, ladies finger also contain 299 mg potassium, 3.2 g fiber, 14% vitamin A, 38% vitamin C, 10% vitamin B6, etc.
  • The high antioxidant content (phenolic compounds like glycosides, tannins, terpenoids, etc. They help in combating stress related damages. They also bind to the used up bile acids (post digestion), and promote their excretion. This arrests cholesterol accumulation in the body.
  • Calcium gets released out from muscle cells and this causes muscle contraction. This is the underlying reason for muscle cramps during extensive exercise workouts. The potassium-rich lady’s finger is antagonistic to calcium release from muscle cells. This results in muscle relaxation and thus improves exercise stamina.
  • Okra also helps in enhancing insulin function. The fiber content in okra lessens the carbohydrate absorption into the body and thus prevents the sudden spike in the blood sugar levels. This fiber also enables good bowel movements.

Radish

  • Radishes are infamous for their pungent taste when eaten raw but you must wonder how you can include them in your daily diet. Before that, you need to know the wondrous health benefits of radish.
  • About 100 g of radish contains 15 calories of energy approximately. It also contains calcium, potassium, sodium, protein (about 680 mg), phosphorus, and more.
  • Phosphorus is a major element needed in your body. The main energy currency for various processes contains phosphorus in the form of adenosine triphosphate. It is also vital for good strength of your teeth and bones.
  • Radish also contains manganese (about 69 microgram). This is a vital trace mineral that is a prime requisite for the antioxidant machinery in your body (superoxide dismutase).
  • Radish contains a compound called 4-Methylsulfinyl-3-butenyl isothiocyanate. This compound triggers the programmed cell death pathways in cancer cells.
  • A study also showed that the water extract of radish contains insulin like substances. So, it helps in minimizing the blood glucose levels. It inhibits the enzyme glucosidase which is involved in metabolizing complex carbs into glucose units. So, radish possesses anti-diabetic properties as well. It enhances insulin sensitivity as well.
  • Radish also contains RsAFP2 protein that terminates fungi.

The final takeaway

Low carb vegetables might sound energy depriving. It is not like they are completely devoid of energy. They do contain energy but in small amounts. If you are looking out for cutting down on your weight, these vegetables are a key. Apart from low calories, they provide added benefits of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. They all help in treating diabetes, high cholesterol levels, reduction in blood pressure, and more.

All these factors contribute to the overall health and cellular level of functioning. If you are looking for a better quality of life from within, then you can include these veggies. You will notice the changes in your external self as well. It is not like they are too difficult to be included because of their taste. There is a whole range of expert-designed recipes where you can make them relishing as well as retain their nutritional benefits.


TL;DR?

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