THE ULTIMATE LIST OF 25 LOW-CARB FOODS !

Carbohydrates are found in a wide array of both healthy and unhealthy foods—bread, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks, corn, and cherry pie. They also come in a variety of forms. The most common and abundant forms are sugars, fibers, and starches.

Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity. Carbohydrates have long been a gray area for the physique-minded individual. On the one hand, you need some carbs in your diet to provide the energy necessary to fuel an intense workout. Go overboard, however, and you can easily end up with a midsection that’s a few cans short of a six-pack.

Low energy, a gut, and lackluster muscle growth are telltale signs that you may have become too chummy with pasta, cereal, and other carb-heavy grub. And without question, any stroll through the supermarket can be tantamount to starch madness as you try to steer your cart away from the deluge of foods saturated with refined carbs and simple sugars at the expense of muscle-building protein.

Knowing where to turn to for low-carbohydrate foods that are still chockfull of what your transforming physique needs—namely protein, vital minerals and vitamins, and less hazardous unrefined complex carbs, is the key to winning the war on flab.

In order to power your active lifestyle, we’ve put together an ultimate grocery list of the low-carb edibles. We’ll take you aisle-by-aisle for our top picks. Who’s hungry?

LOW-CARB VEGETABLES

1. ZUCCHINI
Carb count: 7 grams per 1 medium squash

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Zucchini, or less courgettes in French parlance, is a great vegetable to have on hand to trim the carbs from your diet. When cut into noodle-like strands using a serrated vegetable peeler or spiralizer, zucchini becomes a wonderfully tender substitute for more carbohydrate-dense spaghetti as a base for your meat sauce.

Grated zucchini can be used for hash browns in lieu of potatoes or can be added to pancake batter at the expense of some of the flour. Or for an inspiring low-carb snack, slice the zucchini ends off and use a flat-blade vegetable peeler or mandolin to make long, wide strips. Place some smoked salmon and arugula on the end of each zucchini ribbon and roll up.

Nutrition Bonus: While not often considered a so-called “superfood,” zucchini does harbor a range of essential nutrients including vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, and vitamin C.

2. CAULIFLOWER
Carb count: 5 grams per cup

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Cauliflower has been dubbed the “skinny starch.” Once cooked, cauliflower’s unique texture can be used as a lower-carb alternative for mashed potatoes (minus the spuds, you’ll save about 23 grams of carbs in a serving), mac and cheese, creamy soups, and even pizza crust. Or pulverize a whole raw head in a food processor and use as a substitute for couscous or rice.

Nutrition Bonus: As a member of the Brassica plant family along with broccoli and kale, cauliflower delivers a wallop of antioxidants.

3. SWISS CHARD
Carb count: 1 gram per cup

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Nutrient-dense dark, leafy greens should always be a low-carb addition to your grocery cart, and Swiss chard is no exception. You can steam or sauté the leaves, or consider using whole uncooked leaves as an alternative to carb-heavy tortillas when making tacos and wraps.

Nutrition Bonus: Swiss chard delivers a massive amount of vitamin K, which a study in “The Journal of Nutrition” found was capable of reducing the risk for cancer and heart disease.1

4. MUSHROOMS
Carb count: 2 grams per cup

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From white to cremini to more exotic shiitake, these edible fungi are low in carbs but rich in great umami flavor. Large and meaty portobello mushroom caps can stealthily be used as an alternative to hamburger buns, or as a replacement for gut-busting pizza crust by laying on all your favorite pizza toppings.

Nutrition Bonus: Mushrooms of all types have been praised for their high amounts of immunity-boosting compounds.

5. CELERY
Carb count: 1 gram per stalk

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Celery is made up of about 95 percent water, so it’s no surprise that there’s a dearth of carbohydrates. Slice and add to salads, or simply smear on some nut butter for a snack that’s big on nutrition but low in six-pack-killing processed carbs.

Nutrition Bonus: Celery is a good way to obtain an extra dose of vitamin K, which can bolster bone strength.

6. CHERRY TOMATOES
Carb count: 6 grams per cup

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With better flavor than the bland larger tomatoes sold at the supermarket, cherry tomatoes are a convenient way to bolster the nutritional firepower of your diet without any serious carbohydrate backlash.

Pop them in your mouth for a sweet snack au naturale, or toss a pint with a bit of oil and bake them in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until tender and shrivelled for roasted flavor bombs.

Nutrition Bonus: These rosy orbs are a source of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene.

7. SPAGHETTI SQUASH
Carb count: 7 grams per cup

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Think of spaghetti squash as Mother Nature’s low-carb answer to pasta. Once cooked, the flesh of the squash pulls apart into slightly nutty-tasting, noodle-like strands minus the carbohydrate deluge. Simply slice a spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and place the squash halves in a microwavable dish, flesh-side down.

Loosely cover the squash with a paper towel or parchment paper and microwave on high for 8-12 minutes, or until the flesh is very tender. Let the squash stand for five minutes, then scrape out the squash flesh with a fork into strands. Top the squash with your favorite protein-rich meat sauce.

Nutrition Bonus: The benevolent gourd delivers notable amounts of vitamin C, a nutrient shown to help reduce muscle soreness and oxidative damage following intense exercise.2

OTHER LOW-CARB VEGGIES

Asparagus
Bell pepper
Watercress
Bok choy
Broccoli
Radish
Spinach
Arugula

LOW-CARB FRUITS

8. APRICOTS
Carb count: 8 grams per 2 fruits

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Bob Dylan famously sang, “Everybody must get stoned.” If he was referring to eating the stone fruit apricots as a lower-sugar option, he definitely had the right idea. Enjoy as an out-of-hand snack, or slice and add to yogurt, oatmeal, and even salad for natural sweetness.

Nutrition Bonus: The orange-tinged flesh of the apricot is a tipoff that it contains high amounts of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that has been linked to improved brain functioning.3

9. AVOCADO
Carb count: 8 grams per 1/2 avocado

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Unlike most of its counterparts in the fruit world—yes, it’s a fruit—avocado is virtually free of sugar. In fact, 75 percent of its carbs come from nondigestible fiber.

Nutrition Bonus: Fatty in a good way, avocados are plush in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.

10. STRAWBERRIES
Carb count: 11 grams per cup

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Among berries, strawberries supply the least sugar, making them a great option to satisfy a sweet tooth. If you’re concerned about possible pesticide exposure, opt for strawberries labelled “organic.”

Nutrition Bonus: Strawberries are a stellar source of vitamin C, which may help regular gym-goers avoid coming down with the sniffles.4

11. RED GRAPEFRUIT
Carb count: 9 grams per 1/2 fruit

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Time to pucker up to this lower-carbohydrate fruit option, which supplies about 20 percent less sugar than that found in an orange. Just don’t try to tame its sour power by coating it in sugar.

Nutrition Bonus: You can count on grapefruit for an added dose of immune-boosting vitamin C.

OTHER LOW-CARB FRUITS

Watermelon
Peaches
Blackberries
Star fruit
Rhubarb
Cantaloupe

LOW-CARB MEATS AND FISH

12. CATFISH
Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

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More flavorful than tilapia, farmed catfish is an inexpensive way to load up your muscles with pure high-quality protein. American-farmed catfish is also considered a sustainable option from the fish counter. Fillets are great steamed, grilled, oven-roasted, or pan-seared.

Nutrition Bonus: This swimmer is a good source of vitamin B12, which your nervous system needs in order to function properly.

13. CANNED PINK SALMON
Carb count: 0 grams per 1/2 can

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The canned-fish aisle is a great place to locate virtually carb-free protein. Pink salmon is an economical option with lower levels of toxins such as mercury than what’s found in most canned tuna.

Nutrition Bonus: Canned salmon is a good way to reel in plenty of the omega-3 fats that have been shown to reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness and stimulate muscle protein synthesis.5

14. CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS
Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

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While go-to chicken breasts can be as exciting as C-SPAN, budget-friendly drumsticks have richer flavor and their juicy meat is less prone to drying out during cooking. Leave the skin on during cooking for even more flavor, but if you’re concerned about the extra fat calories it delivers, strip it off before eating.

Nutrition Bonus: Beyond a protein payload (24 grams in each 3-ounce serving), drumsticks supply selenium, an antioxidant that may help ease exercise-induced oxidative stress.6

15. GROUND TURKEY
Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

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Inexpensive and ubiquitous, ground turkey is an easy way to infuse your meals with carb-free protein. Use it for burgers and meat sauces. To trim fat calories, look for packages made with ground white meat.

Nutrition Bonus: As with other poultry, turkey contains a full arsenal of the essential amino acids that can pump up your muscles.

16. PORK TENDERLOIN
Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

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When not overcooked, the “other white meat” has good juicy flavor and a much less painful price tag than its beef counterpart. It also provides a stellar 6:1 protein-to-fat ratio. Look for unseasoned pork tenderloin to avoid excess salt and other questionable ingredients that may be in the seasonings.

Nutrition Bonus: On top of plenty of muscle-friendly protein, pork tenderloin is a good source of thiamine, a B vitamin needed to make the energy you use to toss around the iron on the gym floor.

17. TOP SIRLOIN STEAK
Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

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This cut of beef is one of the leaner options at the supermarket, making it a smart way to get your fill of protein with zero carbohydrate cost. It takes particularly well to marinades, which serve to tenderize the meat further. You can up the nutritional ante by splurging for steak sourced from grass-fed cattle.

Nutrition Bonus: Red meat like sirloin beef are a natural source of creatine, that much-beloved compound that can help you show off feats of strength at the gym.

18. ROAST BEEF
Carb count: 0 grams per 2 ounces

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For the most part, deli-style roast beef is spared the sugars that can be added to turkey and other lunchmeats. Surprisingly, it’s also one of the leaner options at the deli counter.

For a low-carb lunch option, try wrapping a few slices of roast beef and roasted red pepper, a smear of Dijon mustard, and some cheese or avocado in large Swiss chard or collard leaves.

Nutrition Bonus: The highly absorbable form of iron in beef can help jazz up your muscles during those suffer-fests in the squat rack.

19. BISON
Carb count: 0 grams per 3 ounces

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When it comes to your grilled steak or burgers, consider getting your game on more often for carb-free protein goodness. Game meats like bison and elk are becoming easier to find at the butcher counter as more people sign on to the paleo way of eating and consumers increasingly search for alternatives to beef raised on industrial feedlots.

Nutrition Bonus: Research shows that when bison is raised on the range, its meat is richer in omega-3 fats than cattle fattened up on corn and soy in feedlots.7

OTHER LOW-CARB MEATS AND FISH

Halibut
Canned sardines
Ground beef
Turkey breast
Cornish game hen
Chicken thighs

20. GRUYERE CHEESE

Carb count: 0 grams per ounce

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Forget the mundane mass-produced cheese slices—this hard cheese from Switzerland has great nutty flavor that’ll win you over. It also melts beautifully, making it a perfect way to add excitement to everything from steamed broccoli to low-carb pizzas.

Nutrition Bonus: This cured cheese is a top-notch source of calcium, a mineral involved in bone-building and perhaps fat-burning.

21. BUTTER
Carb count: 0 grams per tablespoon

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Since the link between saturated fat and heart disease has been at least partially decoupled, butter has once again found a place in frying pans and home baking. For a rich-tasting riff on mashed potatoes, try blending steamed cauliflower with butter, fresh thyme, and a couple pinches of salt.

Nutrition Bonus: Butter substitutes like margarine and vegetable shortening can adversely affect your “bad” cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease to a far greater degree than the saturated fat in butter does.

22. EGGS
Carb count: 1 gram per 2 large eggs

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who cares, as both supply plenty of protein power without any carbohydrate worry? In fact, the protein in eggs is considered of higher quality than what’s found in any other whole food.

Nutrition Bonus: Canadian scientists recently discovered that eggs are a surprisingly good source of antioxidants to help mop up those cell-damaging free radicals.8

23. COTTAGE CHEESE
Carb count: 6 grams per cup

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There’s good reason why this curd product is still a favorite among bodybuilders: It’s jam-packed with protein (28 grams per cup) with negligible amounts of carbohydrates. Sodium levels can vary greatly, so compare brands carefully.

Nutrition Bonus: The great white is rich in the slow-digesting protein casein, making it a good snack option in the evening to prolong muscle-making while you snooze away.

24. PLAIN GREEK YOGURT
Carb count: 9 grams per cup

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In recent years, Greek yogurt has gone from an obscure item in the dairy aisle to a cultured rock star. And considering that it supplies about 23 grams of protein per cup, muscles everywhere have been benefiting from its surging popularity. Of course, if you want to keep the carb count low, you’ll have to opt for plain versions that are not pumped full of sugar.

Nutrition Bonus: Probiotics—the friendly critters in yogurt—work to improve your digestive and immune health.

25. GOAT MILK
Carb count: 11 grams per cup

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It’s time tangy goat milk got a chance to display its horns. This up-and-coming milk contains less carbs than cow’s milk, is easier to digest, and according to recent research is richer in a number of nutrients such as omega fatty acids.9

Nutrition Bonus: Nutrition analysis suggests that goat milk contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid that may help torch body fat.

OTHER LOW-CARB DAIRY PRODUCTS

Goat cheese
Monterey cheese
Ricotta
Cream cheese
Plain kefir
Brie cheese
Sour cream

 

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