What are Low Carbohydrate Foods?

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  • Written By: Mandi Rogier
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2019
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Low carbohydrate foods are those that contain relatively few sugars. Fads such as the Atkins diet have popularized the idea of limiting the intake of carbs for the purpose of losing weight. Monitoring carbohydrates is also important for those with diabetes.

Not all carbs are created equal. The glycemic index of carbohydrates is a rating that pertains to the length of time needed for the sugars in a particular food to get absorbed into the blood stream. Complex carbohydrates have a low glycemic index, meaning that these foods take a long time to digest and provide sugars in a steady stream over a period of time. Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, release sugars into the body very quickly.

While carbohydrates can be reduced in the diet, they should not be eliminated completely. The key to a low carb diet is to select foods with complex carbs, and to limit carb intake so that the blood sugar remains steady and does not spike suddenly.

Carbohydrates are most commonly associated with breads, but carbs can actually be found in some form in every food group. Fruits and vegetables both contain carbs, as do some meat and dairy products. Very few items are completely free of carbohydrates.


The natural sugars found in fruits provide carbohydrates. Some fruits have fewer carbs than others. Low carbohydrate foods in the fruit category include rhubarb, berries, and melons.

Vegetables contain carbohydrates as well, though most have a relatively low carb count. Starchy vegetables like potatoes have the highest carb counts. Greens, sprouts, and most salad fixings such as cucumber, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, and avocado, are low carbohydrate foods.

Meat and dairy products are usually very low carbohydrate foods. In general, items high in fat and protein are low in carbohydrates. Low carbohydrate diets focus on heavy consumption of meat, cheese, and eggs. Tofu is a good low carb substitute for those who want to limit or eliminate their meat consumption. Nuts are another low carb source of protein. Beware of breaded meats, organ meats, and processed meat products such as lunch meat and hot dogs as these have a higher carb content than other meat products.

While food is typically the main focus of any diet plan, beverages should not go without consideration. Fruit juices, beer, milk, and regular cola all contain carbohydrates. To avoid these sneaky liquid carbs, replace the aforementioned beverages with water, diet soda, and unsweetened tea, all of which are completely carb free.



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