There are so many low carb foods, but not all of them are healthy.
This article presents a list of 21 of the best low carb foods, with an emphasis on the most nutrient-dense options.
In other words, the foods on this list are all high in nutrients and some of the healthiest foods out there.
Even if you don’t follow a low-carb way of eating, these foods can all play an important role in a healthy diet.
You will find the foods separated into four categories; animal foods, fruit and vegetables, seafood, and ‘everything else.’
For each food, you can find the net carbohydrate content and the top 5 nutrients the food offers per 100 grams.
(Net carbohydrate = total carbs minus fiber.)
Low Carb Animal Foods
First of all, we will take a look at animal foods.
While many of us automatically associate fruit and vegetables with vitamins and minerals, the animal kingdom provides some of the most nutrient-rich options.
This fact is particularly the case for organ meats such as liver, which contain substantial amounts of almost every vitamin and mineral.
While animal foods generally have no carbs, organ meats do contain a minimal amount.
Here are five of the healthiest low carb animal foods.
1. Beef Liver (5.1 g net carbs)
Beef liver is one of the healthiest foods available to us; it is a powerhouse of nutrition and contains a substantial amount of vitamins.
Per 100 grams, beef liver provides 5.1 grams of net carbohydrate (1).
Additionally, beef liver contains the following five nutrients in significant proportions;
- Vitamin B12: 1176% DV
- Copper: 714% DV
- Vitamin A (retinol): 634% DV
- Vitamin B2: 201% DV
- Vitamin B3: 88% DV
While liver may not be one of the tastiest foods, it is one of the most nutritious.
The traditional method of a shallow pan-fry alongside onions is a good way to eat liver.
2. Eggs (0.8 g net carbs)
Some people refer to eggs as ‘nature’s multivitamin,’ and they have a point; eggs provide almost every essential vitamin and mineral.
Per 100g, eggs contain approximately 0.8g carbohydrate, which works out at approximately 0.4g carbs per large egg (2).
In other words, eggs contain virtually no carbohydrate.
Regarding their nutrient profile, eggs are an excellent source of;
- Selenium: 45% DV
- Vitamin B2: 28% DV
- Vitamin B12: 22% DV
- Phosphorus: 19% DV
- Vitamin B5: 14% DV
Lastly, one common question many people have about low carb diets is this; “What can I eat for breakfast on a low carb diet?”
The answer; eggs!
Of course, there are other foods too, but eggs are incredibly versatile; boil them, fry them, or make a cheese omelet.
All these options are good for you and taste delicious.
3. Lamb (0 g net carbs)
Meat does not contain carbohydrate, and lamb is no exception (3).
Lamb is rich in protein, fat and it is a surprising source of omega-3 fatty acids too.
Since lamb spend their life grazing on pasture, the meat contains quite a lot of omega-3.
Furthermore, this omega-3 comes in the most bio-available form of DHA and EPA; the same as found in oily fish (4).
Aside from the omega-3 content, lamb is very similar to beef, and the major nutrients are;
- Zinc: 51% DV
- Selenium: 44% DV
- Vitamin B12: 38% DV
- Vitamin B3: 27% DV
- Phosphorus: 17% DV
Lamb is very tender and it works well on the grill or as part of a stew.
4. Liverwurst (2.2 g net carbs)
Never heard of liverwurst before?
In that case, it is a type of German sausage that is incredibly nutrient-dense.
Liverwurst contains an assortment of ingredients including liver, meat, animal fat and various spices.
Typically, these spices include nutmeg, black pepper and ground spice among others.
Since organ meats contain a little carbohydrate, liverwurst contains around 2.2 grams of net carbs per 100g (5).
For an idea of just how nutritious it is, here is a summary of the most significant nutrients it contains;
- Vitamin A: 553% DV
- Vitamin B12: 224% DV
- Selenium: 83% DV
- Vitamin B12: 61% DV
- Iron: 36% DV
Liverwurst is also a delicious way to “hide” the taste of liver for those who don’t like it.
5. Aged Cheese (3.2 g net carbs)
Cheese is delicious, and it supplies an excellent amount of protein and calcium.
Per 100 grams, it only provides around 2.4g net carbs (6).
However, not all cheese is equal, and aged cheese has some unique benefits.
Particularly, hard aged cheese with a longer fermentation time (like Parmesan) contains a decent amount of probiotic bacteria and vitamin K2.
Nutritionally, cheese is an excellent source of calcium, which is vital for skeletal health (7).
Aside from calcium, hard Parmesan cheese provides;
- Calcium: 118% DV
- Phosphorus: 69% DV
- Sodium: 67% DV
- Selenium: 32% DV
- Vitamin B12: 20% DV
Perhaps the best thing about cheese is that it makes everything else taste better, but it tastes delicious on its own too.
Fruit and Vegetables
Almost every animal food is low carb, but it is a different matter with fruit and vegetables.
For example, some can be very high in carbohydrates, such as bananas, mangoes and potatoes.
The following five plant foods are some of the most nutritious fruit and vegetable options, and they are also very low in carbs.
6. Avocado (1.8 g net carbs)
This traditional Mexican fruit has exploded in popularity over the last few years, and it now enjoys worldwide fame.
Per 100g, avocado supplies 1.8 grams of net carbohydrate, which works out at 3.6 grams per avocado (8).
Nutritionally, it is not difficult to see why avocado is so popular; it contains lots of healthy fats, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals.
Most notably, avocados are a good source of;
- Vitamin K: 26% DV
- Folate: 20% DV
- Vitamin C: 17% DV
- Vitamin B5: 14% DV
- Potassium: 14% DV
If you eat the whole avocado, it will supply roughly double these amounts.
7. Kale (8 g net carbs)
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of kale, but it is hard to argue with its nutrient profile.
While it may not be the best-tasting food around, it is one of the most nutritious.
100 grams of kale provides roughly 8 grams of net carbohydrate (9).
Additionally, kale is a rich source of;
- Vitamin K1: 1021% DV
- Vitamin A (as beta-carotene): 308% DV
- Vitamin C: 200% DV
- Manganese: 39% DV
- Copper: 14% DV
As with all plant sources of vitamins A (carotenoids) and K, they do require conversion to vitamin K2 (menaquinone) and vitamin A (retinol) inside the body.
As a result, it is better to get these nutrients from animal foods in addition to plant foods, as the conversion rate is unreliable (10).
8. Mushrooms (1.6 g net carbs)
Mushrooms are an interesting food that contains an assortment of exciting compounds.
While they are not an actual fruit or vegetable, it is the easiest way to classify them as they belong in a category all of their own; fungus.
It will differ somewhat from mushroom to mushroom, but for the standard white button mushroom, the net carb count is 1.6 grams (11).
Here are the most concentrated vitamins and minerals in white button mushrooms;
- Vitamin B2: 24% DV
- Vitamin B3: 18% DV
- Copper: 16% DV
- Vitamin B5: 15% DV
- Selenium: 13% DV
Additionally, mushrooms contain all kinds of interesting biologically active compounds such as phenolic compounds, mycosteroids and biometals.
Research is being undertaken on the potential anti-inflammatory effects of these compounds (12).
9. Spinach (1.4 g net carbs)
Generally speaking, leafy green vegetables are low carb and full of beneficial nutrients.
While spinach won’t make people big and strong like in Popeye, it is a significant source of vitamins and minerals.
It also has a minimal net carb content of 1.4 grams per 100 g (13).
Alongside kale, spinach has a claim to being the most nutrient-dense vegetable.
It supplies an impressive amount of the following nutrients;
- Vitamin K1: 604% DV
- Vitamin A (carotenoids): 188% DV
- Folate: 49% DV
- Vitamin C: 47% DV
- Manganese: 45% DV
To make it a little tastier, try sauteing it in butter and salting liberally.
10. Strawberry (5.7 g net carbs)
The strawberry has little carbohydrate content, and it is also one of the tastiest fruits.
Strawberries make a delicious low carb dessert, especially when eaten the traditional way – with some heavy cream on top.
Per 100 g, strawberries contain a minimal 5.7 grams of net carbs (14).
Nutritionally, strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C;
- Vitamin C: 98% DV
- Manganese: 19% DV
- Folate: 6% DV
- Potassium: 4% DV
- Vitamin K: 3% DV
Strawberries are also rich in polyphenols, which may benefit our health in numerous ways (15).
Low Carb Seafood
In the modern age, most people in the Western world are not consuming enough fish and seafood.
Since seafood is a vital source of omega-3 and incredibly nutritious, that is a shame.
Here are some nutrient-dense options that everyone should consider including in their diet.
11. Atlantic Mackerel (0 g net carbs)
With one of the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids (and lowest mercury levels) Atlantic mackerel is an excellent choice.
Since fish do not contain carbohydrate, it has a net carb count of 0 g (16).
Mackerel provides an impressive array of nutrients too, particularly;
- Vitamin B12: 317% DV
- Selenium: 74% DV
- Vitamin B3: 34% DV
- Phosphorus: 28% DV
- Magnesium: 24% DV
Just one thing to be aware of; not all mackerel is equal.
Notably, Atlantic mackerel has very low levels of mercury contamination, but other varieties such as Spanish mackerel are high in mercury (17).
12. Fish Roe (1.5 g net carbs)
Fish roe is another low carb food that many people probably haven’t tried.
However, it is impressive nutritionally, and it tastes pretty good too.
Unlike regular fish, fish roe isn’t quite zero carb, and it contains a minimal amount of carbohydrate.
Regarding the nutrition profile, fish roe is exceptionally high in (18);
- Vitamin B12: 167% DV
- Selenium: 58% DV
- Vitamin B2: 44% DV
- Phosphorus: 40% DV
- Vitamin E: 35% DV
Fish roe enjoys the most popularity in the Eastern part of the world, specifically Japan, Korea, and Eastern Russia.
However, it is still available to buy – just be aware it is a little expensive.
13. Sardines (0 g net carbs)
Sardines are a small, nutritious fish that belongs to the herring family.
One of the reasons why sardines are so nutritious is that we eat the whole fish; flesh, organs and even bones.
These small fish are high in protein and contain lots of healthy fat in the form of omega-3 fatty acids.
As a result, the nutrient-profile is very high in a variety of vitamins and minerals (19);
- Vitamin B12: 149% DV
- Selenium: 75% DV
- Vitamin D: 68% DV
- Phosphorus: 49% DV
- Calcium: 38% DV
Sardines are a great source of calcium due to the small edible bones in the fish.
Similar to all fatty fish, sardines supply an excellent source of vitamin D too.
14. Salmon (0 g net carbs)
Due to the delicious taste, salmon comes high on many people’s favorite food lists.
Salmon is very healthy too, and it provides the following nutrients in substantial amounts (20);
- Selenium: 67% DV
- Vitamin B12: 51% DV
- Vitamin B3: 50% DV
- Vitamin B6: 47% DV
- Vitamin B2: 29% DV
However, the most significant benefit is the abundant supply of omega-3 that salmon provides, with 100 grams containing more than 2.5 grams of the essential fat.
Finally, wild Alaskan salmon has one of the highest concentrations of omega-3 (and lowest of mercury) out of all fish.
15. Mussels (3.7 g net carbs)
Mussels are one of the healthiest foods in the world.
Shellfish do contain small amounts of carbohydrate, and mussels have a net carb content of around 3.7 grams per 100 g (23).
Mussels are crammed full of nutrients too;
- Vitamin B12: 200% DV
- Manganese: 170% DV
- Selenium: 64% DV
- Iron: 22% DV
- Phosphorus: 20% DV
Also, mussels are a good source of omega-3 fats.
Overall, mussels are a tasty, nutritious and relatively affordable food, making them a great choice for a low carb diet.
Here are some more low carb foods that do not fit into a specific category, which range from cooking oils to nuts.
16. Coconut Oil (0 g net carbs)
Coconut oil is not particularly nutritious, but it has one important attribute; it is one of the most heat-stable cooking fats (24).
This oxidative stability is mainly due to coconut’s high saturated fat content, which is the most heat-stable type of fat.
As a result, coconut oil is a sensible choice for pan-frying, deep-frying and any other kind of high-heat cooking,
Coconut oil works exceptionally well in curries and for authentic tasting South-Asian cuisine.
17. Almonds (7.5 g net carbs)
Almonds are one of the most nutritious nut options and they are a source of all three macronutrients; carbs, fat and protein.
Regarding their nutritional value, almonds are one of the very best sources of dietary vitamin E.
For those who don’t eat nuts and seeds, it is quite challenging to get adequate amounts of this vital vitamin.
The top five nutrients that almonds provide are;
- Manganese: 131% DV
- Vitamin E: 130% DV
- Magnesium: 72% DV
- Copper: 58% DV
- Vitamin B2: 51% DV
Almonds are also very convenient and make a far healthier snack than potato chips or fast food options.
18. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (0 g net carbs)
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is another excellent oil.
Unlike coconut oil, EVOO works well for cooking AND as a dressing for salads.
However, there is a widespread myth that EVOO is not heat-stable; this is wrong.
Numerous controlled studies show that EVOO displays excellent oxidative stability, even after hours of prolonged frying (26).
Furthermore, in a recent independent lab test, EVOO was the best-performing oil as it had the lowest amount of toxic polar compounds after high-heat cooking. Coconut oil came second (27).
Extra virgin olive oil also contains a substantial concentration of polyphenols.
19. Dark Chocolate (85%) (24.7 g net carbs)
Some chocolate is full of sugar and probably belongs on the ‘foods to avoid’ list, but darker varieties can be surprisingly nutritious.
While 24 grams of net carbs may sound quite a lot, we don’t eat 100 g portions of chocolate (or at least, we shouldn’t!)
The darker varieties of chocolate are very low in sugar too, and the carbohydrate mainly comes from soluble and insoluble fibers and a type of starch.
Pure cocoa will provide the following nutrients per 100 grams (30);
- Manganese: 192% DV
- Copper: 189% DV
- Magnesium: 125% DV
- Iron: 77% DV
- Phosphorus: 73% DV
The higher the cocoa % of the chocolate, the closer it will be to these values.
20. Macadamia Nuts (5.6 g net carbs)
In my opinion, macadamia nuts are one of the tastiest low carb foods there is.
These little round nuts have a satisfying crunchy and slightly buttery taste, and they make a delicious snack.
Macadamia nuts are particularly high in the monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid, in addition to fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Notably, they are perhaps the only nut that has a low amount of omega-6 fatty acids too.
Regarding their carbohydrate content, macadamia nuts only contain around 5.6 grams of net carbs per 100 grams (31).
The vast majority of their carbohydrate content comes in the form of fiber.
Nutritionally, they offer high amounts of the following vitamins and minerals;
- Manganese: 207% DV
- Vitamin B1: 80% DV
- Copper: 38% DV
- Magnesium: 33% DV
- Iron: 20% DV
21. Herbs and Spices (0 g net carbs)
Herbs and spices are extraordinarily nutrient-rich, and they help improve the taste of our food.
Since we use them in such low quantities, the amount of carbohydrate they contain is negligible.
You can use any herbs or spices in food depending on personal preference, but some great options include;
- Bay leaf
- Chilli pepper
- Curry powder
Lastly, it is worth remembering that just because a food is low in carbohydrate does not necessarily mean it is healthy.
Rather than judging food by the number of calories, carbs, or fat it has, it is the nutrient density that matters the most.
To sum up, these 21 options are some of the healthiest low carb foods available.