What Are the Best Low-Carb Vegetables for People With Diabetes?

  • Medical Reviewer: Dany Paul Baby, MD
Medically Reviewed on 7/29/2022

Spinach helps process insulin

Choosing low-carb vegetables for people with diabetes can give you healthy and delicious food options. The best low-carb vegetables for people with diabetes include spinach, tomatoes, carrots, and other vegetables.
Choosing low-carb vegetables for people with diabetes can give you healthy and delicious food options. The best low-carb vegetables for people with diabetes include spinach, tomatoes, carrots, and other vegetables.

Counting carbs might seem like a lot of work that only leads to bland meals, but it doesn't have to be that way. Choosing low-carb vegetables for people with diabetes can give you healthy and delicious food options while maintaining or even lowering your blood sugar levels. Many vegetables are not only low in carbohydrates, but they also offer other valuable benefits to improve your quality of life.

Spinach is a low-carb vegetable loaded with nutrients to benefit people with diabetes. One cup of spinach has 6.7 grams of carbohydrates when cooked and 1 gram when served raw. It also contains magnesium, a mineral that helps make a chemical called insulin, which manages blood sugar levels. Studies have linked lower levels of magnesium to diabetes.

Tomatoes offer heart health for people with diabetes

Tomatoes are a natural way for you to add a dash of sweetness to a meal while eating low-carb veggies. They can be cooked, stewed, roasted, or served raw in a salad. A cup of sliced tomatoes has 7 grams of carbohydrates, while 1 cup of cooked tomatoes has 9.6 grams.

Research also shows that tomatoes are good for your cardiovascular system. One study reveals that consuming 200 grams of raw tomatoes per day may help lower blood pressure in people with diabetes.

Yes, carrots are low-carb vegetables 

Because carrots have slightly more sugar than other vegetables, there's been a lot of confusion about whether they count as low-carb veggies. Still, carrots are low in carbs and offer other health benefits for people with diabetes. Sliced cooked carrots have around 6 grams of carbohydrates in a 1/2 cup, while one raw 5.5-inch carrot has 4.8 grams. 

Carrots also have lots of fiber, which is important for people with diabetes because it helps you stay fuller for longer periods of time and doesn't raise your blood sugar. With 5 grams of fiber per cup, carrots give you around 18% of your daily fiber needs.

Broccoli sprouts can improve insulin resistance

Broccoli is a low-carb, low-calorie, leafy green vegetable that’s best served steamed to preserve its nutrients. While 1 cup of raw broccoli has 4.7 grams of carbohydrates, a 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli has 7 grams. 

Among the best low-carb vegetables for people with diabetes, broccoli can have positive effects on blood sugar. Research shows that eating broccoli sprouts may improve your resistance to insulin, which lets your body turn sugar into energy without any problems.

Cabbage can help lower blood sugar

Whether you're eating it in sauerkraut or a colorful salad, cabbage can be served in many ways as part of a low-carb diet. A cup of red cabbage has 10.3 grams of carbohydrates when cooked and 6.6 grams when served raw. 

Many studies show that this vegetable may lower blood sugar, as cabbage contains chemicals called bioactive compounds that have a positive effect on body functions like metabolism. 

Onions are a natural low-carb remedy

Onions are a healthy ingredient that add zest and flavor to a meal. When cooked, 1 cup of onions has 10.1 grams of carbohydrates, while 1 cup of raw onions has 10.7 grams. 

Onions also contain quercetin, a chemical found in plants that reduces swelling in your body. Research reveals that quercetin can have positive effects against diabetes, even showing results that are similar to prescription medications.

Radishes may have plant-based benefits

Radishes may be more than just a crunchy, tangy addition to a recipe. Early research shows that they may be able to reduce the amount of sugar your body takes in. This is because of their high levels of antioxidants, chemicals that fight or repair cell damage. Researchers see plant-based remedies like radishes as a good alternative to prescription drugs, which can have side effects like nausea and stomach irritation. 

Radishes also make appetizing garnishes for salads and other recipes. One cup of raw radishes contains 4 grams of carbohydrates. 

Spaghetti squash is a low-carb pasta substitute

While it may not have the same texture as the noodles you're used to, spaghetti squash is a delicious low-carb option for pasta lovers with diabetes. Compared to 38.3 grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup of regular spaghetti, 1 cup of spaghetti squash includes just 10 grams. 

Spaghetti squash has lots of fiber, making it among the best veggies for people with diabetes. This large amount of fiber causes a slow release of sugars into your body after you eat, which lowers your overall blood sugar.

Eggplant's diabetes benefits are still being discovered

Eggplant can be roasted, steamed, or cooked to bring out its unique texture. A cup of cooked, 1-inch cubes of eggplant contains 8.3 grams of carbohydrates. 

Like radishes, eggplant is also rich in antioxidants. A recent study shows that these antioxidants might help with reducing blood sugar, though more research is needed to understand their effects on people with diabetes.


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Beet juice may stabilize blood sugar

They may look hard and crusty on the outside, but once they're cooked or roasted, beets turn into a soft, satisfying meal. They're also low in carbs, as one whole, cooked beet with a 2-inch diameter has 5 grams of carbohydrates. 

Like cabbage, beets are rich in bioactive compounds. Researchers believe that beet juice in particular may hold promise for controlling blood sugar and insulin production.

Brussels sprouts lower cholesterol

Whether you eat them as a snack or steamed with other vegetables, Brussels sprouts are loaded with cardiovascular benefits for people with diabetes in addition to being a low-carb vegetable. Research shows that they may be able to lower cholesterol, especially when steamed. Like spaghetti squash, they also have plenty of fiber.

If you want to add more low-carb vegetables to your diet, check with your doctor to make a personalized meal plan and see what vegetables will have the most benefits for you.

Medically Reviewed on 7/29/2022

Advances in Nutrition: "Magnesium in Disease Prevention and Overall Health."

Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy: "Quercetin for managing type 2 diabetes and its complications, an insight into multitarget therapy."

Consumer Reports: "Are Carrots Good for You?"

Diabetes Center of Excellence: "Low-Carbohydrate Food Options."

International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: "Effect of broccoli sprouts on insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized double-blind clinical trial," "The effects of tomato consumption on serum glucose, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-I, homocysteine and blood pressure in type 2 diabetic patients."

Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences: "Effect of eggplant (Solanum melongena) on the metabolic syndrome: A review."

Journal of Food Science: "Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata): A food with functional properties aimed to type 2 diabetes prevention and management."

Nutrients: "Radish (Raphanus sativus) and Diabetes."

Nutrition & Metabolism: "Functional properties of beetroot (Beta vulgaris) in management of cardio-metabolic diseases."

Saudi Medical Journal: "The effects of celery leaf (apium graveolens L.) treatment on blood glucose and insulin levels in elderly pre-diabetics."

U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Pasta, cooked, unenriched, without added salt."

The World's Healthiest Foods: "Broccoli," "Brussels sprouts," "Celery," "Squash, winter," "Tomatoes."