Most people on low-carb diets steer away from grains. But if you have room to add some here and there, it’s smart to know which give you the fewest carbs per cup.
We’ve ranked these according to which have the fewest grams of total carbs per cup. Since some low-carb dieters count “net” carbs—the number of grams of carbs minus the number of grams of fibre in foods—we also list the net carbs for each. Keep in mind that the number of net carbs will always be lower in less-refined foods, since the refining process generally takes the fibre out.
Low-Carb Grains, Ranked
- Oatmeal: 21 g carbs (18 g net)
- Wild rice: 35 g carbs (32 g net)
- Couscous: 36 g carbs (34 g net)
- Bulgur: 34 g carbs (26 g net)
- Quinoa: 39 g carbs (34 g net)
- Millet: 41 g carbs (39 g net)
- Barley: 44 g carbs (38 g net)
- Brown rice, medium grain: 46 g carbs (42 g net)*
- Teff: 50 g carbs (43 g net)
- Brown rice, long grain: 52 g carbs (49 g net)
*Compare this to medium-grain white rice. The refined white stuff not only weighs in higher, at 53 g of total carbs, it has so little fiber that the net carbs end up being about 52.4 g.
If those still have more carbs than you want
Don’t forget about faux grains.
Cauliflower rice is popping up on menus and in freezer cases for a good reason. Some people think it’s a perfect substitute for actual rice. And a cup of florets, before you “rice” them, has just 5 g carbs (2 net).
Zucchini noodles can stand in for regular pasta just fine. A cup of zucchini before it’s spiralized or otherwise “noodled” contains about 5 g carbs (3 g net). Just keep in mind that other veggie noodles tend to be a little higher in carbs: Butternut squash itself has about 21 g carbs per cup (14 g net) before being turned into noodles; carrots deliver 11 g carbs per cup (6 g net).
If you still want rice, there’s a way to reduce the carbs.
Maybe. Scientists reported this in a paper at a conference, so it’s not peer reviewed. But food scientists say it makes sense based on the way starches work.
- Add a teaspoon of coconut oil to a pot of boiling water.
- Add ½ cup rice, cook for 40 minutes.
- Refrigerate for 12 hours before eating.
This could potentially drop the carb content of a cup of rice by 6 or 7 grams. Note “potentially.” The study was done on one type of rice in Sri Lanka, so it’s not a given. But if you prep your rice on Sunday and eat it on Monday or after, you might be getting a little lower-carb bonus.
By Marty Munson