Grains are often completely off-limits on many low carb diets.
However, several types of grains are high in fiber, and you can enjoy them in moderation as part of a healthy, carb-controlled diet.
This is because foods that are high in fiber contain a lower number of net carbs, which is the number of carbs the body absorbs. You can calculate net carbs by subtracting the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbs (
Here are some of the top grains that are low in carbs, plus a few others that you may want to limit on a low carb diet.
Oats are highly nutritious and a great source of many important nutrients, including fiber.
In fact, a 1 cup (33 gram) serving of cooked oats contains more than 8 grams of dietary fiber and just 21 grams of net carbs (
Oats are also rich in beta-glucan. This is a type of fiber that research has shown to reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol are a risk factor for heart disease (
Plus, oats are a great source of several other micronutrients, including manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and thiamine (
Be sure to select steel cut or rolled oats instead of highly processed varieties, such as instant oatmeal, to get the most bang for your buck in terms of nutrition.
A 1 cup (33 gram) serving of cooked oats contains 21 grams of net carbs. Oats are also high in beta-glucan, a type of fiber that may help lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Although technically classified as a pseudocereal, quinoa is often prepared and enjoyed as a grain (
Quinoa is loaded with beneficial antioxidants and polyphenols, which can help decrease inflammation and protect against chronic disease (
It’s relatively low in carbs, too, with just 34 grams of net carbs in each 1 cup (185 gram) serving of cooked quinoa (
Quinoa is also one of the few plant-based complete protein sources, meaning that it contains all nine of the essential amino acids the body needs to obtain from food sources (
Additionally, quinoa is high in other key nutrients, including manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and folate (
Quinoa contains 34 grams of net carbs per cooked cup (185 grams). It’s also high in antioxidants and contains all nine of the essential amino acids that your body needs.
Bulgur is a type of cereal grain typically made from cracked wheat berries.
You can use it in a variety of dishes, including tabbouleh salad, porridge, and pilaf.
Not only is bulgur versatile and easy to prepare, but it’s also highly nutritious.
In particular, it’s a great source of manganese, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins (
Plus, with just 25.5 grams of net carbs in 1 cup (182 grams) of cooked bulgur, it’s also one of the lowest carb whole grains available (
One cup (182 grams) of cooked bulgur contains 25.5 grams of net carbs. Bulgur is also versatile, easy to prepare, and rich in manganese, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins.
Millet is a type of ancient grain that’s cultivated around the world.
Like other whole grains, millet is high in antioxidants and polyphenols, which may help prevent chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes (
Millet is also a good source of fiber and relatively low in net carbs, making it a great addition to a healthy, low carb diet.
In fact, a 1 cup (174 gram) serving of cooked millet contains over 2 grams of fiber and 39 grams of net carbs (
Millet is also high in a variety of other vitamins and minerals, including phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and folate (
Millet contains 39 grams of net carbs per cooked cup (174 grams). It’s also high in phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and folate.
Couscous is a processed grain product that’s typically made from semolina flour or durum wheat.
A staple in many Middle Eastern and Moroccan dishes, couscous is relatively low in carbs, with around 34.5 grams of net carbs in each 1 cup (157 gram) serving of cooked couscous (
Couscous is also packed with selenium, a trace mineral that plays a crucial role in heart health, thyroid function, immune health, and more (
Adding couscous to your diet can also boost your intake of several other important micronutrients, including pantothenic acid, manganese, copper, and thiamine (
Couscous is a grain product with 34.5 grams of net carbs per cooked cup (157 grams). In addition to providing plenty of selenium, couscous is high in pantothenic acid, manganese, copper, and thiamine.
Wild rice is a type of grain derived from grasses in the Zizania genus of plants.
Compared with other types of rice, wild rice is significantly lower in carbs, with 32 grams of net carbs in each 1 cup (164 gram) serving of cooked wild rice (
Plus, wild rice is brimming with health-promoting antioxidants.
Interestingly enough, one review showed that the phenolic compounds found in wild rice exhibited 10 times the antioxidant activity of those found in white rice (
What’s more, wild rice is a great source of several other nutrients, including zinc, vitamin B6, and folate (
Wild rice is lower in carbs than other types of rice, with 32 grams of net carbs per cooked cup (164 grams). It is also high in antioxidants, along with zinc, vitamin B6, and folate.
Also sometimes referred to as hulled wheat or dinkel wheat, spelt is an ancient whole grain associated with a number of health benefits (
Studies show that eating more whole grains, such as spelt, may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer (
Although spelt contains mostly carbs, it does offer a good chunk of fiber in each serving.
For instance, a 1 cup (194 gram) serving of cooked spelt contains about 7.5 grams of fiber and 44 grams of net carbs (
Spelt is also rich in niacin, magnesium, zinc, and manganese (
One cup (194 grams) of cooked spelt contains 44 grams of net carbs and 7.5 grams of fiber. Each serving is also high in niacin, magnesium, zinc, and manganese.
Most people think of popcorn as little more than a snack food, but it is technically a whole grain.
It’s also one of the lowest carb grains available, with 6.5 grams of net carbs in each 1 cup (14 gram) serving of popped popcorn (
Plus, popcorn is low in calories and high in B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus (
However, be sure to opt for air-popped popcorn whenever possible to maximize the nutritional value of this healthy grain.
This is because many prepared varieties are high in unhealthy fats, added sugar, and artificial flavorings, which can negate any potential health benefits.
Each cup (14 grams) of popped popcorn contains 6.5 grams of net carbs. Popcorn is also low in calories and high in B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Barley is a nutritious cereal grain notable for its nutty flavor and distinctive, chewy texture.
Barley is also high in fiber, with 6.5 grams and about 41.5 grams of net carbs in each 1 cup (170 gram) serving of cooked barley (
Additionally, cooked barley is a great source of selenium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and copper (
However, be sure to opt for hulled barley instead of pearled barley whenever possible because hulled barley is less processed and is considered a whole grain (
Barley contains 41.5 grams of net carbs in each cup (170 grams). In addition to being high in fiber, barley is a great source of selenium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and copper.
Although many types of grains can fit into a healthy, low carb diet, some types of grains contain a high number of carbs and are low in fiber.
Refined grains, in particular, are grain products that have undergone processing to improve their texture and shelf life.
This results in a lower content of fiber, which can increase the number of net carbs in the final product.
A few examples of grains that are high in carbs include:
Additionally, keep in mind that if you’re cutting carbs, you may still need to limit many healthy whole grains, depending on how restrictive your diet is.
For example, very low carbohydrate or ketogenic diets often limit carb intake to less than 50 grams per day, which can make it challenging to fit any grains into your daily allotment of carbs (
Refined grains have undergone processing to improve their texture and shelf life. These foods are typically lower in fiber and higher in net carbs than whole grains.
Although many low carb diets do not eliminate grains, many varieties can fit into a healthy, carb-controlled diet.
In fact, many types of grains are high in fiber and low in net carbs, which is the number of carbs the body actually absorbs.
For best results, be sure to select whole grain varieties and steer clear of grains that have been heavily processed or refined whenever possible.
Last medically reviewed on December 10, 2020
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Dec 10, 2020
Medically Reviewed By
Lisa Hodgson, RDN, CDN, CDCES, FADCES
Copy Edited By
Share this article
Grains are often completely off-limits on many low carb diets.