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Diet & Lifestyle

A Starter's Guide to The Candida Diet

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You may have heard of the candida diet’s rising popularity but before we decode this cleanse diet for you, it’s important for you to understand the diet’s merits, scientifically.

What is candida?

Candida is a type of yeast that’s part of the body’s natural gut microbiome. Usually, a person’s body contains a healthy ratio of naturally occurring bacteria to yeast. This balance of ‘gut flora’ is a crucial part of your immune system and digestive health. When this balance is lost during times of stress or after a course of antibiotics, Candida yeasts are able to expand until they control a large portion of your gut. Symptoms of this overgrowth range from yeast infections, skin issues like psoriasis, fatigue, mood swings, brain fog, and digestive problem. (1)

It is believed that one of the main contributors to candida overgrowth is a poor diet since refined carbohydrates (sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice) and sugar feed the yeast. The candida diet is a strict diet meant to alleviate the symptoms of candida overgrowth. However, the effectiveness of the diet is not supported by scientific evidence. (2)

two glasses of water with cut up lemons and whole lemons next to them

The candida diet is a short-term diet plan that helps cleanse and restore the body.

The candida cleanse

The candida diet starts with a cleanse — lasting no more than a couple of days — until symptoms have improved. The cleanse involves sticking to healthy, nutritious foods that don’t force your digestive tract to work too hard. The most common way to do the cleanse is to eat mainly salads and vegetables alongside a small amount of protein throughout the day. Some people choose a more strict interpretation and follow a fluid-only diet — consisting of lemon water or bone broth — for the duration of the cleanse, but this is not really necessary.

While there are no studies to support the benefits of the candida cleanse before beginning the actual diet, it might help you get into the mindset for the candida diet. To ensure adequate nutrient intake, it’s best for you to work with a healthcare provider when undertaking the candida diet.

What is the candida diet?

The candida diet is like a more restricted version of the paleo diet. It encourages the consumption of low-sugar and anti-inflammatory foods.

Candida diet foods to include

Here is the list of foods to eat on the candida diet.

  • Non-starchy vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, kale, onions, raw garlic, rutabaga, spinach, and zucchini
  • Low-sugar fruits: lemon, lime, and berries (in small amounts)
  • Gluten-free grains: amaranth, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, oat bran, quinoa, and teff
  • High-quality proteins: anchovies, chicken, eggs, herring, sardines, turkey, and wild salmon
  • Certain dairy products: butter, ghee, kefir, and plain yogurt (3)(4)
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, coconut, flaxseed, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds
  • Herbs and spices: basil, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, dill, garlic, ginger, oregano, paprika, rosemary, salt, thyme, turmeric
  • Condiments: apple cider vinegar, coconut, and sauerkraut
  • Healthy fats: avocado, coconut oil, flax oil, olives, olive oil, sesame oil
  • No-sugar sweeteners: erythritol, stevia, xylitol
  • Non-caffeinated drinks: chicory coffee, filtered water, herbal teas

Along with the diet, it can be helpful to take a probiotic, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and avoid stress, all of which can help boost your immune system. There is no set amount of time to follow the diet. Some people feel better after a month, while for others, it may take a little longer.

Candida diet foods to avoid

This is where things get a little more intense! The basic restriction of the candida diet is sugar. Yeast feed on sugar, so any added sugar or foods that break down into sugar need to be limited.

Here is a list of foods not to eat on the candida diet:

  • High-sugar fruits: bananas, dates, fruit juice, grapes, mango, and raisins
  • Grains containing gluten: barley, rye, spelt, triticale and wheat
  • Certain meats: deli-meats and farm-raised fish
  • Certain dairy products: cheese, cream, and milk
  • Nuts and seeds: cashews, peanuts, pecans, and pistachios
  • Condiments: barbecue sauce, horseradish, ketchup, mayonnaise, soy sauce, white vinegar
  • Processed fats: canola oil, imitation butter spreads, margarine, soybean oil, sunflower oil
  • Sugar and sugar substitutes: agave, aspartame, cane sugar, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, and table sugar
  • Caffeinated and alcoholic drinks: beer, black tea, cider, coffee, energy drinks, liquors, soda, spirits, and wine

After symptoms have been resolved, foods that have been eliminated can be systematically added back, with the goal of not going back to a way of eating that triggers another imbalance.

bowl of assorted foods including grains, vegetables, tofu and chickpeas

Plant-based protein is important to have in your diet when you want to cleanse your body following the candida diet.

Vegetarians and vegans on the candida diet

With some careful planning, vegetarians and vegans can follow most of the candida diet’s guidelines.

Here are a couple of important considerations:

  • Include plant-based protein sources: soy products such as tempeh, texturized vegetable protein (TVP) and tofu are a great source of protein on a candida diet. Beans and legumes, which typically make up the bulk of a vegetarian/vegan diet will need to be limited to 1 cooked cup each day. Nuts and seeds to include are the same as the guidelines above.
  • Choose calcium-rich dairy replacements with no added sugars: soy yogurt is not an acceptable alternative to plain yogurt because it contains sweeteners like agave syrup and honey. Plant-based milk products should not include sweeteners like brown rice syrup and cheese products should not contain maltodextrin or modified food starch.

Other considerations for the candida diet

The main benefit of the candida diet is cutting sugar. From spaghetti sauce to peanut butter, added sugar can be found in even the most unexpected products. It is believed that excess sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as diabetes. In fact, dietary guidelines suggest limiting calories from added sugar to less than 10% per day. So, anything that helps you eat less of it is a good thing!

One of the biggest cons to eating this way is the restrictive nature of the diet. It can be a very tough protocol to follow and may require a lot of adjustment. If you are on a budget or don’t enjoy meal planning and cooking, the candida diet may prove challenging. Additionally, by cutting out so many foods from your diet, you may also be missing out on some important nutrients.

The bottom line

It is important to know that conventional medicine does not recognize candida overgrowth as a medical issue, and there is little research to show that it’s the cause of these symptoms, or can be corrected with a candida diet. (3) If you suspect a candida overgrowth is impacting your health, trying the candida diet won’t hurt. If it helps, that may indicate that you’ve been eating too much sugar overall, and you can incorporate that knowledge into a less restricted, more sustainable long-term diet plan full of high quality produce, meats, fats, and healthy grains. Please remember to always consult with your healthcare practitioner when it comes to your health and wellness.

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