What Is the Candida Diet? – Foods You Can and Can’t Eat on Candida Diet

The Candida Diet, suggested to help resolve yeast infection symptoms and starve the sugars that supporters of the diet claim feed Candida, has been around for decades. But does the diet actually work and is it safe for you to start on your own? Here’s everything you need to know about the Candida Diet, including basics on Candida overgrowth itself and foods to avoid.

What is Candida and Candida overgrowth?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Candida is a yeast that normally lives on the skin and inside the body (more specifically in the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina), and typically does not cause any problems. If Candida grows out of control and there is an overgrowth, it can cause the fungal infection candidiasis. Although candidiasis can develop in several areas of the body, most people are familiar with candidiasis in the vagina that is commonly referred to as a vaginal yeast infection. The most common species of Candida that causes infections is called Candida albicans.

What are the causes and symptoms of candidiasis?

Signs and symptoms of vaginal candidiasis can include itching, soreness, pain/discomfort while urinating, pain during sex, and abnormal vaginal discharge. Women who are pregnant, using hormonal contraceptives, have diabetes, have a weakened immune system, or have recently taken antibiotics are more likely to develop vaginal candidiasis. Since taking antibiotics is a frequent cause, the CDC advises women to only take antibiotics when prescribed and exactly as your healthcare professional tells you.

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How does the Candida Diet work?

The Candida Diet is essentially a low-carbohydrate, low-sugar, anti-inflammatory diet that proponents claim can help promote good gut health and eliminate the sugars that potentially feed Candida. The diet is only intended to be followed temporarily and it is advised to reintroduce foods slowly and gradually once the diet is finished. Although the Candida Diet has been around for decades, the research on it is very sparse and there are no definitive findings to confirm the diet’s effectiveness. The diet itself should not be used as a substitute for a consultation with a physician or qualified healthcare professional.

Proponents of the diet claim that Candida thrives on sugar, and although research is limited on this, findings from a 2017 study suggest that higher glucose concentrations may indeed promote Candida growth. The Candida diet also restricts gluten because of thoughts that it may damage the intestinal lining, but there is no current evidence to support this for individuals who do not have celiac disease.

Dairy products are also excluded from the diet due to an unproven theory that the sugar found in dairy products (a.k.a. lactose) can potentially increase acidity in the mouth and stimulate Candida overgrowth. And despite lack of evidence, foods with high mold content, preservatives, pesticides, or artificial ingredients are also restricted on the Candida Diet.

      Candida Diet foods to eat:

      • Non-starchy vegetables, ideally raw or steamed (i.e. artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, jicama, kale, onions, rutabaga, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini)
      • Low-sugar fruits (i.e. apples, avocado, berries, lemon, lime, olives)
      • Non-glutenous grains (i.e. buckwheat, millet, oat bran, quinoa, teff, almond flour or coconut flour for baking)
      • Lean proteins (i.e. anchovies, bone broth, chicken, eggs, herring, wild salmon, sardines, turkey)
      • Low-mold nuts and seeds (i.e. almonds, coconut, flaxseed, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds)
      • Healthy fats and oils (i.e. ghee, flax oil, olive oil, sesame oil, virgin coconut oil)
      • Fermented foods (i.e. kefir, olives, sauerkraut, yogurt)
      • Herbs, spices, and condiments (i.e. apple cider vinegar, basil, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coconut aminos, dill, garlic, ginger, oregano, paprika, rosemary, salt, thyme, turmeric)
      • Certain sugar-alternative sweeteners, in moderation (i.e. erythritol, stevia, xylitol)
      • Herbal teas, filtered water, and chicory coffee

      Candida Diet foods to limit/avoid:

      • High-sugar fruits (i.e. bananas, dates, figs, fruit juices, grapes, mango, melons, raisins)
      • Glutenous grains (i.e. barley, rye, spelt, wheat)
      • Processed meats (i.e. lunch meat, salami, spam)
      • Certain fish (i.e. shellfish, swordfish, tuna)
      • Sugar and sugar substitutes (i.e. agave, aspartame, cane sugar, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sugar)
      • Some dairy products (i.e. cheese, cream, milk)
      • High-mold nuts (i.e. peanuts, cashews, and pistachios)
      • Condiments (i.e. barbecue sauce, horseradish, ketchup, mayonnaise, soy sauce)
      • Refined/processed fats & oils (i.e. canola oil, fake butter spreads, margarine, soybean oil, sunflower oil)
      • Alcoholic or sugary drinks (i.e. beer, cider, liquids, spirits, wine, diet or regular soda, fruit juices, energy drinks)
      • Caffeinated drinks (i.e. black tea, coffee)

      Sample Candida Diet plan:

      candida diet

      Mike Garten

      Should you try the Candida Diet?

          Despite lack of research, the Candida Diet itself is quite healthy, may provide a more nutrient-rich diet than many regularly consume, and is likely safe for most people to follow. By eating more non-starchy vegetables, boosting your fiber intake, drinking more water, eliminating refined sugars and processed foods, the diet itself may have anti-inflammatory benefits that are beneficial regardless of whether or not it can truly “cure” candidiasis. If you do chose to follow the Candida Diet, I recommend starting out slowly and removing things gradually from your daily routine. Start by limiting refined sugar or caffeine, and then work your way down the list. Remember that this diet is meant to be used short-term and that it is not intended to be a substitute for a consultation with your physician or healthcare provider.

            Stefani Sassos, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.O., C.D.N.

            Nutrition Lab Deputy Director

            Stefani (she/her) is a registered dietitian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the deputy director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, where she handles all nutrition- and fitness-related content, testing and evaluation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed food choices and healthy living. She is an avid CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her big fit Greek family.