There’s no shortage of fad diets out there, but the Candida diet isn’t one of them. Anyone who’s ever fallen victim to candidiasis will tell you this diet can help curb Candida overgrowth and offer relief from various symptoms. If you’ve ever had such an infection, you’d know the symptoms are unbearable. The diet is indeed restrictive, but it’s a small tradeoff considering it’s your health and wellness on the line. So, today, let’s talk about the Candida diet and how it can help you conquer this pesky yeast!
What is Candida?
Candida is a type of yeast (fungi) that lives in the human body. It thrives in the skin and warm and moist regions like the mouth, throat, gut, and genitals. They’re part of the human microbiome, a collection of fungi, bacteria, viruses, and other microbes that live on the human body.
The fungal genus Candida includes more than 150 species, but it’s only 5 invasive species behind the whopping 90% of Candida infections! These are Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, Candida tropicalis, Candida parapsilosis, and Candida krusei (1).
What are the risk factors for a Candida infection?
Candida is generally harmless but can turn pathogenic when allowed to grow exponentially. Here are a few risk factors that will make you a prime candidate for a Candida infection:
- Taking antibiotics. This kills off the good bacteria that keeps the pathogens well under control, thereby causing an imbalance in the microbiome.
- An unhealthy diet high in sugar and refined carbs – this is the type of food that Candida thrives on!
- Elevated stress levels and a weak immune system can also boost Candida populations.
- People with unmanaged diabetes are also prone to Candida overgrowth.
- Women on hormonal contraceptives that can disrupt the balance in the microbiome.
- Pregnant women because hormone changes disrupt the pH balance in the vagina.
- Tight underwear that traps heat and moisture in the nethers.
Symptoms of an infection can start as mild and annoying, such as tiredness, fatigue, gas, constipation, and bloating. But if left untreated, symptoms can progress to oral thrush, recurring urinary tract infections, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, joint pain, and fungal infections on skin and nail (2).
Can you treat candidiasis with the Candida diet?
Apart from taking antifungals, a good approach would be doing a Candida cleanse or a Candida diet. By cutting off its food supply, the yeast will eventually die. Of course, this won’t happen overnight, but it’s a good start. Plus, you get to avoid all the nasty side effects of antifungals like itching, burning, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rashes, and more (3)!
Additionally, an anti-Candida diet can help prevent an infection from recurring. Some may even say it’s a good idea to stick to a Candida diet even when the danger has passed.
Well, as you’ll see in the Candida food lists below, this diet encourages the consumption of low glycemic index (GI) foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You will also be required to avoid food that typically leads to weight gain – sugar and carbs! Low GI foods promote insulin sensitivity, better heart health, and weight loss (4).
Candida diet food list: What to EAT to get rid of a yeast infection?
The Candida diet promotes healthy eating habits. Here are examples of foods you should eat on this diet:
1) Low sugar fruits
Fruits are healthy, but when it comes to sugar content, some fruits have more than others. Since sugar is food for the yeast, you must stay away from your favorite high-sugar fruits until your Candida situation is under control.
Here’s a table outlining the difference in sugar content between low and high sugar fruits. All values are per 100g serving (5):
|Low sugar fruits (GOOD)||High sugar fruits (LIMIT or AVOID)|
|Avocado (0.7g)||Grapes (15.5g)|
|Lemon (2.5g)||Mango (14.8g)|
|Cranberries (4.0g)||Cherries (12.8g)|
|Raspberries (4.4g)||Apples (10.4g)|
|Strawberries (4.9g)||Orange (9.4g)|
|Watermelon (6.2g)||Apricot (9.2g)|
2) Non-starchy vegetables
Starch consists of sugar molecules joined together (6). Eating starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes is a big no-no in the Candida diet (more on starchy foods in the next section). Here are examples of non-starchy veggies you should eat more while on this diet:
|Kale||Collard greens||Swiss chard||Bok choy|
|Cabbage||Beet greens||Moringa leaves||Microgreens|
|Romaine lettuce||Cauliflower||Broccoli||Brussels sprouts|
What about mushrooms? They’re non-starchy veggies, right?
The jury’s still out on this one. Some people say it’s okay to eat, others say no because mushrooms are, after all, a type of fungus. However, according to the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, they see no connection between human fungal infections and the consumption of mushrooms. As long as the mushrooms are properly handled and stored, they should be safe to eat (7).
3) Protein-rich foods
Protein from both animal and non-animal sources is great for the Candida diet. This is because this type of food has zero to little carbs, especially animal sources of dietary protein.
|Lean meat||Pork, beef, lamb, veal|
|Poultry||Chicken, duck, turkey, geese, pheasant|
|Seafood||Fatty fish, lean fish, shrimp, crabs, mussels, clams|
|Dairy||Butter, ghee, Greek yogurt|
|Eggs||Pastured eggs, organic eggs, omega-3 enriched eggs|
|Nuts||Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia (avoid peanuts, cashews, pistachios as these are prone to mold)|
|Seeds||Sunflower, chia, flax, sesame, pumpkin seeds|
4) Whole grains
Whole grains are minimally processed grains containing 3 grain parts – the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples of whole grains you can eat on the Candida diet include (8):
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat
- Whole grain cornmeal
5) Healthy fats
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy, but saturated and trans fats are considered bad. Here’s a summary table of the type of fat you should add to your Candida diet:
|Healthy fats (GOOD)||Bad fats (AVOID)|
|Olive oil||Refined oils and fats|
|Avocado oil||Sunflower oil|
|Fish oil||Canola oil|
6) Probiotics for Candida diet – is it a good idea?
Research shows that probiotics are effective against candidiasis (9, 10). Probiotics, or live cultures of good bacteria, are found in yogurt, specifically plain yogurt and Greek yogurt. The live bacteria help restore balance to the gut by killing off harmful bacteria and yeast. If buying from the supermarket, check the label carefully as most commercial yogurts are sweetened with sugar.
Here’s a pro tip: if you’re trying to treat Candida, a high-quality probiotic supplement may be a better option than eating live yogurt cultures. Look for a brand that uses patented strains and has a good number of colony forming units (CFU).
Candida diet food list: What to AVOID eating to treat candidiasis effectively?
By now, you should already have an idea of what NOT to eat on this diet. If not, well, let’s break it down!
Love sugar? So does Candida! If you don’t want to feed them, keep your hands – and mouth – away from food made with any form of sugar. As you very well know, there’s a very long list of sugary foods! Here are the different types of sugar commonly added to food (11). If you see any of these on the label, walk away:
|Cane sugar||Rice syrup||Honey|
|Maple syrup||Agave nectar||Corn syrup|
|Molasses||Maple sugar||Date sugar|
|Sucrose||Maltose||High fructose glucose syrup|
So, what can you use as alternative sweetener?
Fortunately, low carb natural sweeteners do exist. Check out stevia, erythritol, xylitol, and monk fruit extract (12-15). These are some of the most popular natural sweeteners that won’t feed the yeast.
2) Starchy food
As mentioned earlier, starchy veggies should be avoided in an anti-Candida diet. But veggies aren’t the only source of starch, here’s more:
- Refined grains – rice, oats, cornmeal, white flour
- Starchy veggies – cassava, potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, beetroot, parsnips, lentils, yams
- Pasta and instant noodles
- Bread and bread products
Expect your Candida symptoms to take a turn for the worse if you continue eating food that contains yeast! Here are a few examples (16):
- Leavened baked goods like bread, biscuits, muffins, etc.
- Malt, a form of fermented barley, found in beer, whisky, candy like Maltesers, and popular choco drinks like Milo and Ovaltine
- Fermented products like alcoholic drinks, kombucha, soy sauce, miso
Just like yeast, mold is also a type of fungus. It might sound nasty to think about eating mold, but surprisingly enough, they’re found in plenty of foods! Here are examples of food that may have mold:
- Some nuts like peanuts, cashews, and pistachios because these are usually stored in warm and humid silos
- Moldy cheese like brie, blue cheese, camembert, and limburger
- Pickled, smoked, or dried meats
- Dried, bottled, and canned fruits and veggies
Can you drink coffee on an anti-Candida diet?
Since coffee beans are also fermented, you’re probably wondering if it’s time to cut back on the Java. Drinking about 3-5 cups of coffee daily has been linked to reduced risk of various chronic diseases (17). So, the question is, do the benefits outweigh the risk?
Well, the answer depends. Do try cutting back and don’t add sugar or milk. Some people manage just fine with one or two cups with no flare-ups. But if you find that coffee’s making your symptoms worse, then do refrain from drinking.
Can you do the Candida diet while pregnant?
It’s important to consult with an OB/GYN before going on any diet. As you know, the Candida diet is very restricting and can severely limit the nutrients both mom and baby need. To ensure a successful pregnancy and manage Candida symptoms at the same time, please seek professional medical advice.
How long does it take to kill Candida with this diet?
There’s really no right or wrong answer here. The effectiveness will depend on how strictly you’re following the diet (it’s definitely much harder than it looks!) and how severe the infection is. But a good rule of thumb is to go on the diet for about 2-4 weeks, observe your symptoms, and then decide.
Just a caveat though: you may not be able to get rid of Candida completely. Remember, it’s a normal part of the human microbiome. But as long as it’s kept under control, the symptoms should slowly disappear.
Can men do the Candida diet, too?
Absolutely! Both men and women can have candida overgrowth. This type of diet will work great for anyone looking to kill the yeast naturally.
The Candida diet can help starve the yeast. But a more effective treatment plan will involve more than just a diet. To help clear up your symptoms faster and prevent the infection from recurring, consider making lifestyle changes, try to cut refined sugar and processed carbs completely and include more probiotic foods in your diet.
(1) Turner, Siobhán A, and Geraldine Butler. “The Candida pathogenic species complex.” Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in medicine vol. 4,9 a019778. 2 Sep. 2014, doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a019778
(2) McDonell, Kayla R. “7 Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth (Plus How to Get Rid of It).” Healthline, 24 Aug. 2017, www.healthline.com/nutrition/candida-symptoms-treatment.
(3) NHS website. “Antifungal Medicines.” Nhs.Uk, 6 Aug. 2020, www.nhs.uk/conditions/antifungal-medicines.
(4) Radulian, Gabriela et al. “Metabolic effects of low glycaemic index diets.” Nutrition journal vol. 8 5. 29 Jan. 2009, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-8-5
(5) “SELF Nutrition Data | Food Facts, Information & Calorie Calculator.” Nutrition Data, 2021, nutritiondata.self.com.
(6) Slavin, Joanne, and Justin Carlson. “Carbohydrates.” Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) vol. 5,6 760-1. 14 Nov. 2014, doi:10.3945/an.114.006163
(7) Healthy Food Guide. “Ask the Experts: Mushrooms and Fungal Infections.” Healthy Food Guide, 3 Apr. 2017, www.healthyfood.com/ask-the-experts/mushrooms-and-fungal-infections.
(8) “Grains | MyPlate.” MyPlate, 2021, www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/grains.
(9) Mundula, Tiziana et al. “Effect of Probiotics on Oral Candidiasis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Nutrients vol. 11,10 2449. 14 Oct. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11102449
(10) Matsubara, Victor H., et al. “Probiotics as Antifungals in Mucosal Candidiasis.” Clinical Infectious Diseases, edited by Ellie J. C. Goldstein, vol. 62, no. 9, 2016, pp. 1143–53. Crossref, doi:10.1093/cid/ciw038.
(11) NHS website. “Top Sources of Added Sugar in Our Diet.” Nhs.Uk, 4 Feb. 2019, www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/top-sources-of-added-sugar.
(12) Ajami, Marjan et al. “Effects of stevia on glycemic and lipid profile of type 2 diabetic patients: A randomized controlled trial.” Avicenna journal of phytomedicine vol. 10,2 (2020): 118-127.
(13) Noda, K et al. “Serum glucose and insulin levels and erythritol balance after oral administration of erythritol in healthy subjects.” European journal of clinical nutrition vol. 48,4 (1994): 286-92.
(14) Islam, Md Shahidul, and Mitesh Indrajit. “Effects of xylitol on blood glucose, glucose tolerance, serum insulin and lipid profile in a type 2 diabetes model of rats.” Annals of nutrition & metabolism vol. 61,1 (2012): 57-64. doi:10.1159/000338440
(15) Basile, Lisa Marie. “Is Monk Fruit Sweetener the New Stevia?” EndocrineWeb, 2020, www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/diabetes/monkfruit-sweetener.
(16) “Foods High in Yeast.” WebMD, 20 Oct. 2020, www.webmd.com/diet/foods-high-in-yeast#1.
(17) “Coffee.” The Nutrition Source, 30 July 2020, www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coffee.