Is the Anti-Candida Diet healthy?
All involve eating whole foods (as opposed to packaged and processed) and filling your plate with quality sources of protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and vitamin-, mineral-, and fiber-rich vegetables. (Again, we’re talking about the ones that fall somewhere on the healthy spectrum, not unhealthy fad diets like, ahem, the Grapefruit Diet.)
However, each proposes a slightly different path that leads to fulfilling those principles.
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In this column, we’ll be breaking them down for you one by one so you can figure out which (if any!) is right for you. We’ll quickly explain the facts and then provide quick, actionable tips on how to follow the diet as part of a Nutritious Life.
The Anti-Candida Diet: What It Is
Functional and alternative medicine physicians believe many common health issues are caused by an overgrowth of yeast called candida, which causes leaky gut when overproduced. Symptoms of that overgrowth range from yeast infections, skin issues like psoriasis, and digestive problems to fatigue, mood swings, and brain fog.
One of the main contributors to candida overgrowth, they say, is diet, since refined carbs and sugar feed the yeast. On the flipside, changing to a diet that starves the yeast can help rid the body of candida overgrowth.
However, it’s important to note that conventional medicine doesn’t recognize candida overgrowth as a medical issue, and there is little research that shows it’s the cause of these many symptoms (or can be corrected via an anti-candida diet).
What You Eat
The Anti-Candida Diet is like a more restricted version of eating Paleo. You eat high-quality meat, eggs, and fish, non-starchy vegetables like greens, onions, asparagus, and artichokes, low-sugar fruits, and herbs and spices. There are also foods with anti-fungal properties—like garlic, ginger, coconut oil, and cinnamon—that the diet encourages you to pile on your plate.
What You Don’t Eat
Here’s where it gets a little intense. The most basic restriction is around sugar. Yeast feeds on sugar, so any added sugar or foods that break down into sugar are off limits. That includes most packaged foods, sweets, alcohol, all grains (even the gluten-free, healthy ones), starchy vegetables like squashes, high-sugar fruits like bananas, most dairy products, and legumes. Some experts even recommend ditching fermented foods and mushrooms until the candida is under control.
Pros and Cons
The most obvious benefit to the Anti-Candida Diet is cutting sugar. More evidence is showing how bad sugar is for your body, so anything that helps you eat less of it is a good thing. And we all know eating lots of vegetables and high-quality protein is a good idea.
But the evidence that any of this will help you rid your body of yeast (or that you even have a yeast problem to begin with) is still flimsy. That’s not to say it’s not true; the science to prove it just isn’t solid yet.
And the biggest con to eating this way is that the diet is extremely restrictive. It’s a very tough protocol to follow, which could make you miserable or even lead to you missing out on important nutrients. (Variety, remember, is one of the keys to getting all the nutrients you need!)
The Bottom Line
If you suspect candida is messing with your health, trying the Anti-Candida Diet for a brief stint won’t hurt. Cut the sugar, eat healthy anti-fungal foods like garlic and coconut oil, and see how you feel. If it helps, that may signal you’ve been eating too much sugar overall, and you can incorporate that knowledge into a less restricted, more manageable long-term diet plan filled with a variety of veggies, plant-based protein, and healthy grains.