Contributed by Ricki Heller, author of Living Candida-Free (Da Capo Lifelong, © 2015). The anti-candida diet (ACD) is often considered one of the most challenging diets out there. Designed to kill off excess candida (a natural form of yeast in the body that sometimes grows out of control), the ACD removes any foods that act as nourishment for candida; namely, all sugars and sweeteners except stevia, most fruits, moldy foods such as mushrooms or peanuts, alcohol, gluten, and all processed foods.
What’s left, you may ask?
Well, if you’ve been diagnosed with Candida Related Complex (or, simply, “candida”), you may be asking yourself that very question. Because candida overgrowth can cause a host of symptoms that are both annoying and potentially debilitating, it’s important to stick with the diet, as well as take any supplements or prescription antifungals that your healthcare practitioner recommends, long enough to diminish the yeast so you can regain your health.
But most anti-candida diets focus (heavily) on meat, fish, chicken and/or eggs, since protein doesn’t contain starches; and starches break down to sugars in the body and can feed the candida. Yet it is totally possible to recover from candida on a plant-based diet (I know—I did just that).
Here are some tips if you’ve been diagnosed with candida, or simply want to cut sugars out of your life and wish to maintain your plant-based diet through to the other side.
- Keep the overall glycemic index of your meals low - Eating low on the glycemic index doesn’t mean you have to forgo grains or legumes entirely (I didn’t); but keep portions small, and limited to one a day for each. That way, you won’t be providing the candida with its favorite food. Whole grains and pseudo-grains (such as millet, teff, buckwheat or quinoa) are actually fairly low glycemic, which means they won’t spike blood sugar levels. And beans and legumes contain both protein and carbs, so they digest more slowly than carbs alone.
Similarly, if you aim to include the nutritional triumvirate of protein, fat and fiber in all your meals and snacks, you’ll keep blood sugar stable (important to prevent slip-ups).
- Be sure to take in enough protein and fats! Just because you’re not eating meat doesn’t mean you can forgo protein. In fact, it may even be a good idea to count protein grams when you first begin. Not only does fat keep you satiated, but it also provides essential fatty acids, some of which themselves can fend off candida (coconut oil contains both caprylic acid and lauric acid, both known to be potent anti-fungals). Plus, adding fat to food just makes it taste good. This is not the time to go low fat!
- Eat raw as much as possible. Raw foods, as a rule, are more easily digestible than cooked and contain more nutrients. They are also incredibly alkalizing, essential to kick candida. And don’t forget that freshly squeezed juices are raw, too (just omit the fruit).
- Love your nuts and seeds. With the exception of peanuts (not really a nut anyway) and pistachios, all other nuts and seeds are permitted on the ACD, so go for it! And as long as they’re natural and unsweetened, nut and seed butters are fine, too (and don’t forget that tahini is technically sesame seed butter—mmm!). These nutritional powerhouses will add protein and healthy fats to your diet even as you kill off the candida. For best digestibility, try soaking your raw nuts and seeds in room temperature filtered water for 6-8 hours, then rinsing and draining, before consuming.
- Don’t give up your favorite foods! One of the reasons so many people slip with this diet is because they don’t include foods that they normally love (within the dietary guidelines of the ACD, of course). I’ve found that including smoothies, hummus, fries, kale salad and yes, even desserts, is essential to success on the diet. In fact, I made a point of including many tempting desserts in Living Candida-Free, to ensure that people wouldn’t feel deprived and could stick with it as long as necessary to succeed.
With the right strategies—and some killer recipes—you really can beat candida. And you can continue to enjoy your normal life while you do!
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