The Candida diet presents the Vegetarian with a variety of hurdles and hard to face facts. This week we help a visitor explore these challenges and what steps may need to be taken. Here’s Jo’s question…
Hi Cynthia, I suffer from severe Candida, and I’m vegetarian.. what’s good to eat and where can I get protein from when mushies are out, beans are out nuts are out… is tofu ok, I have heard it is a hard protein to digest. Cheers Jo.
Hi Jo, yes, the Candida diet poses quite a few challenges for the vegetarian.
First let me say that I respect and understand the desire to be a vegetarian, but when we look at the facts about what the human body needs, it is not a diet that I can support in good conscience. I would prefer to be a vegetarian if I had a choice, but my body has different needs. I tried to be a vegetarian many years ago, but simply couldn’t function. Although the vegetarian diet may work for some people, it is not good for most people. Most people do not process grains and beans very well because genetically human beings were programmed to eat meat, not grains and beans. The diet that I encourage people to follow is called the Paleolithic diet, because I believe this the diet we were genetically designed to eat. It includes nothing but meat, low-starch vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit.
Maybe some people have evolved over the years to adapt to a diet that includes some beans and grains, but most of us still have not. Most people still require meat. It’s important for each person to understand their particular body chemistry and what it is they really need in their diet to function optimally. What we want to eat and what we should eat are often two very different things. Many people are eating a meatless diet when they should not be doing so and it is causing a wide variety of health conditions, of which Candida overgrowth is only one of them. For that reason, I urge vegetarians to first take an honest look at whether they are really eating in the manner that is best for their body and health.
So, although I’m sure the comments I’m going to make in this post will make vegetarians want to string me up by my toes, we must take a look at the facts. I feel it would be irresponsible of me to encourage someone to continue to be a vegetarian, because in my opinion it is simply unhealthy.
First of all, there are only so many sources of protein to be found. These are the sources that provide the highest level of protein:
Primary Sources of Protein
(Pork – however I don’t recommend eating pork, because it contains parasites.)
Ostrich and other uncommon meats like pheasant, duck or venison
Protein can be found in a variety of other foods, but at much lower levels.
It’s also important to note that animal proteins and their byproducts, which include red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, yogurt, cheese and milk are the only proteins that are complete proteins, meaning they provide the body with all 9 of the essential amino acids it needs. All other sources of protein are incomplete, meaning they only contain some amino acids or levels that aren’t high enough to be beneficial. In order to provide the body with adequate levels of amino acids, which is crucial for health, then foods that are incomplete proteins must be combined to achieve complete proteins.
It should go without saying, but for those who aren’t aware, all meat and meat by products like cheese, yogurt, etc. should be organic, or otherwise you’ll be ingesting hormones, antibiotics and pesticides that are harmful to your health. Additionally, organic food is usually raised ethically so that animals are not subjected to abuse and torture. Look for the words “organic” “free range” or “grass fed.”
Getting adequate protein in the diet is crucial for a variety of reasons, but two of the most important are that it keeps blood sugar stable and it provides us with us amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for neurotransmitters. Without adequate neurotransmitters we are vulnerable to a vast number of mental and physical health conditions, including addiction, depression, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, weight gain and obesity, insomnia, anorexia, chronic pain, migraines, attention deficit, fibromyalgia, hyperactivity, autism, obsessive compulsive disorders, dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to name only a few. We have a society that is filled with people who have imbalanced or deficient neurotransmitters because they are not eating enough protein.
So if someone is eating nothing but beans or nuts all day, they are getting some protein, but not complete proteins and therefore not meeting their nutritional needs for amino acids. It’s important to do your homework and know how much protein and which amino acids are in each food to ensure your meeting your needs adequately.
Another major problem for Candida sufferers who are vegetarians are that almost all the non-animal sources that are highest in protein are also high in carbohydrates. Beans, cheese, cottage cheese and some nuts like cashews are very high in carbohydrates and for those with severe Candida overgrowth this will be problematic. The Candida will feast on these foods and proliferate. All nuts are moldy, so even the ones that are low in carbohydrates can be problematic for some people with yeast overgrowth because mold is related to Candida. Most sufferers of yeast overgrowth are sensitive to molds.
Additionally, it is common practice for vegetarians to combine the beans with grains to create a complete protein that fills them up. Again the problem with this combination is that grains are also one of Candida’s favorite foods, so beans and grains mixed together give it double dose of fuel to grow abundantly.
The bottom line is that when you are a vegetarian, you don’t really have many choices for protein that aren’t high in carbohydrates ,which leads us to another very important point. Physicians often report that some of the most unhealthy people they see are vegetarians and Candida overgrowth is quite rampant in the vegetarian population. There’s several reasons this occurs.
One of the primary reasons is that the human body simply needs meat protein. Second, they aren’t getting enough protein and they are eating too many carbohydrates. When meat is removed from the diet, then you’re eating a bunch of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates and starches break down into sugar in the body, this means the body is having high levels of sugar. High levels of sugar in the body lead to problems like hypoglycemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, Candida overgrowth, depression and many more. Sugar is Candida’s primary food source. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more food you provide for Candida.
I’m not saying this is the case for all vegetarians, some people who have done their homework and have a good understanding of how to meet their nutritional needs and are careful about getting enough protein are not within this group. However, most people don’t do their homework. It’s not uncommon for vegetarians to fill up on a bunch of processed and refined food, which is even worse and makes yeast proliferate even more.
If you insist on following a vegetarian diet, then be sure to do your homework and make sure you’re consuming enough protein, removing refined and processed foods from your diet and reducing high carbohydrate foods.
However, a couple other important points about beans and grains to be aware of. They damage the gastrointestinal tract and the immune system. They lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and insulin resistance and disrupt vitamin D metabolism. Grains contain anti-nutrients, chemicals that prevent that human body from absorbing nutrients. These are only a few of the damaging effects that grains and beans have on the human body. An occasional indulgence in beans and grains is probably not going to be too harmful, but not something that should be eaten on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, in regard to the Candida diet, it is a dilemma for the vegetarian, because again the bottom line is that if you eat a diet that is high carbohydrates, even complex and healthy carbohydrates, it will feed the Candida and it will be impossible to make progress in reducing overgrowth. There is no way around this. Carbohydrates must be minimized.The most effective diet for anyone with Candida is a slightly modified version of the Paleolithic diet. The Paleolithic diet consists primarily of meat and vegetables as well as small amounts of fruit, nuts and seed – only the food that our ancestors ate.
I also encourage you to take a look at these pages as well.
12 Reasons to Eat More Meat
So the truth of the matter for the vegetarian is that you are left with only a few options. Bringing meat back into the diet at least to some degree needs to be considered — at least some fish and eggs. However, I understand that many vegetarians will find that suggestion offensive and unwilling to consider.
Now that I have done my duty in warning you about the dangers of being a vegetarian, I will offer a few suggestions that may be helpful if you are not willing to give it up.
There just aren’t many options, but here’s a few suggestions:
First keep in mind that even when it comes to the Candida diet, there is not a “one size fits all.” Each person has a different level of overgrowth and may be carrying different strains of Candida, the overall level of health of the individual and other health conditions that may be accompanying the overgrowth need to be taken into account. Each of these factors will determine what is the best diet. The Candida diet will vary from person to person.
Depending on each of these factors, some people with mild Candida may be able to eat small amounts of cheese, cottage cheese and grains or eat nuts freely, while another person with severe overgrowth can’t touch them at all. Beans are not out for everyone if the overgrowth is mild, but for moderate to severe overgrowth, they usually aren’t tolerated well. Not only because beans are high in carbohydrates, but because they take a long time to digest. Candida loves them and sits in there and munches on them for hours
You must gauge what works for you by monitoring your symptoms when you eat a particular food. If a particular food produces a lot of symptoms then it must be eliminated or minimized. If nuts can be eaten without symptoms, then they should be eaten freely. If a small amount of cheese, beans or grains produces little or no symptoms, then they too should be eaten, but kept to a minimum.
Soy and foods like tofu are a good source of protein, however research is now suggesting that soy is not the healthy food we have been led to believe. There are a variety of problems with soy. For one, it is a very common food allergen. Since soy is added to everything, many people have unknowingly developed a food allergy or sensitivity to soy which is at the root of many of their heath problems.
One of the biggest issues with soy, which would include tofu, is that it is high in phytoestrogens. Because we are all exposed to high levels of environmental toxins, many of us already have too much estrogen in our bodies. When we eat soy, then it gives us more estrogen and can lead to hormonal imbalances. Too much estrogen is at the root of a variety of health conditions like PMS, depression, anxiety and breast cancer. Tofu is also hard to digest for some people.
Soy also contains naturally occurring toxins that are harmful to the pancreas, gastrointestinal tract and thyroid and inhibits abortion of amino acids and minerals.
Other problems with tofu and other soy products is that they are fermented, and fermented foods tend to cause symptoms for most people with Candida, but not all. It’s a very individual factor, some people can eat tofu without symptoms, while other people can’t. We’re not saying that one should never eat soy products, but it shouldn’t be eaten every day, which is so often the case with vegetarians.
You may also find that you can eat beans, grains, tofu, or cheese in certain proportions. For example, maybe 1 cup of beans and grains will set you off with a flurry of symptoms, but a quarter cup will be tolerable. Perhaps one piece of whole grain bread overwhelms you with symptoms, but a half piece of bread or a quarter of is just fine. A small piece of cheese or tofu may not produce any significant symptoms, while a whole plate full puts you in bed.
Some people are able to eat nuts if they soak in them water overnight — this makes them more digestible. Cashews are high in carbohydrates, so they should be minimized. However, macadamias, walnuts and almonds are low in carbohydrates. So you may find that you have a lot of symptoms with cashews, but can eat macadamias, walnuts or almonds without a problem. Macadamias are much less moldy than other nuts, as well, so they are often tolerated the best. Nuts are healthiest for us when they are raw, however some people do better on freshly roasted nuts because this reduces mold.
This same concept applies to fruit. Too much fruit is probably not possible, but a little fruit is okay, or fruit that is high in sugar will be off limits, but fruit that is low sugar may not be problematic at all. A whole banana may bring on symptoms, while a half of a banana is okay.
You may also find that certain types of beans can’t be eaten at all, while other beans which are lower on the glycemic index may not produce symptoms. Red and green lentils and chickpeas which have been soaked and boiled are the lowest on the glycemic index, which means they will likely be the ones that will cause the least amount of problems for Candida. Beans that are soaked are more easily digested. Beans in the can are higher on the glycemic scale. Chickpeas also contain phytoestrogens so someone who is estrogen dominant would not want to eat these every day.
So an important part of the Candida diet, regardless of whether you’re a vegetarian or not, is finding the right proportions for your body. The food doesn’t always have to be eliminated, it may just need to be regulated. This requires that you monitor and pay close attention to your symptoms each time you eat and then adjust accordingly. This is true whether you have Candida or not, when you learn to listen to your body, it will tell you what you should be eating.
I know much of this probably isn’t what vegetarians want to hear, but unfortunately, it is the reality of the situation.