When starting a Candida diet or even when a person wants to eat a healthier diet, I always get questions concerning which sweeteners are a good choice:
- Can I have honey?
- Okay, I’m giving up sugar but is there something else that I can use as a substitute?
- Will an artificial sweetener make Candida yeast grow?
The good news is there are some good options but first I will share the sweeteners you’ll want to avoid. Even if you aren’t on a Candida/Yeast clearing program this information is beneficial for everyone. Sugar in excess in anyone’s diet is a hazard to your health.
The No No’s
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is at the top of that ‘NO’ list as far as I’m concerned. This means no commercial sodas — which all contain HFCS.
There has been a flurry of interest in a cactus-based sweetener called agave nectar, because of its low glycemic index (which means it does not cause a spike in your blood sugar levels like honey or sugar might.) Unfortunately, agave is a processed food, and it has a higher fructose level than HFCS (57% to 90%). It does have a low glycemic number, but its use can actually create insulin resistance, which can lead to Type II diabetes over time.
Artificial sweeteners are also on my “NO” list. Beware of the phrases “Sugar-Free” or “No Sugar Added” (commonly seen in baked goods, like pies). This is code that the product is sweetened artificially with products like Sweet ‘n Low (saccharin), Splenda (sucralose), aspartame, etc.). Though you will hear much controversy regarding these products the studies on the ‘positive’ side most likely will be funded by the industry that manufactures the artificial sweetener. Several interesting studies have shown that artificial sweeteners are counter-productive for weight loss because they actually trigger the desire for sweets — without satisfying it. That’s the last thing you need!
Makeup of Sugar
The newest studies on regular sugar show that it’s fructose that is the biggest problem. Table sugar (sucrose) is made up of 2 sugars called glucose and fructose in roughly equal parts. Honey is 70% fructose and though it has some healthful properties it should be avoided when on a Candida diet and used in moderation for most people.
If you get most of your sugar from natural sources like fruits and vegetables you are going to be okay, especially if you take a quality probiotic supplement because the sugar from these foods won’t interfere with the action of the probiotic. If you want sweetener in your coffee, tea or lemonade then there are some much healthier choices than those on the ‘no’ list above.
Acceptable Sweeteners on the Candida Diet
Xylitol and Erythritol are from an interesting family of sweeteners called ‘sugar alcohols’. The body processes them in a completely different way than it does sugar. In fact, the body doesn’t really see them as sugars and mostly won’t digest them. In large quantities, they can cause diarrhea and/or gas but in small quantities, they can make a nice sugar substitute, with the side benefit that they don’t promote tooth decay. In fact, Xylitol is antibacterial and anti-fungal.
There are many different sugar alcohols but Erythritol and Xylitol are my first choice. The others you see (all ending in -itol) are cheaper to make: forms like sorbitol, mannitol, etc. Erythritol and Xylitol (choose sources made from birch instead of corn) can be found in your health food store or online and is close to being as sweet as sugar.
Recommended brands that are made from 100% Pure Birch Xylitol: Xyla, SmartSweet, Morning Pep, and Zveet.
*Important note: Sugar alcohols are NOT safe for animals.
One last and probably the best natural sweetener to use is Stevia. This plant-based sweetener is available at your health food store or online. This is a very good sweetener but it does have a bit of an aftertaste that some don’t like. It will depend on the brand you buy just how much or little of an aftertaste there is. The purer the processing of the plant (using just the leaves and not stems for instance) the better it will taste. I use SweetLeaf Stevia either in liquid (which is my favorite) or powder form because to me it has no bitter aftertaste.
The food industries are starting to patent various forms of Stevia which are reduced to just the sweetest compound chemicals of the Stevia plant. Truvia is one you might see; another is PureVia. Although these manufactured sweeteners start with the Stevia plant, they add additional ingredients and processes so they can patent their products. I recommend you avoid these and stick with the natural forms of Stevia. You can also try an all-natural stevia that is not processed at all but has mixed reviews.
Here’s a handy chart to use for Stevia to Sugar conversions in your recipes:
Looking for a sweet treat that’s Candida Diet approved?
Check out my delicious Coconut Cupcakes recipe which uses only a candida diet-approved sweeteners.
If you have insulin issues, you should avoid sweeteners altogether, including Stevia, as they all can decrease your sensitivity to insulin (insulin resistance).
I hope this has helped you have at least a fairly sweet life despite having to fight off Candida overgrowth. Don’t be discouraged: the good news is that as you get the Candida under control, your craving for sweets will become much less. Hang in there, steady and focused wins the race.
Keep taking your preventative supplements and eating the recommended foods and stay ahead of the yeast’s attempts to come back.