Last updated September 7, 2017 by Lisa Richards, CNC

Why Does Candida Really Need Sugar?


The most important part of any Candida treatment plan is of course the diet itself. Following a healthy, low-sugar diet is the best way to deprive your Candida of the food it needs. If you combine this diet with some good probiotics and antifungals, you are giving yourself a great chance to beat your Candida.

We all know that Candida needs sugar, but it is rare to see a good explanation of why this is. Most online sources use general terms like ‘Candida feeds on sugar’, without actually going into any more depth. In this post I’m going to discuss exactly why those Candida colonies need sugar, and I’ll share with you a few examples of foods that have a higher sugar content than you might realize.

Why Is A Low-Sugar Diet So Important?

Organisms like Candida albicans need organic, carbon-based compounds to provide them with energy. In practice this means sugars like glucose, fructose and sucrose. They use this energy to grow and to build their cell walls, which are comprised 80% of carbohydrates.

However, Candida is a particularly versatile pathogen, and those sugars serve one extra purpose. They enable the Candida yeast cells to switch to their more virulent, fungal form. This form of Candida is faster-growing, and grows long branches that can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome. If you have noticed persistent Candida symptoms, chances are the Candida in your gut has switched to its fungal form.

Just as eating lots of sugars can promote a Candida overgrowth, eating fewer sugars can slow down or reverse your Candida. A 2011 study found that carbohydrates were “indispensable” both for cellular growth and for the transition into fungal form. Depriving the Candida of its food source will slow its growth and prevent that transition from happening.

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No discussion of Candida overgrowth is complete without mentioning biofilms. These protective matrices are created by pathogens like Candida and Lyme to hide from your immune system. They make beating a Candida overgrowth more difficult than it otherwise would be. And sugar plays a part in biofilms too. In fact, biofilms are made of something like 32% glucose.

The bad news is that we are eating more and more sugar every year. In fact it is estimated that Americans consume more than three times the recommended amount of added sugar (and that recommendation is far too high anyway!). How much do we actually eat? A USDA study found that a typical American consumes a massive 30 teaspoons of added sugar per day.

Five Surprising Sources Of Added Sugar

Foods with added sugars are undoubtedly the worst culprits when it comes to causing Candida overgrowth. This is because refined carbohydrates are easiest for the Candida to metabolize. Unless you read the label carefully it is often difficult to tell. That’s why it’s always a good idea to stick to the approved foods list. Here is my list of five surprising sources of added sugar.

Breakfast cereal

It is increasingly difficult to find a packaged breakfast cereal that doesn’t contain large amounts of sugar. The fact is that sugary cereals sell better, so that’s why your local store is full of them. If you’re serious about beating your Candida, you need to be diligent and read those ingredient labels carefully.

A bowl of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes contains around 25 grams of sugar, and a single pop tart contains as much as 17 grams. Try a healthier breakfast option like probiotic yogurt, buckwheat groats, or oat bran cereal with stevia instead. There are lots more ideas in our breakfast recipes section and in the recipe books.


I always recommend yogurt as a great food for Candida sufferers, but you need to be very careful which yogurt to buy. Regular flavored brands usually contain around 14 grams of added sugar in a six ounce container. Find a plain, probiotic brand that contains live cultures and has no sugar added. Alternatively you can make your own probiotic yogurt or kefir at home.

Pasta sauce

The spaghetti and pasta sauces that you buy in your local store are loaded with added sugars. For example, Barilla Tomato & Basil sauce contains 8 grams of sugar per serving. Try to find a no sugar added brand or, even better, just stay away from regular pasta sauces completely during your Candida Diet. You can make homemade pasta sauces which are tastier and more nutritious. As for the pasta itself, soba noodles are good alternatives or, even better, make your own veggie pasta using a spiralizer.

Salad dressing

This is one of the hardest sources of sugar to avoid. You might do the right thing and order the salad, but it’s hard to resist covering it with that delicious salad dressing. Although the typical restaurant salad dressing might taste great, it also contains lots of sugar. For example, a serving of Thousand Island dressing contains around 10 grams of sugar.

If you want to eat a healthy salad, try dressing it with olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt instead. This is a simple but tasty salad dressing that has antifungal properties too. In the recipe books we list some more delicious dressings that will liven up your healthy salads.

Sports drinks

This kind of drink is usually advertised as a healthy source of energy, so they can’t contain that much sugar, right? Unfortunately that’s not the case. A typical energy drink might contain 40 grams of sugars. That’s pretty much the same as a can of Coke.

Unless you are a performance athlete, no one needs that much sugar from a drink. The fact is that most people buy these sports drink simply to give them some energy or quench their thirst in the afternoon. Try drinking a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon instead!

If you’d like to learn more about why Candida needs sugar, along with some effective strategies for reducing the sugar in your diet, check out the Ultimate Candida Diet treatment program that I wrote with Dr. Eric Wood.

Filed under: About Candida, Diet Tips
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  1. Yael says:

    I highly recommend making at home kefir instead of yogurt. It is easier to make and very tasty !

    1. bentley beira says:

      what is kefir and how is it made?

      1. Yael says:

        Regarding kefir – there is a lot of information on the web. If you live in the US you can easily buy grains. As I am not in the US, finding grains was the hard part. I use only goats’ milk but you can use cow milk, as well. I know that coconut milk is not recommended, at least for the grains. It doesn’t really feed them. There are many videos on the web showing you what to do. Once you know the basics, it is easy.

    2. Energy drinks too. Preteens and teens drink them a lot .

      A newer one is nerd aims to boost memory ficus & learning.

      My teen on acne antibiotics combined w nerd & ice cream protein drinks for sport team wound up w candida symptoms.

      Sport team coaches also pushing Gatorade on elementary school kids and older too.

      1. Melissa says:

        Christine MM- would you be open to hearing about a clinical nutrition product that’s a healthy alternative to an energy drink/dangerous Red Bull market? Also, a healthy alternative to Gatorade? All natural, low or no sugar.

        1. Patrick says:

          Yes I’d love to know an alternative to Monster Energy Drinks! I love them and I DO NOT want to die of a heart attack at 42. Thx so much

    3. Kathy D. says:

      How exactly did you make your kefir?

  2. Robin says:

    I am one month on the diet and am confused about when it is ok to try dairy products. I have used coconut milk kefir which is pretty boring and am excited to think dairy might be ok. I have read that goat’s milk might be easier to digest as well as it’s ok to eat cheese as long as it is cooked? Right now I am just getting over the flu (and/or detox) so I don’t want to jeopardize my recovery. How do you make at home kefir?

  3. Connie says:

    Look up Kefir on line it gives recipies and amazon site.

  4. Teri says:

    Does anyone have suggestions for working with this diet for children? We hit day five today & I “caved” at lunch & we went to MickeyD’s. I feel horrible about it but I also feel horrible having to deprive a 7 yr old of all the food his dad & siblings are eating (I am on the diet with him). It is very difficult explaining this to a child.

    1. L says:

      I don’t know if you have the candida diet book that is sold through this blog, but the first few weeks are the hardest. You can emulate a lot of foods though. She has a recipe for hamburger buns which is really good. She also has a great recipe for coconut chicken “nuggets.” And I made ketchup by looking up a recipe for it online, then using tomato paste (sugar free), the spices it called for, and a few drops of stevia. And mustard you can make yourself with apple cider vinegar, mustard seed, etc. There are even no sugar pickles you can make with apple cider vinegar. And for mayo – light olive oil and apple cider vinegar, lemon and mustard powder with a pinch of salt. Mayo is amazingly easy to make at home. Modify recipes yourself and you don’t need McDonalds. You’ll still want it but you can find ways around it. Good luck with the explanations. And the not cheating. It’s easier not to cheat if you think that you may have to start all over again each time you do.

  5. LSF says:

    Does anyone else have the problem that many foods recommended for Candida diets are also migraine triggers?
    eg. yogurt, kefir, anything fermented, tomatos,
    nuts, seeds,
    This plus the foods I can’t digest or am allergic tomake the diet very limiting.

  6. becca k says:

    I started drinking lifeway kerif from wal-mart but looked at sugar content today – 20 grams per cup. Should I look at giving this up?

  7. noxy says:

    I must admit this is the hardest thing to follow through. Its so hard not to fall off the wagon. I’ve changed most things about my life but really this is hard. I honestly need help and more motivation. HELP!!!!!

  8. Avalon says:

    Pasta is soooo my down fall, but I just make my own pasta sauce!! It does take alot more effort, but if pasta is your thing it makes life abit more bearable 🙂

    1. Vicki Gorissen says:

      Hi Avalon,I’m not much a cook and need help to brighten me meals,any recipes with more than 5 ingredients that’s it,LAZY,would you share your pasta sauce recipe with us 🙂

      1. Avalon says:

        Hi Vicki

        I would love to share my recipies 🙂

        6 or more tomatos
        1 onion
        Garlic (as much as you like)
        About 2 tsp of Oregano
        About 1 tblsp of Basil
        1 Jar of Tomato Paste (most tomato pastes do not have sugar or anything bad added to them, but always do check)
        Capsicum, Corgettes, etc if you want to make a different flavour (DO NOT USE MUSHROOMS 🙂 )

        Boil water (enough to cover the tomatoes) prick the tomatos and add to the boiling water. Leave for about a min and then you can easily take the skins off.
        Heat coconut oil and cook onion and garlic. Cool until transparent. Add Oregano and Basil and cook. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the onion mix with the tomatoes paste. Add salt and pepper. Turn the heat down and simmer for a minimum of one hour (the longer the better). If you are adding veges, you probably want to do this near the end of the cooking, so you dont cook them down to mush and want to keep as much nutrients as possible. You can always add water if you need to, as it does reduce down.

        I hope you enjoy it.

        1. Avalon says:

          Ohhh and I generally put Braggs Liquid Amino’s in mine too, but you could use coconut amino, just for abit of extra flavour

    2. Katy says:

      I use steamed cauliflower in place of pasta.

  9. Kathryn Wolk says:

    I do not understand why you keep telling people that a LOW sugar diet will get rid of the candida. This stuff is wicked. I believe we must go on a NO sugar diet for a couple of months & then try to maintain a low sugar diet. I’ve fought candida off & on for years & the best thing is to bite the bullet and completely avoid sugar & yeast. I got real excited when I found chewing gum featuring a notice “sweetened with xylitol”, but the ingerdients list lists sorbitol as the 1st ingredient!!

    1. Lisa Richards says:

      Hi Kathryn! I totally agree that Candida sufferers should cut out all ADDED sugars. However it would be impossible (and unhealthy) to cut out all carbohydrates as that would exclude many healthy vegetables. That’s why I call it a low sugar diet as opposed to a no sugar diet.

  10. Sharon says:

    Is anyone else on a rotation diet? This is kind of my “uh oh” moment again. I have dental issues so I cannot chew like I did the first time I had to go on a very serious anti-candida diet.
    Are there smoothies or soup recipes I can start with? Candida is like the canary telling me that “all is not well within my body”. Any helpful ideas are greatly appreciated. I’m going through many procedures so I have to take this one step at a time; maybe one day and week at a time.

    1. Lisa Richards says:

      Check out our recipes section ( or the recipes section in the forum ( for some ideas

  11. Sharon says:

    To LSF: Yes, I am allergic to many foods. The one thing I learned the first time I had to really go on this diet and stick to it was to be open and creative. There are so many options for the base in yogurts. I’ve seen rice, soy (which I saw is a no-no here) coconut yogurt at the health food stores. Are any of these yogurts ok to eat on this diet?

    1. Lisa Richards says:

      You’ll find that most of those yogurts are probably sweetened. What you’re looking for is unsweetened yogurt with live cultures. You just have to read the ingredients label very carefully

  12. Eddie says:

    There was mention of “Leaky Gut Syndrome” and I wanted to know is… how does one know if they have it? As for candida overgrowith, I’ve never been tested for candida, but just on what I’ve read I am 99.9999% certain I have an overgrowth of candida albicans. Thanks in advance.


    1. Lisa Richards says:

      As far as I’m aware there is no test for Leaky Gut Syndrome. Look instead for typical symptoms like food allergies and chemical sensitivities.

      1. Eddie says:

        I was tested for allergies in the early 90’s for allergies and I had none. I was tested again a few years ago and I have an enormous amount of allergies, some being dust, cochroaches, mesquite trees, etc. As for chemical sensativities, any strong smell is unbearable. Even perfume has become unbearable. I get down at times because of this.

  13. Ursula says:

    I am very much in tune with my body & have a very bad case of candida. I can tell when I eat something that feeds it.
    I have found brown rice pasta. Only ingredients are brown rice & water.
    Get creative, quinoa, veggies & listen to your body.

    That being said, it’s a day to day battle. Some days are easier than others.

    I know stevia is acceptable. I use very little of it. But was wondering if Truvia is also acceptable. It has an added ingredient & better taste. I only use a half packet at a time. Just curious.

    1. Lisa Richards says:

      Truvia contain a sugar alcohol named erythritol that is actually quite a good option for Candida sufferers. I would prefer a 100% stevia brand, but Truvia is definitely not bad.

  14. Csilla says:

    Hi All,

    I’m just wondering if it’s ok to eat xylitol with shredded coconut? Is xylitol safe to use as the sweetener on anything or only in chewing gum? Also I’ve been sugarless for a month and been on the cleansing diet (easier version) for 3 days. Do I have to go for 7 days with it or can I just go on with the 2nd stage the strict diet? I find it really hard being only on these few vegetables. Is it still effective if I just go on with the 2nd stage and use the detox drink during the day and the liver flush drink during the night. Thanks

    1. Lisa Richards says:

      Xylitol is fine ( The cleansing stage will definitely help beat your Candida, but it is optional if you’re finding it too hard.

  15. Craig rueda says:

    With all these being said, the only book that I have seen work in the past is Lisa’s Ultimate Candida Diet book, not because I’m a believer in the 0 sugar and carb part because I personally don’t think this is necessary, but because it really gives you a great diet to follow to promote your immune system. My last got cut short. Thank you Lisa for everything you have done with your book. It is an excellent resource to have and the only book in the market I would trust!

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