The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, known as the SCD, is a diet that is geared towards reducing sugar and lactose intake. Completely grain free and low in sugar, the SCD was originally developed in the 1920s by Dr. Sidney Haas, who was a specialist in treating celiac disease. Despite the origins of the SCD, it has remained popular ever since for people who want to lose weight.
Although this diet does have strict rules on sugars and sweeteners that can be consumed, there are plenty of options that are legal within the diet. In this guide, we’ll be taking you through the sugars and sweeteners that you can and can’t have so you can have the best experience while you are on the SCD.
Which sweeteners can you have on the SCD?
If you have started the SCD, it’s important to know what sugars and sweeteners you can have as part of the diet. It may seem hard to believe as the SCD revolves around lowering your sugar intake but there are some options that are completely legal.
However, bear in mind that when you do have a sweetener as part of the SCD, it should be smaller portions and consumed in moderation.
Aspartame is one of the most common sweeteners available and although it is legal to consume on the SCD, it is not recommended to have too much of it.
A general rule of thumb is to limit yourself to one soft drink that contains aspartame per week in order to make sure that you are having a moderate intake.
Honey is the best sweetener to have as it is a natural sugar and is actually recommended to have as part of the SCD.
Make sure that the honey you purchase has no additional ingredients and additives such as artificial sugars as this will mean that the honey is not suitable on the SCD.
Saccharine is another legal option but it is not recommended as it contains a lot of added chemicals. However, if you do find yourself wanting to consume some saccharine then going for brands such as Sweet N Low is best as they don’t have as much cream of tartar and dextrose.
Other options that are the best for saccharine content is Necta Sweet and the liquid form of Sweet N Low which contains none of the aforementioned substances. However, it’s best to ensure that you limit the amount of saccharine you have during your diet.
Now that we have covered the sugars that you can have on the SCD, it’s important to know that there are plenty of legal alternative sweeteners that you can use to naturally add flavor to your dishes. Here are some examples of healthy SCD sweeteners:
- Baked goods
Sweetening fruits that you can have on the SCD
Another category that is important to consider are what fruits you can have on the SCD. This is because some fruits contain more natural sugars than others which can exceed the legal amount of sugar intake that you can have.
An example of this would be bananas as you have to make sure they have reached a certain point of ripeness. Here are some fruits that you can have on the SCD:
Apples are recommended as part of the SCD in any form as they can naturally sweeten any dish and you can have as many as you want without exceeding the legal sugar intake.
When it comes to apple cider, it’s important to make sure that you choose an option that contains pressed apples only.
Bear in mind that they may have been pasteurized to kill any bacteria but this is okay.
As mentioned above, bananas have to reach a certain point of ripeness and should be consumed only when the black spots have appeared on the skin.
Cherries can be eaten in any form without exceeding your legal sugar intake.
When it comes to eating dates as part of the SCD, make sure that you are only eating California and Medjool dates that are loose without any additional ingredients or sugars.
Figs are legal but be aware that they can act as a laxative if consumed in dried form. Make sure that when you choose your figs that they do not contain any additional additives or chemicals. Another important fact to bear in mind is that figs contain tiny seeds which can be rough on the intestines.
Therefore, if you have any issues or health problems relating to the intestines, it’s best to avoid eating any figs until you have been on the SCD for a while.
Melons can be eaten in any form without exceeding your legal sugar intake.
Mangoes can be eaten in any form without exceeding your legal sugar intake.
Pineapples can be eaten in any form without exceeding your legal sugar intake.
Plums can be eaten in any form without exceeding your legal sugar intake.
Prunes can be eaten in any form without exceeding your legal sugar intake.
Raisins can be eaten in any form but it’s important to eat them in small portions as they contain a higher amount of natural sugars.
What sweeteners are illegal on the SCD?
Now that we’ve discussed what sweeteners are allowed on the SCD, it’s just as important to know what sweeteners you should be avoiding. This is because in order to make the most of your diet, not eating the following sweeteners will give you a better chance of reaping the benefits that the SCD has to offer.
Here are what the BTVC lists as illegal sweeteners that you need to know:
Agave syrup should be avoided in any form.
While honey is recommended as part of the SCD diet, bee pollen should be avoided as it can be irritating to damaged guts.
Whereas clear honey is fine, cloudy honey should be avoided as it still contains some pollen.
Evaporated cane juice
Evaporated cane juice should be avoided in any form as it is sugar.
Date sugar should only be consumed when you have been on the SCD diet for some time; however, it’s not recommended as it contains a lot of natural sugar.
Corn syrup should be avoided in any form.
Dextrose contains a lot of sugar glucose and it is important to bear in mind that products that have dextrose artificially added definitely shouldn’t be consumed as part of the SCD.
Fructooligosaccharides, known as FOS, should be avoided in any form.
Granulated glucose contains glucose as well as high levels of additional sugars and should be avoided.
Inositol should be consumed in small portions as a lot of it can cause diarrhea. This is because of the amount of sugar alcohol it contains which then feeds on bacteria.
Inulin is another form of FOS and should be avoided in any form.
Isoglucose is a newer artificial sweetener that is being incorporated into more products and is likely to be used more in the future. However, it should be avoided as much as possible due to the high sugar content.
Juice from concentrate
Juice from concentrate tends to contain additional ingredients such as sugar meaning that it is illegal to consume on the SCD. If you are having juice from concentrate then make sure that it doesn’t have any additional ingredients besides the fruit itself.
Maltitol is a sugar alcohol which is illegal on the SCD as it falls under the indigestible carb category.
Even if they offer a sugar free option, it is still not recommended to have but they do have a positive function as they provide nutrition to the bacteria in the digestive tract. Despite this, make sure you avoid maltitol as much as possible.
Maltodextrin is one of the worst sugars you can have as it contains lots of glucose molecules that are derived from starch. This means that it won’t digest properly and can feed the bacteria thanks to its structure making it even worse than lactose.
Mannitol is another sugar alcohol that is illegal to consume on the SCD. It is an indigestible carb which means that it will provide nutrition to the bacteria in the digestive tract; however, it should be avoided in any form.
Maple syrup is not suitable in any form as it is a disaccharide.
Molasses should be avoided in any form.
Pectin is not suitable in any form as it is a polysaccharide which means that it is a complex sugar and is actually used as a thickener when making jams.
It can be found in apple peels but you won’t consume a lot of it when eating apples which makes it acceptable in its natural form. However, as an artificially added ingredient, it should be avoided.
Sorbitol is another sugar alcohol that is illegal to consume on the SCD. It is an indigestible carb which means that it will provide nutrition to the bacteria in the digestive tract; however, it should be avoided in any form.
Sucralose is known as Splenda which is illegal on the SCD. This is because it contains a lot of artificial ingredients which should be avoided in any form.
Turbinado is a form of liquid cane sugar which means that it should be avoided as much as possible.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is illegal to consume on the SCD. It is an indigestible carb which means that it will provide nutrition to the bacteria in the digestive tract; however, it should be avoided in any form.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is honey allowed on SCD?
There have been many questions about why honey is accepted on the SCD. The main reason why honey is legal is because it is a natural sugar which means that it doesn’t have any additional ingredients or additives if you choose an option that has as many natural ingredients in it as possible. This is what differentiates honey from other sugars such as maple syrup or evaporated cane juice.
Honey contains natural fructose and glucose which means that it can be absorbed into the body easily compared to other sugars which contain artificial sweeteners. This means that less honey content turns into fat in the body. Sucrose, known as table sugar, is a disaccharide which means that it will pass through the stomach without being digested properly as it contains two monosaccharides in its molecular structure.
When the sucrose reaches the stomach, the enzymes can’t break it down so it passes through the small intestine which can cause irritation if you have health problems relating to the intestine. The sucrose molecules are then converted into glucose when they reach the liver which then enters the bloodstream. Honey is different to sucrose as the enzymes it contains makes it easier for the body to digest and it can be broken down easily.
Is honey the same as table sugar?
As we have previously mentioned, honey is not the same as table sugar as the former is made from ingredients that can be easily digested into the body whereas table sugar isn’t broken down until it reaches the liver.
This means that if you have any internal health issues or problems in the digestive tract then consuming honey will be much nicer to your body than table sugar as the latter may be irritable when it reaches the small intestine.
Is date syrup SCD legal?
Date syrup is only legal on the SCD advanced stage food list which means that it should not be consumed until you have been on the diet for a long period of time. This is because it contains a lot of refined sugar which means that it is not ideal for those who want to cut down their sugar intake. Date syrup has become more popular in recent years as it has been marketed as a natural sweetener but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good for you.
If you have been on the SCD for a long time and want to try incorporating date syrup into your diet then make sure that you have it in small quantities initially as your digestive system may be irritated if you have too much. Also, bear in mind that there are a lot of better options that you should consider such as honey which contains all natural ingredients and is kinder to the digestive system as well as allowing you to not feel as limited in your intake.
Are sugar alcohols SCD legal?
As discussed above, there are many sugar alcohols that are advertised as sweeteners which include mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol but the first thing to learn about sugar alcohols is that they are absolutely illegal when on the SCD.
This is because they are indigestible carbs which means that they are not absorbed or broken down in the body until they reach the liver. This means that if you have health problems with the digestive tract then sugar alcohols should be avoided as much as possible.
Is sucrose SCD legal?
Sucrose is known as table sugar and is absolutely not allowed on the SCD. This is because it is a disaccharide meaning that it is not broken down and digested properly until it reaches the liver. Made up of two molecules, fructose and glucose, sucrose can cause irritability when it passes through the stomach and small intestine.
Sucrose is found in a variety of different sugars such as beetroot, sorghum, sugarcane and sugar maple which all should be avoided as much as possible. When you start the SCD, it may seem like a challenge to cut out any sucrose but once you’re used to having more natural ingredients in your diet, you’ll be able to build up a tolerance and won’t be craving it after too long.
Is Manuka honey SCD legal?
Manuka honey is made from the nectar of the manuka tree which is known as Leptospermum and is a monofloral honey meaning that it has a distinct flavor. A popular sugar substitute, manuka honey is one of the most common honeys purchased for diets.
Although the SCD doesn’t have anything specific to say about manuka honey’s legality on their website, it is generally considered to be legal by classing it as a honey which means that you can have as much of it as you want as it is a natural sweetener that is easy to digest.
The distinct aromatic flavoring is ideal as it will add extra taste to your dishes and can be applied to a variety of different meals. Whether you want to include manuka honey into your SCD is entirely up to you but there are a variety of health benefits that it provides which makes it an ideal addition to any diet.
Is raw honey SCD legal?
As we have discussed in this article, honey in general is SCD compliant but there have been regular debates on whether raw honey should be legal. This is because raw honey has not been exposed to any processes including extracting or straining which helps to cut down the sugar content and makes it easier to digest. Raw honey is more likely to contain bee pollen which is absolutely not allowed on the SCD due to the irritability that it causes to damaged guts.
Raw honey may also contain small particles of wax which are also trickier to digest and is therefore not ideal for those who have internal health problems or issues with their digestive system. Having pure honey that has been pasteurized is absolutely okay for the SCD and is actually recommended but when it comes to raw honey, it is best to avoid it as much as possible as you are not getting the reduced sugar intake that you should be getting whilst on the SCD.
However, there is no official guidance on whether raw honey is legal or illegal on the SCD so it is up to you to decide; however, the general consensus is that pasteurized honey that has gone through minimal processes is recommended while raw honey tends to be avoided.
Is monk fruit SCD legal?
There is no official guidance on whether monk fruit is SCD legal or illegal as it has only grown in popularity in recent years. However, monk fruit has a complex genetic makeup which consists of mogrosides which are sugar molecules and they require a lot of enzymes in the digestive system to break it down.
Therefore, this means that it is most likely to only be broken down once it has reached the liver meaning that the monk fruit will travel through the stomach and small intestine without being digestive which can cause problems for those with problems or health issues in their digestive tract. Therefore, due to the way that monk fruit is broken down in the body, it is extremely similar to sucrose and should be viewed as illegal and avoided as much as possible.
Is Stevia SCD legal?
Stevia is an extremely popular and common brand that markets itself as a zero calorie sweetener. Elaine Gottschall, the woman who wrote the SCD legal and illegal lists, recommends that those on the SCD avoid this product as it is a saccharine which means that it can potentially cause IBD or gut permeability among other things.
Like Splenda, Stevia should be avoided as much as possible unless it is being consumed in small quantities.