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Choosing foods that are lower carbohydrate



While SCD allows foods that are specifically selected based on their carbohydrate structure, some individuals also find it helpful in their healing journey to select foods from the permitted list that also contain lower amounts of carbohydrates. 

This might be a phase lasting only a few months to a few years after starting SCD, while you are rebuilding your gut ecology.  Or it might develop into a long-term strategy because your digestion and metabolism work more effectively when eating "lean carb."  You may also have been diagnosed with a functional digestive disorder or a metabolic disorder which makes it problematic to digest high carbohydrate foods.

You might also find you are dealing with a candida overgrowth, so that eating "lean carb" is a helpful elimination strategy.  See for additional information and strategies, as well as a ranking of fruits by sugar levels along with the vegetable carbohydrate levels as listed below. 

See for more information on how carbohydrate structure plays a role in digestion and why Elaine selected some carbohydrate sources but not others. 

Helpful Strategies


Review nutritional analyses

    Research the foods you normally eat, or are considering adding to your menu, to determine the carbohydrate content.  Any of these databases supply nutritional analyses for most foods. 


Determine amount of carbohydrates per day that is best for your body

    Our bodies can function on proteins and fat, so don't require carbohydrates to survive.  However our bodies often work more efficiently if given some carbohydrates during each day.  There is considerable variation in what amount of carbohydrates are best for each of us, depending on total body weight, level of physical activity, other physiological factors such as chronic illness, digestive disorders, metabolic disorders.... 

    In general, experts recommend a minimum carbohydrate amount of 50 grams to 130 grams per day.  In recent years, the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for carbohydrates has been, for both adults and children:  45% to 65% of total daily calories from carbohydrates, 20% to 30% from fats, and 10% to 35% from protein. 

    Remember that low carbohydrate does not mean low calorie You need to increase proteins to compensate for lower carbohydrates in order to maintain the amount of calories that is best for your body at any particular time in your healing journey. 

    Pay attention to your body's signals as you are fine-tuning the levels of carbohydrates that are best for you.  Or discuss an optimum level with your health care provider. 


Can combine with other nutritional needs

    You can use the nutritional information databases if you need to also pay attention to other nutritional content of foods, such as fiber or fat. You can combine "lean-carb" strategies with the stages: 

Experiment to learn what is best for you

     There is no standard rule for determining how many grams of carbohydrates per day you need, or which ones are better for you than others. You will find your body's needs changing as your gut ecology improves and your digestion works more efficiently and effectively.  You may be successful in limiting yourself to one higher carbohydrate food once a week, or you may discover that for a period of time you need to avoid high carbohydrate foods completely.  Pay attention to your body's signals, experiment with different foods in different combinations. 

Methods of preparation may make a difference

    Cooking changes the carbohydrate content of foods, as well as changing other nutritional factors.  The interaction of heat and carbohydrates is complex, and varies with the cooking method.  Generally, cooking will lower the carbohydrate content slightly, by a point or two.  On the other hand, it may increase the sugar load, or lower the fiber content.  Food is often cooked with oils, so can increase the fat load or calorie level. 



Nutrition information from websites listed above and  "Krause's Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy."

Average serving size varies with each vegetable, but is approximately 100 g or 1 cup

Foods in this list are measured while raw, not cooked. 

Lowest Carb : 0 to 5g carbohydrate per “average” serving          

asparagus chard greens (mustard and beet) radish
avocado cucumber lettuce scallion
broccoli endive mushrooms spinach
cabbage, Savoy garlic olives tomato
celery ginger parsley watercress


Medium Carb : 6 to 8g carbohydrate per “average” serving         

beets cauliflower peppers (green, yellow, red, chili)
Bok choy chives snow peas
brussels sprouts collard greens summer squash (yellow, zucchini)
carrots green beans, wax beans  


High Carb : 9g or more carbohydrate per “average” serving       

artichoke, French kale onions dried white (navy) beans
cabbage, red leeks water chestnuts lentils
eggplant lima beans (dried & fresh) winter squash (butternut, acorn) split peas
green peas      


revised 6/2010