What is SCD legal? Definition, Legal/Illegal lists & Legal yogurt

When I first started out on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet one of the things that struck me as a bit strange was the term “SCD legal”. In this article, I take a dive deep into the concept of foods being SCD legal. I’ll also share my experience with making SCD legal yogurt, one of the first recipes many people make on the diet.

What is SCD legal? SCD legal is the term used for foods that can be eaten on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, in contrast to illegal foods or ingredients that must be avoided on the SCD diet. This shorthand of legal/illegal ingredients was introduced by Elaine Godshall, after the death of originator Dr. Sydney Hass.

Let’s go through a bit of the background and history of what these terms mean and how they came about, as well as where to find information on which foods are allowed on the diet. If you are starting on the SCD or know someone who is, it can be helpful to have a little background.

SCD Legal Definition

So the definition of SCD Legal are foods and ingredients that can be eaten when following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. This is in contrast to illegal ingredients and foods which must be excluded completely while following the SCD diet. It is simply the terminology chosen for highlighting what you can and cannot eat on the diet.

Over the many years following the SCD diet, I have had a lot of people smirk or crack jokes about the terminology chosen for the “legal/illegal” list of foods for the diet.

No, no one will be coming to arrest you if you eat a pound of candy, so that wording can seem a bit silly. Still, I think the goal was to impart the seriousness and importance of following the diet 100% with no exceptions until you are healed.

no food should be ingested that contains carbohydrates other than those found in fruits, honey, properly prepared yogurt, and those vegetables and nuts listed.


I can see the reasoning behind trying to communicate how strictly you have to follow the diet. It tends to be human nature to assume that a cheat here and there is not going to be such a big deal. For example that a one time exception where you eat some cake at a party is just part of life or that even what you don’t know can’t hurt you with certain unknowns in an ingredient list. I think the purpose of calling these ingredients “illegal” is to emphasize that it IS a big deal, that one slip up can set your progress by many months.

I have heard interviews with people who had followed the diet strictly for a period of years with full healing and decided they can begin to add foods deemed illegal on SCD back into their diets and one day ended up in the hospital. These types of stories tend to scare you straight, or at least they did for me.

It appears that Elaine Godshall, who popularized the current incarnation of the SCD diet, is the one who came up with the term SCD “legal” and “illegal”.

The most prevalent terminology used in Management of celiac disease by Dr. Sydney Haas, the original creator of the diet, appears to have been the terminology “forbidden” foods, for example in this excerpt:

The strictness of this diet cannot be overemphasized, nor should the difficulty of adhering to it be minimized. Faithful observance requires intelligence and vigilance on the part of the mother or the person taking care of the child with celiac disease. It is surprising how many a child will, despite the best parental supervision, manage to get hold of forbidden food.

Management of celiac disease – Sidney Haas

Other terminology commonly used by Dr. Haas were “prohibited” and “not allowed”. For example in the following passage in Management of celiac disease: “Any cereal grain is strictly and absolutely forbidden, including corn, wheat, rye or rice in any form, whether it is bread, cake , toast, zweiback, crackers, cookies or breakfast cereals. Potato is prohibited. Sugar is forbidden as sweetening or in the form of candy, pastries, breads, etc, as well as dextrins such as are found in corn sirups and lollipops. Milk other than protein milk is not allowed.”.

Having these multiple ways of describing illegal foods on the SCD may have been not quite as clear and to the point. This may have been Elaine Godshall’s thinking when coming up with the term illegal in her guidance for those following SCD in her book years later.

Using such strong language, it’s hard not to take notice of what is strictly off limits on the diet, or at least it does the best job possible of driving home this point.

Specific Carbohydrate Diet Legal List

The official specific carbohydrate diet legal list is available on the Breaking the Vicious Cycle companion website:


This is a great resource that everyone on the diet will use periodically.

Although some general concepts you tend to put to memory, such as that carrots are legal but cane juice/cane sugar is not – the SCD legal list is great for confirming some less common foods, such as whether Jicama is legal (it is not).

One limitation you will notice about the SCD legal/illegal list is that it does not have every ingredient in the world. Given that it was Elaine Godshall herself who studied the biochemistry of foods and maintained the evaluations for SCD legal and illegal lists, there were understandably limits to the amounts of ingredients she had been able to review.

Elaine Godshall passed away in 2005. Since that time, as new food trends have emerged there has been a bit of a void in terms of another source of truth for whether items should be allowed on the SCD.

Elaine always maintained that if there weren’t enough resources to study a particular food, that it was probably not worth taking a chance. That concept applied now more than ever, as new exotic fruits and vegetables are available in North America, one has to make a judgment call for themselves as to whether to take a chance eating a food that has not been blessed as SCD legal or play it safe by sticking to those foods reviewed for the SCD legal list (I would definitely recommend playing it safe for those who are still healing and following the SCD).

What is SCD Legal Yogurt?

SCD legal yogurt is simply a homemade yogurt created from scratch at home using an SCD compliant yogurt starter like the one from Yogourmet, with one additional requirement of letting the yogurt ferment for a full 24 hours as opposed to the more standard 4 or 8 hours.

One of the more exotic elements of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is the recommendation to make your own yogurt from scratch. In general other ingredients, like carrots, eggs, fish and meats are pretty common, but people can get a little nervous about the requirement of making homemade yogurt.

As a quick overview, the steps to make SCD compliant yogurt are to heat milk on the stove to a simmer, making sure it doesn’t boil over, then cover it and let it cool until it is below 110F (can take a bit of time), transfer a bit of the simmered milk into the yogurt maker (which keeps it at a steady 100-110F), add the yogurt starter, then add the rest of the milk and turn on the yogurt maker for a full 24 hours.

I hope to do a more in-depth article in the future on SCD yogurt making, but here are more details on the steps as well as a helpful video showing the steps:

This is a helpful video tutorial on making SCD legal yogurt if you are new at it. Note that if you cannot find the exact Dannon yogurt she mentions you can also use the Yogourmet starter linked above.

Related Questions

What does “SCD diet” mean? SCD diet stands for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, created by Sidney Valentine Haas, M.D. and made popular by Elaine Gottschall in her book Breaking The Vicious Cycle. Its goal is the management of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, diverticulitis, cystic fibrosis and chronic diarrhea.

What is SCD legal bacon? SCD Legal bacon is any bacon that does not contain ingredients that are restricted from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, such as refined sugar. Although in the book Breaking The Vicious Cycle, bacon cured with sugar is allowed once per week in small quantities, SCD legal bacon can be eaten liberally.


My goal with this website is to help get the message out about grain free diets such as the Paleo and Primal diets, SCD diet and GAPS diet, so that more people might benefit from them. My other main goal is to help everyone transitioning to these diets, which can be challenging when first starting down this path. It definitely was for me.

Recent Posts