If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you’ve likely received advice on the best foods to eat and which to avoid to lose weight and manage hormone levels. The truth is, for most women with PCOS, no food group is completely fasted. It’s just a matter of making the healthiest choices and regulating your intake.
This article helps clear up some misconceptions about PCOS and food. It also provides four facts about healthy eating for PCOS and how to make them work for you.
fruit is allowed
Carbs in general have a bad reputation, but most fruits (carbs) aren’t worth it.
Fruits provide important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that provide many benefits for women with PCOS.
These benefits include:
- Improves cholesterol levels: Up to 70% of women with PCOS have high cholesterol.
- Lower blood pressure: Women with PCOS are 53% more likely to have high blood pressure than women without.
- Reduces insulin resistance: Insulin resistance, the inability of the body to use the hormone insulin to control blood sugar, is common in women with PCOS.
- Cancer Prevention: Women with PCOS have an increased risk of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer.
A study published in Journal of Hormone and Metabolism Research showed that women with PCOS who ate a diet rich in fruits and vegetables lost more belly fat and had significantly improved responses to insulin (a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar) and markers of inflammation.
Choose fruits with skins (such as apples, blueberries, and strawberries).These tend to have lower glycemic index (GI) than fruits eaten without the skin, such as pineapple and watermelon. The lower the GI of a fruit, the less it will raise blood sugar levels.
Remember that fruit intake should be distributed evenly throughout the day. Pair fruit with protein sources such as apples and peanut butter to help stabilize glucose and insulin levels.
On the other hand, you need to avoid fruit juice as it can quickly raise insulin levels.
Fruits can be a healthy part of the PCOS diet, but choose skinned fruits with a lower glycemic index. Eat fruit in moderation and avoid fruit juices that raise insulin and blood sugar levels.
Foods women with PCOS should eat
You don’t have to go gluten free
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. While most women with PCOS can eat gluten with no problem, a small percentage may have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. These are immune-related disorders in which the body responds abnormally to gluten, causing digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, and nausea.
For these women, removing gluten from the diet can reduce digestive symptoms and help them feel better. However, if you don’t have gluten intolerance or celiac disease, you don’t need to reduce gluten from your diet.
Many women with PCOS believe that a gluten-free diet will help them lose weight. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this. While some women may lose weight by following a gluten-free diet, this is more likely due to fewer calories overall.
Focus on eating a reasonable portion of gluten-containing foods, such as whole-wheat bread, and protein-rich foods that help normalize blood sugar and weight management.
Unless you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you don’t need a gluten-free diet. If you have PCOS, you can eat gluten, but be careful to eat whole grains rather than refined grains.
Dairy is not off limits
Milk is a rich source of calcium, vitamin D and protein. It is also considered a carbohydrate due to its high lactose content.
an article in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed a positive link between dairy consumption and acne. It concluded that cow’s milk, especially skim milk, causes elevated androgen and insulin levels.
For these reasons, some women with PCOS are advised to limit their intake of yogurt or milk.
Consider eating just a few servings per week, unless you’re allergic to milk or lactose intolerant, in which case you may need to avoid it entirely. Dairy products have bone-building properties, so it’s best not to remove them completely unless necessary.
Dairy products can affect insulin and hormone levels in people with PCOS. Therefore, you may need to reduce your dairy intake, but not completely. Milk and other forms of dairy products help maintain strong bones and are rich sources of calcium and vitamin D.
You can indulge your sweet tooth
While desserts and other sugary foods are bad for PCOS and should be limited, if enjoyed in moderation, they can be part of a healthy PCOS diet.
A bar or two of dark chocolate (70% or more) will satisfy a sugar craving. It also contains compounds called antioxidants that help fight unstable molecules (free radicals) that damage cells and tissues.
Sometimes being too strict with sweets can backfire and lead to overeating. So, indulge your sweet tooth from time to time, but focus on whole foods with reasonable portions as the main ingredient in your diet.
If you have PCO, you will want to limit your sugar intake, but cutting down on sugar altogether can lead to overeating. Occasionally eating something sweet can help curb sugar cravings. A bar or two of dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more) is a good option.
If you have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), it is recommended that you adjust your diet to better control your insulin and hormone levels, thereby managing the signs and symptoms of this common hormonal disorder.
An overly restrictive diet can do more harm than good by depriving you of essential nutrients and increasing your risk of overeating. Moderate and reasonable diet is the key.
This includes eating fruits with a low glycemic index, such as apples and blueberries. You don’t need to avoid dairy and gluten; just limit your intake and choose healthy options (such as low-fat milk and whole-wheat bread). Occasionally eat something sweet to curb sugar cravings.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the treatment options for PCOS?
There are various treatments for PCOS, including lifestyle changes, medications to help stimulate ovulation, and metformin to help treat insulin resistance. Birth control pills can be used to improve acne and regulate periods in people who do not want to get pregnant.
Is there a specific PCOS diet plan?
There are specific dietary changes you can make to help relieve PCOS symptoms and related conditions, such as insulin resistance, inflammation, and obesity. The PCOS diet focuses on high-fiber whole foods, lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, while avoiding refined sugar, red meat, full-fat dairy, and processed foods.