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If you have recently been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, you may have been wondering what kind of diet is best for women with PCOS, as well as which foods you need to include or exclude from your diet. In this blog post, you will learn how to structure your PCOS diet, so that you can start to balance your hormones and improve your symptoms associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
What is The Best Diet for Women with PCOS?
As a condition, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome causes hormonal imbalances and complications with metabolism. Many women gain weight or struggle to lose weight, and a lot of women experience digestive issues as well.
Women with PCOS generally need to follow a low-carb diet, as high insulin levels (caused by sugar, processed carbohydrates, and eating too many carbohydrates) is one of the main causes of PCOS symptoms like acne, weight gain, and infertility. A diet low in carbohydrates that is focused on managing insulin levels is best for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Inflammation is also a common symptom in women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Therefore, following an anti-inflammatory diet is also ideal. And as weight gain is also a common symptom, a diet aimed at weight management is also recommended, especially when being overweight can make symptoms worse. Being overweight can make it even harder for women with PCOS to get pregnant.
PCOS is also associated with various nutrient deficiencies, such as folate, vitamin B12, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. Eating foods that are high in these nutrients, or even supplementing, can be greatly beneficial for women with PCOS.
So, a diet that is aimed at lowering insulin and inflammation and fixing nutrient deficiencies is best for women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
What Foods to Avoid If You Have PCOS
The basic foods you need to focus on eliminating from your diet are:
- Foods that are high in sugar, such as sweets, milk chocolate, cakes, sodas, pastries, etc. Pay special attention to so-called “healthy” foods, such as granola bars, muesli, sweetened yogurt, and dried fruit. These foods are usually high in sugar, and will just spike your blood sugar. Even fruit, in excess, can significantly increase your insulin levels, and the sugar in dried fruit is quite concentrated. Sugar is also one of the biggest dietary causes of inflammation in the body.
- Processed carbohydrates, as they spike blood sugar levels and increase insulin. They also contribute to inflammation in the body, which can make symptoms like acne worse.
- Processed food. Most processed foods contain ingredients like sugar, dairy, gluten, or soy. These can all be inflammatory, especially the ones that contain trans fats/hydrogenated vegetable oils.
- If you have the MTHFR gene mutation, foods that are fortified with folic acid should also be avoided, as the body cannot covert it into its active form: folate. Rather stay away from folic acid, and take methylated folate instead if you are not sure if you have the gene, or eat folate-rich foods.
- Dairy, gluten, and soy can all cause inflammation for a lot of people. You can eliminate these from your diet and then add them back one by one after a month to test if you have some kind of a reaction or not.
What Foods Should You Eat for PCOS
The best foods to focus on if you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are:
- Anti-inflammatory foods, such as berries, fatty fish, olive oil, turmeric, leafy greens, ginger, and extra virgin olive oil may reduce inflammation when consumed regularly.
- Foods that are high in protein, such as meat (unprocessed), eggs, fish, nuts, or seeds. Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, and beans) also contain protein, but they also have a higher carbohydrate content, which can be a problem if you want to keep your carbohydrate intake as low as possible. Protein helps keep you full, and if you do want to try a low-carb diet, consuming enough protein and fat will be essential in helping you stay sane.
- Fatty foods, such as nuts and seeds, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, fatty fish, etc. Fat helps to keep you satiated and has the lowest impact on your blood sugar levels.
- Folate-rich foods like leafy greens, broccoli, and liver.
- Anti-inflammatory foods, such as cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, fatty fish, flaxseeds, etc.
- Flaxseed powder/flaxseed oil. In fact, two tablespoons a day can help improve Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome symptoms by lowering testosterone levels and improving progesterone levels.
- Spearmint tea. Regular consumption (two cups a day) can significantly improve PCOS symptoms after only a few weeks. It works by lowering androgen levels and aiding progesterone and oestrogen balance.
- Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. They support oestrogen metabolism and can prevent oestrogen levels from becoming too high. When oestrogen is too high, it can convert into testosterone, making Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome symptoms even worse. You can also supplement with DIM (3,3′-Diindolylmethane), which is the compound responsible for this benefit.
- Foods that are high in the mineral zinc, such as celery, nuts, pumpkin seeds, shellfish, and dark chocolate.
- Magnesium-rich foods, such as nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, and avocado.
- Potassium-rich foods, such as cooked spinach, cooked broccoli, coconut water, and swiss chard.
These are the basic guidelines on which foods to eat and which to exclude from your diet if you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It might be a bit challenging at first, but it becomes easier as you adapt to a PCOS diet over time.