If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, a PCOS diet plan is crucial for managing your condition. PCOS causes weight gain and also results in high insulin levels. By following a diet for PCOS, you can regulate your insulin levels and maintain your weight. It has been found that many women suffering from PCOS are resistant to insulin and this causes the pancreas to produce more insulin.
Understanding PCOS and Insulin:
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by your pancreas. It is responsible for transporting sugar from your bloodstream to your muscles, thereby ensuring that the body can make energy from the sugar. If insulin levels in your body are high, it can result in many symptoms of PCOS. These symptoms include weight gain, fatty liver, polycystic ovaries, irregular menstrual cycle, hair growth, skin tags and high cholesterol. In addition, you also will suffer from cravings and notice increased levels of hunger. Surely you can identify with these symptoms, as you may already be experiencing them. They are all caused due to high levels of insulin and hence, managing your insulin levels is extremely important.
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This is where the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome diet can help. Usually, you will have a spike in your insulin levels if you consume refined carbohydrates. So, your diet should be planned in such a way that you avoid them. Also, you have to remember that foods high in fat will cause you to gain weight and also increase your blood cholesterol levels.
Typically, your healthcare provider will ask you to stick to a low glycemic index (GI) diet to control your insulin levels. This means consuming unprocessed foods and whole grains. Some doctors may put you on medication to help with insulin resistance, if you are suffering from it.
However, when it comes to PCOS, insulin is not the only hormone affected. If it were, then you and all the other women suffering from PCOS would have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is not the case. While your PCOS diet should include low GI foods for your high insulin levels, you also should be looking to include other foods that can help alleviate other symptoms of PCOS.
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For many women, finding the right diet for PCOS can be challenging, as it can vary from one person to the next and it also depends on your hormone levels and the cause of PCOS. That is to say, one diet plan may not suit each and every woman diagnosed with PCOS.
PCOS Diet for Women:
While there are no real diet plans for women suffering from PCOS, there are some general dietary guidelines that you can follow.
1. Green Leafy Vegetables:
These veggies are replete with nutrients, in fact, more than any other foods you consume. They contain iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium and vitamins, such as B vitamins, K, C and E. B vitamins are important for managing the symptoms you are experiencing due to PCOS. Also, it is important to know that the B vitamin has a major role to play in the metabolism of sugar and fat, maintaining your hormone balance and ensuring optimal thyroid function.
Add fruits to your daily diet to enjoy the benefits of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Many women tend to avoid fruits, as they are worried that these will cause a rise in their blood sugar levels and thereby cause a spike in their insulin levels. However, you should not worry about this, as fruits have a major role in providing your body with nutrients to help it combat PCOS. You should be looking to consume fruits with low glycemic index, such as grapefruit, plums, cherries, grapes, kiwi fruit, apples, pears and dried apricots. In addition, you also should consume a handful of nuts or seeds after consuming the fruit, as the protein in these nuts and seeds will help to regulate your blood sugar level and prevent it from spiking.
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3. Colored Veggies:
Vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and radish, which are brightly colored, are rich sources of antioxidants. They should form an integral part of your diet. It has been observed that women with PCOS tend to suffer from higher oxidative stress and the antioxidants present in these vegetables can destroy free radicals and neutralize their effect.
4. Grass-fed Meat:
As much as possible, consume just organic meats from grass-fed livestock. While this may take a toll on your purse, you will not mind the cost. Such meats do not contain hormones or have not been fed with genetically modified feeds which can adversely affect your PCOS.
5. Healthy Fats:
Do not avoid healthy fats, as they are an important part of your PCOS diet. You should be looking to consume polyunsaturated fats and essential fatty acids to help strengthen and maintain the cell walls. This will keep the nutrients within the cells and keep out the toxins. Also, healthy fats are needed to maintain your fertility and hormonal balance, and manage your weight. Try to consume nuts, oily fish, olive oil, seeds and avocados which contain healthy fats that will benefit your body tremendously.
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Foods to Avoid with PCOS:
Just as you should eat foods that combat your PCOS, there are some foods that you should avoid, as they can aggravate your condition and/or symptoms.
1. Foods with High Glycemic Index:
These are foods that will cause your blood sugar levels to rise very quickly, thereby causing your insulin levels to also rise. Usually, high glycemic index foods contain fiber and other vital nutrients, but tend to taste delicious. Examples of high GI foods include mashed potatoes, cakes, muffins, rice cakes and white rice. You should eliminate these foods altogether from your diet.
If you consume milk for its calcium, try to get your calcium from other sources, such as vegetables. Milk causes your testosterone levels to rise, as it contains a protein that restricts normal metabolism of testosterone. High levels of testosterone can make your condition worse and also cause a spurt in hair growth.
3. Soy Products:
Many PCOS-affected women often turn to soy milk when they are asked to stop milk. Unfortunately, you should avoid soy products as they can cause a delay in your ovulation. If you have PCOS and are trying to conceive, it is best to avoid all soy products.
4. Unhealthy Fats:
Saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated fats are unhealthy fats and you should not make them a part of your PCOS diet. Saturated fats are found in red meat and dairy products. These cause an increase in your estrogen levels which can pose an obstacle in the absorption of certain nutrients. Also, high estrogen levels lead to weight gain. Trans fats and hydrogenated fats come from your cooking oil, processed foods and margarine. These fats can increase the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And, as you are suffering from PCOS, your risk of these diseases is already high. So why tempt fate?
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PCOS and Supplements:
If you follow your Polycystic Ovarian Disease diet to the fullest, you will not suffer from nutritional deficiencies. However, check with your doctor, as many women with PCOS still have a deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals after following the diet. If this is the case, you would need to take supplements along with your PCOS diet to overcome the deficiencies.
Try to take a good quality mineral supplement and multivitamins. They should contain Vitamins A, D, E, C, B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12, folic acid, magnesium, iron, zinc, chromium, manganese and selenium. If you like, you can also take supplements of chromium, essential fatty acids and Vitamin B complex.
PCOS Diet and Managing Insulin Resistance:
If your doctor tells you that your body is resistant to insulin, there is no need to panic. Your diet for PCOS will help you manage your insulin resistance. You should be looking to add the following foods to your Polycystic Ovary Syndrome diet to overcome insulin resistance:
- Switch to whole grains, and eliminate refined and processed grains and foods from your diet
- Consume whole fruits rather than juices to manage your blood sugar and insulin levels
- Eat foods that are rich in fiber, as they will slow down the absorption of sugar and ensure that your blood sugar levels rise gradually along with your insulin level. Try to eat a lot of legumes and fresh veggies, as they are high in fiber and contain nutrients that will prevent a spike in your blood sugar levels
- If you are eating carbohydrates, always combine it with protein. Protein will prevent the carbohydrates from causing a spike in your blood sugar levels
- Try to eat small meals, several times a day. This will help control your hunger pangs and prevent food cravings
It is important for you to understand that there is no cure for PCOS. Hence, you have to live with this condition. By consuming a diet for PCOS and following your doctor’s advice, you will be able to combat your PCOS symptoms and lead a rich and fulfilling life. While the road may not be easy, take solace in the fact that there are many women like you out there. So, stick to your PCOS diet and do not deviate from it if you want to give PCOS a big kick in the butt!
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