You would probably have heard about PCOS or Polycystic ovary syndrome. It is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. Also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, it is believed to affect one in every ten women of child bearing age. The disease is touted to cause infertility, increase the risk of endometrial cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol etc. Additionally, what worries every female about it is the weight gain that it causes. Here, we would explore how we can control this weight gain and lead a healthy life by following specialized PCOS diet plan.
PCOS and Weight Gain
Most women with PCOS suffer from weight gain. This happens because of the close connection of the disease with the hormone insulin which is released by the pancreas. It is responsible for transporting blood sugar to the muscles for energy as well as transforming the extra glucose into stored fats. However due to PCOS, the insulin level spikes in the body leading to its havoc with symptoms like increased hair growth, weight gain, skin tags, polycystic ovaries, irregular menstruation, fatty liver, high cholesterol levels and a host of other problems.
What is PCOS Diet?
PCOS is caused mainly by insulin resistance or endocrine dysfunction. One of its major effects is uncontrolled weight gain. But doctors and health experts have diagnosed that a low GI diet with a specialized combination of food and proper exercise can keep the disease as well as weight in proper check.
PCOS Diet Guidelines
PCOS is a complex disease whose causes and hormone level varies from woman to woman. Thus, the best diet for PCOS needs to be tailored for each woman individually based on their specific conditions. However, there are some general guidelines which can be followed by each woman not only to keep PCOS and weight gain at bay but also to control the symptoms of the disease. Let’s throw light on which food groups to include and which to exclude in your PCOS diet menu.
Food Groups to Include in the PCOS Diet
PCOS can be easily managed in an effective manner by including healthy PCOS diet food list. They can also help you arrest weight gain and enable you to lead a normal, healthy life.
- Green Leafy Vegetables
Apart from their known benefits, green leafy vegetables are an excellent arsenal to prevent and manage PCOS. They are not only a staple of a vegetarian PCOS diet but should also prominently feature in the non-vegetarian version as well. Its vitamin content especially B2, B3, B5 and B6 not only enhances sugar and fat metabolism but also improves the thyroid functionality and help create better hormone balance and improve fertility, the key to PCOS management. The minerals help in reducing acidity, inflammation and impaired glucose tolerance. The calcium component of it helps in egg maturation while its potassium content helps in FSH or Follicle Stimulation Hormone Production. Overall, it helps in promoting weight loss and reducing PMS symptoms.
- Coloured and White Vegetables
Females suffering from PCOS show a high level of oxidative stress. This leads to release of a high number of free radicals. The colored and white vegetables not only give you an appetizing salad to eat but their high antioxidants content goes a long way in neutralizing and eliminating these radicals as well as oxidative stress.
Generally, women suffering from PCOS avoid fruits because of its fructose content which causes an instant spike in blood sugar levels and thus insulin. However, fruits are also a rich source of fibers, minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients which help in combating PCOS. Thus one can eat fruits but they should be of low GI index. Additionally, some proteins like nuts should be consumed along with fruits which prevent sudden sugar spike. Recommended fruits are grapefruits, cherries, plums, apples, dried apricot, coconut as well as its milk, orange, prunes etc.
- Organic Pasture-fed Meat
To combat the toughest problem of weight gain, it is crucial to include lean proteins in a PCOS diet. Pasture-fed meat is not only leaner but they also contain fewer hormones than the normal meat. Again these breeds are fed grains and grass that are not genetically modified and has fewer pesticides. Thus, despite being more expensive, they are more helpful in treating PCOS and attaining hormonal balance.
- Healthy Fats
Overweight does not equate to cutting all fats from the diet. In reality, healthy fats like essential fatty acids are crucial to maintaining the cell walls which facilitate the entry of nutrients and exit of toxins. They also promote hormonal balance as well as weight management. Thus, it is an important component of a PCOS diet. Healthy fats can be consumed in the form of seeds, nuts, avocado, fishes like tuna and salmon, olive oil etc.
- Low GI Carbohydrates
It is simply not possible nor is it necessary to shun carbohydrates completely though the choice needs to be done judiciously. Foods with high Glycemic Index like instant cereals, bagels, white bread, rice etc, releases sugar quickly to cause instant spikes. This also spikes insulin release in the body. This eventually causes insulin resistance and obesity and ultimately worsening of the PCOS symptoms. In contrast eating complex carbohydrates with low GI take much longer time to get digested and release sugar which keeps you satiated for longer hours and helps manage blood sugar levels. Recommended foods are legumes, lentils, beans, and non-starchy vegetables.
Despite following all the guidelines of diet to cure PCOS, many women may find themselves lacking in some essential nutrients and minerals. In this scenario, post doctor’s recommendation, it is essential to take a good mineral and multivitamin supplement. Any women also consume supplements of Vitamin B complex, Vitamin D, chromium, Omega 3 and Ovasitol.
Food Groups to Exclude in the PCOS Diet
Now we list down the food groups which must be avoided as far as possible to lead a healthy life.
- High Glycemic Index foods
We have already discussed the harmful effects of foods with high GI. Most of these foods are processed to eliminate fibers and nutrients also get eliminated alongside. Thus, they are tasty but lacks essential nutrients and yield high calories. Examples are potato, white rice, muffins, cakes, rice cakes etc. Apart from disrupting insulin levels, they also affect ovulation negatively.
- Dairy products
Generally, milk and dairy products are considered healthy but they contain a protein which limits the regular processing of the testosterone hormone in the body. This makes its level rise in the body and thus worsens the PCOS symptoms. Owing to this, milk and dairy products need to be avoided by females suffering from PCOS.
- Soy products
Soy is considered a good alternative to dairy products but even this need to be avoided by PCOS patients. Even though further research and studies are required, present studies indicate that soy products tend to delay ovulation. Thus, it is a big No especially for those eating a PCOS diet to get pregnant naturally.
- Unhealthy fats
All unhealthy fats like saturated fats, trans-fats, hydrogenated fats etc. tend to increase the symptoms of PCOS. They also increase the production of oestrogen which impairs the absorption of certain nutrients and causes weight gain. Overall, they enhance all signs of PCOS and increase the risk of various other diseases. They should be avoided even by normal females.
Studies have already established that consumption of over 4 cups of coffee per day can impact fertility in women. PCOS women already face fertility issues. Consuming coffee aggravates the problem real fast in women suffering from PCOS. Because of this, it needs to be avoided.
Alcohol has high GI and is readily converted into sugar which can escalate insulin resistance as well as impaired glucose tolerance. They also aggravate inflammation and increase the PCOS symptoms.
PCOS Diet Chart
Since PCOS is not considered an actual disease, its treatment and cure is currently not available. You simply adopt a strategy to reduce its symptoms. The sample chart provided is just a guideline to help you eat a balanced meal while reducing the PCOS symptoms. This diet plan is especially formulated to help you reduce weight. Based on individual preferences and doctor’s consultation, the chart can be easily modified. Also attached is the cheat sheet to help you shop for the right ingredients. Given below are few menus that you can download and add to your daily meal plan for variation.
PCOS Diet Recipes
Now that you know about the diet plan, we share some healthy and tasty recipes that you can easily include in your low carb diet PCOS or PCOS cleanse diet.
- PCOS Friendly Steamed Asparagus
The dish makes for a terrific breakfast or PCOS diet snacks. Prepare it according to instructions and enjoy.
PCOS Diet Snacks
Enjoy the following recipes for snacks and breakfast.
- Scrambled egg and tomato sandwich
- Dairy free blueberry muesli
- PCOS Weight loss low carb keto meatballs
PCOS Meals and Soups
There are numerous other recipes available online that you can refer to.
PCOS Diet Support with Exercise
Losing weight is the most effective way to manage PCOS. While diet and medications help, their results are spectacularly enhanced with the incorporation of an exercise regime. Doing exercise along with the diet plan boosts insulin sensitivity, reduces inflammation, and lowers blood cholesterol levels, increases endorphins which help in reducing depression, lowers heart disease risk, promotes better sleep, regulates hormones and definitely brings about weight loss.
To manage PCOS and weight loss effectively, it is crucial to make basic lifestyle changes. You need to look after yourself and manage your stress levels apart from following the PCOS diet plan and exercising regularly. With the additional support of friends and families, there is no reason that a woman suffering from PCOS cannot lead a fulfilling and satisfying life.
Hope you gained vital insight Do you know anyone who has successfully kicked PCOS in the butt? Do share your comments below!