Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Diet & Nutrition Plan
The first line of treatment for managing PCOS is lifestyle modification. Various research suggests that switching to a healthier lifestyle and diet is the first step of treatment for women dealing with PCOS. Women who achieve a weight loss of as little as 5-10% of their body weight experience improvement in ovulation rates.
High insulin levels wreak havoc on the body, leading to many symptoms of PCOS like increased hair growth, weight gain, acne, fatty liver, high cholesterol, polycystic ovaries and an irregular menstrual cycle, not to mention increased hunger levels and cravings.
A proper diet helps with the management of blood insulin levels and PCOS. Refined carbohydrates cause a spike in insulin levels and should, therefore, be avoided. Also, foods that are high in fat will lead to weight gain and high cholesterol. Foods that have a high GI can result in a quick rise in blood sugar levels. Insulin levels follow to deal with the glucose in the bloodstream.
Common Types of Diets
The Basics of a PCOS diet depend on a few simple things and minding them daily is not very hard at all. Women with PCOS are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than women who do not have PCOS. Similar to a diabetic diet, women with PCOS need to consume high-quality, high-fibre carbohydrates. This will aid in stabilising your blood sugar levels. A balanced PCOS diet allows insulin to function properly by bringing glucose to your cells for energy.
The ketogenic or keto diet has become popular among women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and those who are aspiring to lose weight quickly. Some limited research studies claim that a ketogenic diet can help with weight loss, and improve insulin levels hence, improve overall PCOS symptoms.
However, the biggest caveat of eliminating carbs or having a low-carb diet is that it is not a sustainable lifestyle. Carbs are the main source of energy. When you take away carbs, the body switches to fat as a source of energy. However, since most women with PCOS suffer from insulin resistance, it is important to have a balanced diet that is rich in complex carbs, protein and healthy fats to maintain blood glucose levels. Having a high-protein, high-fat diet is not a sustainable solution to losing weight or managing PCOS. If you want to try the keto diet, speak to a nutritionist or a doctor first who can advise you on the foods to eat.
This diet is low in processed, refined fats and high in healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. These fats have been shown to help reduce inflammation in the body, making them essential for people with PCOS to include in their diets.
The Mediterranean diet is high in fruits and vegetables which supply vitamins as well as phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are compounds that play a role in hormone balance, so they help treat PCOS. Compounds found in plant foods help muscles take in blood sugar for energy use.
There is no research evidence to support that a gluten-free diet can help improve PCOS symptoms. However, women with PCOS do have higher markers of inflammation and it has been suggested that the daily consumption of wheat products and other related cereal grains may contribute to chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Reducing gluten consumption or avoiding it could potentially lessen inflammation in women with PCOS, but more research is needed before recommending gluten-free diets to all women with the disease. You can begin by getting tested for celiac disease, this is always recommended before you start a gluten-free diet.
A low-carb diet is similar to a ketogenic diet which is not recommended for PCOS. Low carbs can influence blood sugar stability as the body switches to fat as a fuel. Unless you have a medical condition that warrants you to limit carb intake, there is no reason why you should eliminate carbs from your diet. A balanced diet that has ample sources of complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats is a sustainable way to manage PCOS.
For women with PCOS, increasing dietary protein can help keep you full, decrease cravings and prevent loss of lean muscle mass. Although low GI carbohydrates are known to help with maintaining blood sugar levels — protein also helps in keeping blood sugar levels stable. That’s why having a balanced meal consisting of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fibre is important instead of following a restrictive diet. There are plenty of vegetarian sources of protein such as soya, milk, paneer and pulses, among others. A nutritionist can help in calculating your daily protein intake.
Vegan or vegetarian diets focused on consuming mostly plant foods are generally high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based protein and healthy fats which is good for PCOS. There is no scientific benefit of switching to a plant-based diet for PCOS unless it is a conscious lifestyle change to ethically commit to veganism. Although a plant-based diet eliminates sources of processed meat, it is important to be mindful of choosing whole and unprocessed plant-based food items instead of packaged ones.
The primary treatment of PCOS is to manage insulin resistance you can achieve it either through medication or diet and lifestyle changes or both. Some health practitioners recommend a low-carb diet for PCOS, and the Paleo diet can be low-carb. The Paleo diet is very effective due to its emphasis on real, whole foods and as a way to cut back on all the processed, packaged food that surrounds us. If you’re going to try Paleo for PCOS, general weight loss or lifestyle changes, make sure to include plenty of healthy carbohydrates like starchy root vegetables and fruit. It is vital to mention that there are not many studies regarding the effectiveness of this diet.
PCOS is associated with low-grade chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be due to many reasons such as stress, obesity, poor diet, sleep disorders and even hormonal imbalance, as seen in PCOS.
You can try to reduce the level of inflammation level by making lifestyle changes. This means having more anti-inflammatory foods such as olive oil, berries, nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables. It also means you should exercise regularly, manage stress and get good quality sleep. An anti-inflammatory diet consists of fresh and whole foods from various sources instead of packaged or processed foods.
Vegan or Vegetarian
Research also shows that following a proper vegan diet can improve ovulation, regulate menstruation and reduce the risk for future conditions associated with PCOS, such as Type 2 diabetes. A quick side note about vegan and plant-based diets: vegan diets consist of eating grains, vegetables and fruits.
Foods with a high glycaemic index can cause a spike in blood sugar levels which can worsen insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can affect the period and ovulation cycle, and increase the production of male hormones. Limit high glycaemic index foods such as fried, processed, packaged and sugary foods, and switch to low glycaemic index foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and healthy fats. Low GI foods are recommended for PCOS as they help maintain blood glucose levels instead of spiking them.
What Is the Best Diet For PCOS?
There is no single diet plan that can cater to all PCOS-related problems and symptoms. Every woman suffering from PCOS has different nutrition requirements and health conditions. Some common food items that can be consumed are whole and fresh foods. It is also important to maintain portion control in all of your meals. Make sure you are eating foods that have some nutritional value, and remember not to fall into the trap of crash diets that claim quick results but are quite harmful.
Food Items To Limit When Struggling With PCOS
- Avoid refined carbohydrates like white bread, pastries, muffins and white potatoes. These exacerbate insulin resistance and cause inflammation, worsening your PCOS symptoms.
- Don’t have sugary snacks or drinks, as excess sugar is one of the main causes of insulin resistance and should be avoided at all costs.
- Don’t have inflammatory foods, such foods exacerbate PCOS symptoms.
Food Items You Can Easily Consume in PCOS
- Consume more high-fibre foods as they slow down the digestive process and reduce sudden increases in blood sugar levels, which help in combatting insulin resistance. Broccoli, cauliflower, red and green peppers, almonds, sweet potatoes and pumpkins are great examples of high-fibre foods.
- Do have more lean proteins: Although they do not have much fibre, lean-protein foods such as chicken, fish and egg whites keep you feeling full longer and help stabilize your blood sugar.
- Do have more anti-inflammatory foods: Inflammation is part of the underlying mechanism of PCOS and foods with anti-inflammatory properties such as tomatoes, spinach, strawberries, walnuts, almonds, turmeric, fatty fish such as sardines and salmon help to reduce the symptoms of PCOS.
- The glycaemic index, or GI, rates the effect a specific amount of food has on your blood sugar levels compared with the same amount of pure glucose. High glycaemic foods result in a quick spike in insulin and blood sugar. Low glycaemic foods have a slower, smaller effect, so as a woman with PCOS, you need to eat foods with low GI. Foods like brown rice, barley, non-starchy vegetables, most fruits, rolled oats, peas, leafy greens and whole grain bread.
- Having plenty of healthy fats in your diet may help you feel more satisfied after meals, as well as tackle weight loss and other symptoms of PCOS. Examples of healthy fats include avocado, olive oil, coconut oil and nut butter. Combining healthy fat with a protein source can further increase the filling effects of meals and snacks.
How Does Your Diet Affect Fertility?
various aspects of your diet can affect your fertility and it is in your hands to make the effects negative or positive. In general, a diet high in unsaturated fats, whole grains, vegetables and fish is linked to improved fertility — in both men and women. While too many saturated fats and refined sugars are linked to poorer fertility. There are a few particularly important nutrients, including folate (folic acid), vitamin B12 and omega-3 fats. A high intake of folate, particularly in supplemental form, has been linked to a lower rate of infertility and miscarriage in females. A vitamin B12 deficiency can sometimes lead to temporary infertility in females. If you’re worried you’re not getting enough of the nutrients that support your fertility, a supplement might help.
Example Grocery List & Meal Plan
This is a general guideline to a meal plan for PCOS. For a personalised plan that suits your lifestyle, dietary preferences, and symptoms – speak to a nutritionist.
|Overnight oats topped with fruits, nuts and seeds
|Jowar roti with rajma, and sprout salad
|Stir fried rice with assorted vegetables and clear soup
|Ragi vegetable upma with sprouts and almonds (soaked overnight)
|Khichdi and kadhi
|Scrambled eggs with multigrain toast
|Roti with cauliflower subji, mixed masala dal and beetroot salad
|Dal tadka with vegetable brown rice
|Onion roast oats dosa
|Jowar roti with mixed vegetable subji and chana masala
|Paneer or tofu vegetable stir fry with brown rice
|Vegetable upma with sprout salad
|Moong dal chilla stuffed with paneer and beet salad
|Ragi roti roll stuffed with paneer and vegetables
|Beetroot and vegetable idli
|Quinoa and veg stir fry
|Grilled Vegetables with Bean Mash
|Oats with banana and egg pancakes
|Brown rice with palak dal and beet raita
|Spicy Mediterranean Beet Salad
Talk To a Nutritionist
Before speaking with our PCOS dietitians or any dietitians to build a PCOS diet, discuss your specific diagnosis and treatment plan with your doctor in detail. Bring all this information to our PCOS care managers so they can build a PCOS diet tailored specifically for you. We may also incorporate PCOS supplements into your plan. Also, make sure to conduct allergy tests to identify which food items cannot be a part of your diet. Our recommendations will vary depending on the presence and severity of your specific symptoms.
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