What do you mean by PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a metabolic disorder that is marked by multiple cysts in the ovary. The person affected by PCOS has a hormonal imbalance that involves an overproduction of androgens (male hormones) and suffers from multiple other symptoms like acne, weight gain, hair loss, excess facial hair, etc.
People with PCOS are also at a greater risk of developing some other complications like cardiovascular diseases, endometrial cancer, diabetes, depression and high blood pressure.
How does a good diet plan help with PCOS?
Diet has a twofold effect on managing PCOS wherein it helps with both weight management and dealing with insulin production and resistance. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that assists your body in turning glucose into energy, where the glucose is absorbed from the blood.
When the body produces inadequate insulin, your blood sugar level automatically starts to increase. As a response, your body starts to produce higher levels of insulin and too much of the hormone causes the ovaries to produce more testosterone. Insulin resistance in the body also makes it harder to lose weight.
With a good diet in place, your body is able to maintain a healthy weight, develop healthy levels of insulin while meeting the person’s nutritional needs.
What to eat with PCOS
When planning a meal chart, you should focus on all the necessary nutrients for maintaining a healthy body and here is a list of the things that should be in yours:
- Green vegetables - Nutrient-rich and low in calories, leafy and other greens contain high levels of vitamin B which is good at maintaining your insulin level, regulating your periods and decreasing excess hair growth. Try including spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, etc. in your diet.
- Antioxidants - Berries, green tea, nuts, dark chocolates and pecans are rich in antioxidants that combat oxidative stress experienced by people with PCOS. Try and look out for high glycemic index foods from the list that can increase your blood sugar levels.
- Wholegrains - High levels of fibre helps manage insulin levels in the body, thereby helping with type 2 diabetes. Keep foods like oats, nuts, beans, dry fruits and wholegrain rice in your diet as they release carbohydrates slowly into your body, which regulate the blood sugar level.
- Lean proteins - You should up your protein intake to make your diet more filling without adding extra calories or fat into your system. Chicken and fish are good sources of lean protein that can help you have a well-balanced diet.
- Healthy fats - Healthy fats provide a rich source of essential fatty acids which help maintain the cell walls, balance out your hormones and control your weight. They are even known to help with fertility issues, which is a major concern for people with PCOS. Incorporate avocados, flaxseeds, fatty fish, which can also be a source of omega-3 fatty acids, and other similar foods.
- Anti-inflammatory foods - With PCOS, your body has higher levels of inflammation, leading to weight gain and other issues. Include foods like berries, tomatoes, spinach, fatty fish, almonds and walnuts to reduce the body’s inflammation levels.
What to avoid with PCOS
There are certain foods that you should stay far away from if you are suffering from PCOS and they include:
- Dairy - There is a component, in both the human body and cow’s milk products, known as Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), which are found in much higher levels in the bodies of people suffering from PCOS. Dairy products, being rich in this component, can further increase the levels of IGF-1, causing complications. It is best to leave out dairy products like cheese, butter, etc in your diet.
- Processed foods - Higher glycemic index (GI) in processed foods make them dangerous for people with PCOS. GI is directly linked with insulin production and diabetes and eating foods like biscuits, cakes, instant foods and white carbohydrates poses the risk of raising blood sugar levels in your body.
- Gluten - Found in substances like wheat, rye, barley, etc, gluten can cause inflammation levels in your body to rise, leading to higher insulin resistance. Inflammation can also cause excess androgen production, leading to weight gain and irregular periods. Avoid gluten-rich foods as much as you can.
- Soy - Though there is not enough research yet, there is some that link soy products to rising levels of estrogen in the body. With PCOS, there is already an excess of estrogen and having soy products can further increase those levels.
- Unhealthy fats - Foods rich in saturated and hydrogenated fats like fast food, junk food, cream, cheese, fatty red meats and fried or processed food can increase estrogen production and lead to weight gain and worsened symptoms. Stay away from these as much as you can to remain healthy and avoid further complications.
- Sugary foods - Sugary foods can increase your blood sugar levels and cause weight gain, acne and other worsened symptoms. It is best to stay away from sugar-rich foods and drinks like candies, cakes, sweets, soda drinks, processed juices, etc.
What else should you consider?
Apart from maintaining a healthy diet, you should also consider visiting a doctor to see if you need birth control pills to regulate your hormones and reduce your symptoms. Further, you should also lead an active lifestyle with at least 30-45 minutes of exercise daily in order to remain healthy.