Like everyone else, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) feel their best when they consistently eat a healthy, balanced diet. For those with PCOS, nutrition is one of the most important ways you can control your blood glucose, keep weight and cholesterol in check, and help prevent the development of serious complications in the long term. Eating healthy can also help combat inflammation, which some researchers believe contributes to PCOS symptoms. People with prediabetes can avoid developing diabetes by changing their diets and making other lifestyle changes.
Some popular diets may contain toxic levels of some nutrients or dangerously low levels of others. Always consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.
What does it involve?
Even small changes in what, when, and how much you eat can significantly affect your health. Simply eating a consistent amount of calories at each meal and timing meals consistently each day can make it easier to control your blood glucose. Be sure to take blood sugar management medications exactly as directed by your doctor and at the right times to keep your blood glucose steady.
A nutritious diet for someone with PCOS is not very different from a healthy diet for other people. In general, focus your diet on fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes, fish, low-fat dairy products, and sources of healthy unsaturated fats such as nuts.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, including Vitamin C. Antioxidants are nutrients that may help reduce inflammation. Foods such as cantaloupe, citrus, tomatoes, broccoli, mango, pineapple and berries are especially rich in Vitamin C. Fresh produce is also often high in fiber, vitamins and minerals and lower in calories. Eat as many vegetables as possible, and eat fruit in balance with other carbohydrates. If you can, forgo dip or dressing in order to cut calories and reduce your caloric intake.
Some types of fat raise cholesterol and may contribute to inflammation, while other types may help reduce inflammation. Researchers have tied saturated fats to increased inflammation. Saturated fats come from high-fat animal products (including full-fat dairy), fried foods, and baked goods made with tropical oils. Reduce your saturated fat intake by limiting your consumption of foods such as fatty beef, pork, chicken with skin, lard, cream, butter, cheese, full-fat or 2 percent milk or yogurt. Instead, choose skim milk, fat-free yogurt, skin-free chicken or fish, and vegetarian meat substitutes.
Conversely, the type of fat found in walnuts, pecans, flaxseed, canola and olive oil, and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, lake trout, and sardines may help fight inflammation as well as heart disease. These foods are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Dietary fiber keeps your heart healthy and your bowels working properly. You can eat more high-fiber foods including vegetables, dried or fresh fruits, legumes such as peas or beans, some nuts including almonds and pistachios, and whole-grain products. Making the switch from white bread to whole-grain, from white rice to brown rice, or from regular pasta to whole-grain pasta will also add fiber to your diet. Oats and quinoa are other examples of whole grains. Always check labels to make sure products are whole-grain.
High blood pressure is a concern for many women with PCOS. A high-sodium diet can raise your blood pressure, increasing your risk for heart disease. Instead of relying on salt, experiment with using lemon juice or different spices such as pepper or curry powder as a way of enhancing the taste of food.
Having PCOS and high blood glucose does not mean that you can never eat sweets, or that you will have to give up your favorite high-calorie foods altogether. However, those with insulin resistance do need to pay more attention to what they eat, reserve sweets for rare occasions, and eat smaller portions of high-calorie foods balanced in meals with lower-calorie foods. There are several tools that those with insulin resistance can use to help plan meals and control their blood glucose. These include the carbohydrate counting system, the glycemic index system, the foods list system, and the plate method. Try one or a combination of these methods to see if they work for you.
Consider consulting a dietitian or nutritionist to help plan a diet designed to meet your specific needs and goals.
Finding the right diet for you can help control your blood glucose and weight, lower your cholesterol, and prevent serious complications such as diabetes or heart disease.
In obese women with PCOS, losing even 5 percent of your body weight can improve insulin resistance, hormonal balance, menstrual cycle, and cholesterol, as well as reducing facial hair. Doctors and researchers agree that eating nutritious food in a healthy pattern can help those with high blood glucose reach their goals related to blood glucose, weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol and delay or prevent complications.
Side effects of some blood glucose medications, which can include upset stomach, fatigue, and dizziness, may make it difficult to eat regular meals or focus on a healthy diet.
Fatigue, depression, or physical disabilities may make it more difficult to find the energy to prepare fresh, healthy meals. Making large batches of food in advance and freezing several portions for the future can help conserve energy.
You may feel disappointed to give up favorite high-sugar or full-fat foods. However, think of diet changes as a chance to explore unfamiliar foods and find new favorites. Many recipe books focus on low-glycemic, low-fat cooking and provide a wealth of exciting ideas.
Depending on where you live, it may be harder to get to a grocery store with a good selection of produce and other healthy foods.
To learn more, visit:
Combating Polycystic Ovary Disease Through Diet – Brigham and Women's Hospital
Nutrition – American Heart Association
Food & Fitness – American Diabetes Association