As you all know, PCOS is a lifestyle disease. Diet, nutrition and lifestyle change play a major role in treating it. You should add and avoid certain foods from your diet with PCOS.
We do know that a woman suffering from PCOS should consume a healthy diet. But healthy diet is quite a vague term. Apart from being a lifestyle disease, PCOS is an inflammatory condition in the ovaries. Hence it is important to know which diet will harm your ovaries, that you should avoid, and what foods will be beneficial for your PCOS, that you should add. The main aim with PCOS should no be just to eat less, but to eat nutritious.
So here are 5 foods that you should avoid and 5 foods that you should add in your diet, if you suffer from PCOS.
WHAT FOODS TO AVOID IN YOUR DIET?
- PROCESSED FOODS : Refined flour, bread, deli meat, chips. In general, anything that comes in a package with lots of ingredients on it which are difficult to understand. Processed foods undergo a refining process which breaks the complex carbs into simple carbs. Simple carbs are High GI (glycaemic index) foods. They get digested and absorbed quickly, and raise blood sugar levels, which in turn raise insulin levels.
- SIMPLE CARBS : A PCOS diet should be LOW CARB instead of NO CARB. Keto diets are not sustainable in the long run and hence not recommended. Eat moderate amounts of carbs every day and consume more complex carbs than simple carbs. This is because complex carbs are Low GI foods and don’t raise blood glucose levels. Hence they maintain insulin levels. Avoid starchy vegetables and grains like potato and rice and go for their healthier alternatives like sweet potato and unpolished rice.
- SUGAR AND FOODS CONTAINING SUGAR : Like cakes, pastries, cookies, packaged fruit juices etc. Sugar can cause a spike in blood glucose levels and increase insulin resistance. Also, sugars cause inflammation in the ovaries. Restrict yourself to having less than 25 grams of sugar daily from all foods you eat. Alternatives to sugar can be stevia, Jaggery and honey.
- INFLAMMATORY FOODS : Digestion of food causes the release of free radicals in the body. These free radicals, if not eliminated, accumulate in various organs and cause inflammations. Some foods which degenerate excess of these free radicals and cause inflammation are:
- Processed foods – due to additives and preservatives and refining process that processed foods undergo, they cause inflammation in the ovaries.
- Trans fat, hydrogenated and vegetable oil – these types undergo refining which causes an increase in omega-6-fatty acids in these oils. Omega-6-fatty acids are pro-inflammatory. Although some amount of omega-6-fatty acids are required by the body, an excess can cause inflammation.
- SOY BASED FOODS : Soy is considered one of the healthiest foods. It is also a very good vegetarian source of protein. But for PCOS patients, soy can be an aggravating factor to their symptoms. This is because soy contains high quantities of PHYTOESTROGENS which are estrogen-mimicking compounds. As I mentioned in my previous blog about PCOS, estrogen levels are raised in PCOS. Consuming soy products can further increase estrogen levels and disrupt ovulation. Hence, PCOS patients are advised to limit soy intake.
WHAT FOODS TO ADD IN YOUR DIET?
- PROTEINS : All kinds of lean protein from vegetarian and non-vegetarian sources should be consumed. Consuming proteins increases satiety level and builds muscle mass which is useful in weight-loss. Vegetarian sources like lentils, bean, legumes, dairy products and non-vegetarian sources like EGGS, meat, poultry, fish should be consumed. Eggs are a very good source of protein. There is a saying which goes by “eat eggs for good quality eggs” so if you want to improve your egg quality, be sure to have at least 1 egg daily. Eggs are a source of vitamin D which has been proven to help ovulation. Egg yolk also contains healthy fats esp omega-3-fatty acids which is anti-inflammatory.
- HEALTHY FATS : Fats which come from fish, nuts, seeds, avocados etc are healthy fats. Examples are olive oil, flax seeds, nuts and seeds oil, groundnut oil, grape seed oil, salmon, cod liver oil etc. These oils have good amount of omega-3-fatty acids. Omega-3-fatty acid is required for the normal function of the brain along with maintaining hormonal balance and reducing inflammation in ovaries.
- FIBROUS FRUITS AND VEGETABLES : Like sweet potato, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, green leafy vegetables, pear, apples, papaya, watermelon, guava, chikoo etc. Fibrous foods are helpful in weight-loss because they are bulky foods which increase satiety and reduce hunger pangs. They are also Low GI foods which maintain blood sugar levels.
- WHOLE FOOD : Whole grains, beans, legumes, lentils etc should be consumed. They provide good nutritious value without non-nutritious additives.
- ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS : Since PCOS is an inflammatory process, the foods consumed should reduce inflammation. There are 4 important anti-inflammatory foods helpful in PCOS :
- Berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, Jamun berries, blackberries etc. Berries are rich in antioxidants which bind to free radicals causing inflammation and eliminate them. Hence, they reduce inflammation in PCOS.
- Spices – esp TURMERIC. Turmeric is a very potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food. In earlier days, it was used to treat inflamed wounds, because of its potent healing powers. When consumed, it also reduces internal inflammation in ovaries. Turmeric also reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer and cholesterol abnormalities associated with PCOS. Other spices which reduce inflammation are cinnamon, cloves, garlic, ginger and cumin.
- Foods rich in omega-3-fatty acids – These include healthy fats about which I mentioned above. Flax seeds are helpful for PCOS patients. Flax seeds are one of the richest source of omega-3-fatty acids, fibre and vitamin E which improve skin health and gut health.
- Tomatoes – They are a rich source of lycopene which protects the body against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. It possesses antioxidant properties and is a good source of carotenoids. The best way to consume tomatoes is to cook them well and mash them skin on. This releases lycopene better in the food.
So this was all about what you should add and avoid from your diet with PCOS. Apart from diet, a healthy active lifestyle is important to combat PCOS. Daily 30 mins of moderate exercising like walking, running, cycling, swimming, weight training can help with insulin resistance and weight loss.
Women suffering from PCOS have a misconception that once diagnosed, they have to take hormonal medications to treat their symptoms. But with a correct nutritious diet, PCOS can be effectively managed. If you’re just a little mindful of what you eat and your lifestyle, you can win this battle against PCOS.
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Author- Dr. Tasneem .H. Soni