Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS is a condition that affects women of reproductive age. It’s characterized by a hormonal imbalance that causes irregular or missed periods. It’s not just their reproductive hormones that are affected, but also hormones that control their blood glucose and appetite.
Studies have documented that women with PCOS produce higher androstenedione and testosterone. These are androgens or male hormones that are responsible for male characteristics.
A lot of women with PCOS struggle with weight problems — they could be overweight or obese. Other signs and symptoms include excessive hair on the face and other parts of the body, oily skin, acne, and dark skin in some areas, and difficulty getting pregnant.
Maybe you’re here because you’re eager to know how to overcome PCOS if you’re struggling with it as I used to for years. After doing tons of research and trying different ways to look and feel better (and get my periods back), I learned the importance of diet and nutrition.
Your food choices and habits play a big part in managing or reversing PCOS naturally. This article is here to help you, and hopefully, you’ll find value in it.
Diet and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
It’s no secret that healthy eating is one of the keys to longevity. Getting essential nutrients in the right foods can help heal your body and protect you from diseases.
The good news is that for women who already have PCOS, it’s never too late to improve your diet. Your choice of foods should be those that do not cause your blood glucose and insulin levels to increase. By doing this, you’ll be able to lose weight naturally, improve other symptoms, and avoid other metabolic problems.
Let’s discuss more about this particular diet and studies that support it in the next section.
A Low-Sugar, Low-Carb Diet for PCOS
Did you know that most women with PCOS are insulin-resistant? This is according to the CDC. Being insulin-resistant means that while your body can produce insulin, your cells can’t respond to this hormone.
So, a diet that helps you combat insulin resistance will be most beneficial. A low-carbohydrate, low-sugar diet effectively lowers insulin levels. Eating less sugar also lowers inflammation which contributes to the pathogenesis of PCOS.
You may also go as low as 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day and basically follow a ketogenic diet.
A ketogenic or “keto” diet induces a metabolic state called ketosis. Studies show that it improves body weight, fasting serum insulin, and PCOS symptoms. It also decreases the production of androgen from your ovaries.
Here are more studies that show promise on a low-carb, low-sugar diet:
- Data from randomized clinical trials showed that a long-term low-carb diet improves the BMI, lipid levels, and symptoms in women with PCOS.
- 18 to 45-year-old female subjects were instructed to consume less than 20 grams of carbs per day as tolerated, for 6 months. They were also advised to avoid caffeine and alcohol and encouraged to exercise (although not mandatory). All subjects who participated did not only lose weight, but their testosterone and fasting serum insulin also reduced. Two women became pregnant during the study despite their previous infertility problems.
- A higher intake of sugar, particularly fructose and sucrose, is linked to fatness or increased body weight. Reducing sugar will improve insulin sensitivity.
- Foods that are rich in healthy fat triggers the release of hormones that promote satiety. They curb your hunger and decrease your unhealthy cravings while you try to reduce your carbohydrate intake.
What Foods to Eat?
Now that you know the importance of reducing carbs and sugar in your diet, let’s take a look at specific foods to eat:
1. Lean protein
Like healthy fats, protein boosts your satiety and assists with weight loss and long-term weight maintenance. The best sources of protein are unprocessed. As much as possible, choose lean protein. Examples include fish, grass-fed beef, pork, chicken, turkey, shellfish, and other kinds of seafood.
2. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous veggies include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. They’re low in carbohydrates. For example, a cup of chopped broccoli contains only 6 grams of carbs. Cruciferous veggies are also rich in fiber. Dietary fiber helps increase your sensitivity to insulin.
3. Leafy greens
Green leafy vegetables are rich in nutrients such as vitamin C, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. They’re also naturally low in calories. Examples of leafy greens include spinach, lettuce, bok choy, and arugula. Add them to your smoothies, salads, or recipes.
4. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are wonderful sources of healthy fats. Choose options that are lower in carbohydrates such as almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and sunflower seeds. They contain essential nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Other healthful fats
Avocados, avocado oil, coconuts, coconut oil, olives, and olive oil. These are the best sources of fat to enjoy on a low-carb diet for PCOS. These fats will also help your body produce important hormones aside from promoting satiety.
What Foods to Avoid?
Anything that’s processed or refined must be avoided as much as possible.
1. Processed meats
Sausages, salami, cured bacon, beef jerky, and canned meat. These processed meats often contain hidden sugars, unhealthy fats, and preservatives that increase your risk for obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
2. Foods made with white flour
White flour is a highly refined ingredient. It’s used in “comfort” foods, such as baked goods, crackers, pasta, bread, cookies, and muffins. White flour causes your blood sugar and insulin levels to spike, promoting fat storage. It also makes you crave more unhealthy foods.
3. Sugary beverages
Beware of drinks that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and other added sugars. Examples of drinks to avoid include regular soda, fruit juice concentrate, and even sports drinks. Water is the best drink that hydrates and makes you feel refreshed. Add lemon or cucumber slices for an antioxidant boost.
Don’t Forget Other Self-Care Strategies
While you’re improving your diet and nutrition, make sure to practice other forms of self-care. Maintain a healthy lifestyle overall to further decrease the effects of PCOS. Follow a regular exercise routine. Get proper sleep at night. Practice stress-reduction techniques like taking breaks, spending time in nature, and staying connected with your loved ones. I hope this guide helps you!