Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that can affect some women during their childbearing period. This syndrome is related to the reproductive hormones and has effect on the menstrual cycles, body weight and can also increase the risk of diabetes. The condition is also known as polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD).
Some common symptoms observed in PCOS include multiple cysts in ovaries, irregular menstrual cycles, acne, dark patches on skin, weight gain, abdominal obesity, abnormal or increased hair growth, increased testosterone levels and infertility. Most of these are risk factors of major diseases like heart disorders, diabetes and endometrial cancer.
PCOS And Nutrition
Many women with PCOS may have trouble managing insulin levels in the body, which can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Along with medical treatment, it is important to understand the importance of nutrition in managing PCOS. For insulin resistance, a nutritious diet should be planned, which ensures stable supply of energy throughout the day.
PCOS and related symptoms can be managed to a great extent by maintaining a healthy weight, controlling insulin, stabilizing blood sugar levels, consuming a nutritious diet and staying active. Nutritional therapy is often prescribed as a part of PCOS management. Proper nutrition can help in weight management, maintaining insulin and blood sugar level and also help in other problems like acne and irregular menses. While it is advisable to seek help from a nutritional expert, some nutritional basics related to PCOS should be kept in mind.
PCOS Nutritional Basics
Although there is no specific diet for PCOS, a diet that helps to maintain healthy weight and balanced sugar levels is advisable. As a general rule, a balanced meal comprising of complex carbohydrates, proteins and limited fat can be helpful.
For those who are obese, it is important to reduce weight and calorie intake may have to be decreased if required. Most of the popular weight loss diets or fad diets can be distressing and even affect the health. Instead, healthy eating, which is nourishing and enjoyable should be gradually made a part of your lifestyle. A nutritious diet complemented with daily physical activity or exercise can help in weight management as well as prevention of heart disease and diabetes.
- Simple or refined carbohydrates found in junk food, sugar laden drinks, sweet snacks or candies raise the blood sugar and insulin levels. They also make you hungry within a short while and should be restricted.
- Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans are rich in fiber, provide a moderate supply of blood sugar for a longer time and do not cause sudden rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. They also have a low Glycemic Index (GI) than simple sugars, which means that they have less effect on blood sugar levels and does not cause much variation.
- Fats, especially saturated fats should be avoided. These can cause weight gain, high cholesterol levels and can also affect nutrient absorption. Healthy fats like nuts and olive oil can be taken instead. Low fat milk and milk products are better than whole milk.
- Lean cuts of proteins like fish, eggs and chicken without skin can be great choices for meals and snacks.
A healthy diet is a way of life, so it is important to make dietary modifications and lifestyle changes that help to maintain ideal weight and manage insulin resistance. There are no special diets or special foods required, but exclusion of unhealthy, refined or processed foods and inclusion of healthy alternatives can help.
Foods To Include In PCOS Diet
Prefer unsweetened frozen or canned foods, drinks or dairy. Include the following in your diet.
- Whole grains and their products like multigrain cereal, bread, oatmeal, brown rice or wheat pasta.
- Fresh fruits like apples, pears, peaches, oranges, sweet limes, berries, pomegranate and fresh fruit juices without added sugar.
- Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, spinach, tomato, lettuce, celery, cucumber, cabbage beans and legumes.
Foods To Avoid In PCOS Diet
- Some sweet fruits or syrups and starchy vegetables like potatoes and corns.
- Refined or processed food like pasta, white rice, white bread, cakes or bakery products.
- Sugar laden sweets, cookies, candies, juices or colas.
- Junk food and processed snacks like wafers, chips
PCOS Diet Tips
- Eat in moderation even if they are the right foods. Consuming more potions or having a heavy meal increases insulin levels, so take smaller portions. Taking frequent smaller meals helps in maintaining blood sugar levels without affecting insulin levels.
- It is good to take a meal that combines carbohydrates with healthy fats or lean proteins. This helps to lower the rate of carbohydrate absorption and helps to maintain insulin levels.
- Choose healthy low fat alternatives like low fat milk, yogurt, etc. Limit salt and sugar intake by avoided salty or sugary foods and also by limiting their use while cooking.
- Intake of canned and smoked foods like processed vegetables, salted nuts, sauces, marinades should be limited. Instead, spices and herbs like pepper, lemon or mustard can be used.
Physical exercise for at least 20 to 30 minutes every day is essential to reduce the risk of major diseases and to enjoy a healthy life. Lifestyle management that comprises a healthy diet for PCOS along with regular exercises can help in maintaining weight and managing symptoms of PCOS.