Because many women also have insulin resistance with PCOS, treatment of the condition requires a delicate balance of eating right foods at the right time. Unfortunately, PCOS is a complex condition that does not follow a consistent approach.
"Lifestyle management is recommended as a first-line treatment of PCOS, but studies have not proven what type of diet is best," said PCOS expert Martha McKittrick, RD, CDE and certified health coach. "This is likely because every woman is an individual and has different genes, metabolisms, medical problems and phenotypes of PCOS."
While there is not one type of diet that is best for anyone with PCOS, there are some general diet tips that anyone with PCOS can benefit from. McKittrick recommends:
Balance Carbs with Protein and Fat
McKittrick says that balanced meals that contain protein and fat along with your carbohydrates control blood sugar, prevent insulin spikes, and avert food cravings. For example, a slice of wholegrain toast with natural peanut butter is more satiating than a bowl of cereal with nonfat milk because the peanut butter has higher fat and protein content to balance the carbohydrates from the toast. However, she emphasizes that it is a general guideline and not a rule that you must adhere to 100 percent. Sometimes you might just want an apple or a steak with a salad and no carbohydrates.
Eat Low-Glycemic Foods
It recommends eating foods that are lower on the glycemic index and have a lower glycemic load, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, instead of higher glycemic foods like potatoes, white bread, rice and refined sugar. Eating fiber-rich foods also prevents blood sugar spikes and makes you feel fuller longer.
Stick to Healthy Fats
Healthy fats like nuts, nut butters, avocados and olive oil will make you feel full and can help you lose weight. Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish, walnuts and rapeseed oil can reduce the risk of heart disease, improve insulin resistance and reduce inflammation.
Limiting processed and inflammatory foods
Processed foods are usually loaded with refined sugars and carbohydrates and empty calories that spike your blood sugar. "It's best to stay as close as possible to the food," she says.
PCOS is also associated with inflammation, so it recommends limiting inflammatory foods such as added sugars, trans fats and refined carbohydrates. Processed foods also tend to be flammable. Instead, she says she should charge anti-inflammatory foods such as fatty fish, dark leafy vegetables, berries, ginger, garlic and turmeric.
Increasing Vegetables and Good-Healthy Foods
Vegetables are not only anti-inflammatory; They can also help you lose weight. They are low in calories but rich in fiber. If you fill your plate with vegetables, you will become full without the extra calories of other high calorie foods. Vegetables are also packed with micronutrients, vitamins and antioxidants – all good news for those with PCOS.
Poor gut health has been linked to obesity, according to a 2016 study, and McKittrick says gut health can also be linked to PCOS – after all, a healthy gut can improve digestion, balance hormones, and boost immunity. Load on probiotic-rich foods to nourish your intestines, such as kombucha, unsweetened Greek yogurt, and fermented foods.
Choose Hormone Free Meat and Dairy
Since your PCOS hormones are all out of balance, it's best to stay away from other external sources of hormones like meat and dairy. When it comes to buying animal products, it's best to stick to organic, which means they have not been given antibiotics or growth hormones under the USDA guidelines.
Meal Prep and Plan Ahead
One of the best ways to stay on track with your healthy diet is to prepare meals. You also save time during the week and money in the long run because you are less likely to order take-out or pick up something processed. Take some time at weekends to prepare all your meals and snacks for the week. It does not even have to be complicated – you can prepare a variety of foods in just 30 minutes!
Enjoy what you eat
If at the end of the day you do not eat anything that you make or eat, then you will not stick to your plan for healthy eating.
"Eating is one of the pleasures of life," said McKittrick. "If you feel deprived most of the time, it's likely that you end up with the foods that you miss the most or just feel totally unhappy."
Find foods that you like and can eat often. If you miss your favorite comfort food, try substitutes like spiraling zucchini noodles instead of traditional pasta and cauliflower rice instead of white rice. It's about balance, and as long as you eat well most of the time, there's still room for your favorite treats – just enjoy in moderation.