PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a common hormonal condition affecting millions of girls and women worldwide. In women with PCOS, the egg is not released regularly during their menstrual cycle leading to a number of underdeveloped follicles in the ovaries. These cysts can result in various symptoms such as obesity, menstrual irregularities, hirsutism, skin blemishes etc.
PCOS has also been linked with insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows the body to effectively absorb the sugar (glucose) from the carbohydrates in our food. However, when insulin is not managed, as is a common case in PCOS, elevated levels can have certain effects on the body like increase in hunger and food cravings, high cholesterol, increased risk of heart disease, weight gain etc. Thus, managing insulin levels is a significant step in treating PCOS and can be achieved with certain dietary and lifestyle changes.
Foods Recommended For PCOS
1. Low-GI Carbs
Carbs with low GI (Glycemic Index) are tougher for the body to break down thereby resulting in a small, slow rise in the blood sugar levels. These foods also maintain a steady energy in the body, thus keeping one full longer and eliminating hunger pangs. Whole grain foods, vegetables and fruits have a low GI.
Green leafy vegetables are a great source of nutrition and are rich in iron, vitamins and the essential minerals required by our body. However, that does mean we can’t a bit of colour to our food. In fact, coloured vegetables like bell pepper are loaded with anti-oxidants which are highly beneficial for a PCOS diet.
Fruits are a great source of fiber and vitamins which are highly beneficial for our overall health. For women dealing with PCOS it is always advisable to consume the entire fruit instead of just the juice to avoid a spike in blood sugar. Further, fruits can also be combined with yoghurt or nuts to combat the blood sugar hike. Recommended fruits include grapefruit, apples, cherries and plums.
Cinnamon is a wonderful spice that helps regulate increased levels of insulin in the blood after a meal. This spice has also been known to curb hunger pangs which is a common symptom of PCOS.
5. Include Vitamin B
Including the B vitamins in your diet is amongst the most important steps in dealing with PCOS. The combination of these vitamins helps in regulating sugar and fat metabolism. Further, Vitamin B6 helps regulate hormones and fertility concerns in women. B Vitamins also helps the body better absorb essential minerals.
Broccoli has an extremely low GI, is low on calories and is a great source of calcium, especially for people unable to consume dairy. All these properties are great for a PCOS diet. Broccoli has also been known to possess cancer fighting properties.
7. Wheat Germ
Wheat Germ is one of the most recommended foods for PCOS. It contains high levels of B vitamins along with being rich in zinc and magnesium. Wheat Germ can be topped on smoothies, cereals, yogurts and other foods to enhance the overall nutrition of the meal.
Barley is considered to be a super healthy grain in dealing with PCOS. This grain is ranked lowest on the Glycemic Index and is extremely low in calories. Further, this grain helps counter insulin spikes as it is tough to break down by the body.
9. Healthy Oils
Incorporating healthy oils in the food such as olive oil, avocado oil, almond oil or even sunflower oil can have a huge impact on our health. These oils provide the body with healthy fat while lowering the amount of LDL fat, which is the bad fat, in turn lowering cholesterol.
Seeds such as sesame, sunflower and poppy seeds are a great addition to a PCOS diet. They are a great source of healthy fatty acids and are packed with nutrition. They provide the body with the much required B vitamins along with zinc, iron and magnesium which are known to be highly beneficial in treating PCOS.
Sunflower seeds should be consumed in moderation due to their high calorie nature. However, a few seeds on a regular basis can be very healthy as they are loaded with vitamin B2 and B6 and are rich in zinc and magnesium.
11. Include Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and Vitamin D levels are known to be affected in PCOS. Including foods rich in these nutrients can help alleviate many symptoms associated with this condition.
12. Include Necessary Supplements
A healthy dose of vitamins and minerals are essential in dealing with PCOS. Supplements are a great way to make up the nutritional deficit in our diet. However, always check with your doctor before starting any medication.
13. Foods To Avoid
Avoid low-quality high GI carbs such as refined and sugary foods. These food items cause an immediate spike in blood sugar and can also induce food cravings, thereby increasing the risk of weight gain and other associated diseases. They include white bread, pasta, sodas, fruit juice and foods high in sugar.