Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormone abnormality affecting 9-18% of reproductive age women. It is characterized by irregular periods, overproduction of male hormones, and enlarged polycystic ovaries. PCOS is linked with mid-body obesity and insulin resistance. This contributes to increased production of male hormones and worsens the symptoms of PCOS. These symptoms can be helped by improving your diet, staying active, and maintaining a healthy weight which may reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and cancer.
The following recommendations have proven successful in treatment:
- Spread carbohydrate intake throughout the day. According to dietitians, you should aim for 3 meals with about 45 grams of carbs and 2-3 healthful snacks of 15-20 grams of carbs each. Choose high fiber, less processed carbohydrates (such as whole fruits instead of juice and whole grains over white flour) as it will help lower blood sugar. Studies show that eating smaller amounts of food throughout the day helps with weight management, stabilizes blood sugar levels and improves rise in insulin.
- Gradually increase your intake of high fiber carbohydrate foods. Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains increases dietary fiber and helps you feel full on fewer calories. Fiber is indigestible, therefore it slows down the digestion process and the release of sugar into the blood. Studies have shown that high-fiber diets are linked to successful weight management.
- Pair carbohydrates with protein. Combining small amounts of carbs with lean protein and small amounts of fat helps increase satiety and stabilize blood sugar levels. Avoiding low blood sugars will decrease carb cravings. Nutritionists recommend that instead of plain rice, try to have rice with beans and a piece of avocado.
- Consume 25-30% of calories as fat. Choose foods rich in omega-3 and monounsaturated fats most often. Choose heart-healthy fats such as olive, avocado and canola oils, nuts, seeds, and avocados. These fats improve your diet and benefit cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity.
- Practice mindful portion sizes and mindful eating. Aim to have small meals and snacks rather than 3 large meals as it will keep your insulin level steady throughout the day. For example, your insulin will rise much more if you have 3 cups of rice than if you have 1 cup of rice. Avoid eating with distractions as this can lead to overeating.
- Get Active. Exercise lowers insulin levels and can help lead to success in weight management. Take a walk after eating a meal as exercise can be especially helpful in lowering insulin after you eat. Any increase in exercise helps, so it’s important to find an activity, sport, or exercise that you enjoy. Work towards increasing your physical activity to 30 minutes per day for at least 5 days a week.
If you suffer from PCOS and are struggling with what to eat, reach out to the nutritionists at Behavioral Nutrition. We can review your specific nutrition needs and develop a plan to improve your diet so you can lead a healthy lifestyle with PCOS. We understand that not everyone enjoys the same types of food and work hard to find healthy options that you’ll enjoy. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our Nutritional Counseling Services.