If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, short for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, it’s likely that medical guidance will steer you towards a somewhat befuddling solution: lifestyle changes. What does the broad-stroke suggestion mean exactly? There are many avenues of wellness that may help minimize the symptoms of PCOS—not limited to better sleep, smart supplements, low-impact and consistent exercise—but one of the most powerful aspects to consider is right in front of you...on your plate.
Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant, which increases the risk for type 2 diabetes. Thankfully, nutrition tweaks can have a big impact on PCOS symptoms and overall health. To guide us through PCOS-friendly nutrition, we spoke with Stephanie Lauri, Registered Dietitian and Certified Lactation Educator.
Keep reading for her tips on what to eat for PCOS.
Why is nutrition important for managing PCOS?
“There isn't a particular ‘diet’ that is shown in the research to be the end-all-be-all for PCOS management. However, balancing blood sugar is key for PCOS. The majority of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which means that your cells don't respond well to insulin, which means cells can't use the glucose (sugar) in your blood, for energy,” Lauri explained.
How can someone PCOS keep their blood sugar balanced?
“By including carbohydrates with protein, fat, and fiber in the same meal,” Lauri says. Balance, as they say, no?
“Carbohydrates cause the largest spikes in blood sugar, while protein only has a small effect on blood glucose levels. Once food is eaten, your body breaks it down into glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream, and then the pancreases releases insulin to transport the sugar from your blood into your cells to use for energy or store it for later," she explains.
"To avoid large spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels and keep them stabilized, avoid ‘naked’ carbs, or carbs eaten alone. For example, instead of eating crackers or an apple by themselves, think about what you can add to make it more balanced. Cheese, nut butter, avocado, hard boiled egg etc. are all examples of ways to ‘dress up’ your carb,” Lauri suggests.
4 Tips to Balance Your Plate
1. Add protein to your meal.
Make sure you're getting enough protein. Ideally aim for a minimum of 20+g protein at each meal.
2. Include anti-inflammatory foods such as omega-3 fatty acids.
Think salmon, tuna, oysters, sardines, and eggs.
3. Focus on fiber.
Great sources of fiber include fruit, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts and seeds.
4. Include a healthy fat.
Healthy fats can be nuts, seeds, avocado, and vegetable oils such as olive oil.
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What should women with PCOS avoid?
“Ideally limit or minimize refined sugars and trans fats as much as possible due to their inflammatory traits and effects on blood sugar and insulin levels. With large spikes in blood sugar, this signals the pancreas to produce a lot of insulin which over time can lead to insulin resistance, which can put you at risk for type 2 diabetes,” Lauri concludes.
Shop OB/GYN-formulated vitamins for PCOS now. Plus, check out everything you need to know about PCOS and fertility, according to a reproductive endocrinologist.
Written by Jessica Lopez. Jessica Lopez is a freelance writer, digital content creator, and new mother. She has covered all lifestyle topics ranging from bridal to beauty for publications including Brides Magazine, Byrdie, THE/THIRTY, and more. Walking wide-eyed into motherhood has inspired her to connect with other parents through her writing and shared experience. You can follow more of her journey @Jessica.H.Lopez.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.