Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine (hormonal) condition which often takes a lifestyle-focused approach to managing symptoms. Just one aspect of this lifestyle-focused approach involves reviewing food and nutrition choices.
In this blog, find just three nutrition tips that can help those with PCOS to start managing their symptoms and improve their overall wellbeing.
1. Focus on low glycaemic carbohydrates
Managing insulin levels can be essential for some women with PCOS. This is because many people with PCOS experience insulin resistance. In fact, it's estimated anywhere between 35-80% of those with PCOS may experience insulin resistance (1, 2). Insulin resistance occurs when the cells in your body can't respond appropriately to the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for allowing glucose (sugar) to enter body cells to be used for energy. As a result, those with insulin resistance are at a higher risk of experiencing higher blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Focusing on low glycaemic carbohydrates can help to stabilise blood sugar levels. This is because they have a slower impact on blood glucose levels and prevent rapid spikes. A diet that prioritises low glycaemic carbohydrates will better support insulin sensitivity (i.e. how sensitive your body is to insulin).
Low glycaemic carbohydrates include wholegrains, such as brown rice, oats and quinoa. These foods are rich in fibre which helps slow down digestion and subsequently causes slower, more steady changes in blood glucose levels.
2. Choose Healthy Fats
Despite their previous bad reputation, fats aren't all bad. Unsaturated fats are known as healthy fats, and support numerous roles in the body. These include helping carry fat-soluble vitamins, hormone regulation and reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes (3, 4).
Monounsaturated fats can be found in avocados, nuts, seeds and rapeseed oil.
Polyunsaturated fats include omega 3 and 6. In particular, omega 3 has many well-known benefits such as supporting hormone production (4). Just one portion of oily fish each week can offer the entire week's recommendation for omega 3 (5). Alternatively, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts are plant-based sources of omega 3 but will need to be eaten daily to ensure enough is obtained (4,5).
3.Remember to include protein
Including proteins in your meals is essential for anyone - PCOS or no PCOS. Proteins have a variety of functions including supporting hormone production (4). Not only this, but when carbohydrates are eaten in combination with proteins, the protein helps to slow down the rate at which the carbohydrates are digested and the sugar absorbed. This may help with managing blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.
Focus on including leaner proteins, such as chicken, turkey, white fish, tofu, tempeh, beans and pulses. These are usually lower in saturated fat, helping to look after heart health. However, if you eat fish, don't forget to eat one portion of oily fish each week (As mentioned previously).
It can feel overwhelming making dietary changes to better manage PCOS symptoms. Make changes gradually and slowly. Focus on including low glycaemic carbohydrates, healthy fats and proteins in meals and monitor any changes to symptoms and overall wellbeing at the same time.
If you would like personalised and individualised nutrition and lifestyle advice to support your PCOS, book your FREE 15 minute discovery session today to find out how Lucy Jones ANutr can support you.
R. Lambert (2021) The Science of Nutrition: Debunk the diet myths and learn how to eat well for health and happiness (London UK, Darling Kindersley Limited)