Because everyone’s situation with PCOS is different, there is not one perfect way of eating that is right for everyone. However, your PCOS symptoms can and will improve with changes to your lifestyle, including how you eat.
As I’ve mentioned before, the majority of people with PCOS have insulin resistance. It is this insulin resistance that causes ovaries to make more androgens and can lead to weight gain. Doing what you can to reduce insulin resistance can help improve your PCOS symptoms, which is why I’m saying that eating a diet to lower insulin resistance is the best diet for PCOS. Here are some strategies:
- Eat carbohydrates with protein. It’s even better to add fiber and healthy fat! Simple carbs on their own raise blood sugar really quickly. Protein, fiber, and healthy fat don’t raise blood sugar as much and will slow down how quickly the sugar from the carbs hits your bloodstream. When blood sugar spikes, your body makes more insulin which can lead to weight gain and cause your ovaries to make more androgens. Check out this blog post for a review of carbs, protein, and fat: Nutrition Basics: Macronutrients.
- Add more non-starchy veggies to each meal. Non-starchy veggies are low in calories and carbohydrates so your blood sugar will not be affected much by them. They are also high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Some tips – buy convenience vegetables. Frozen veggies are just as good as fresh and just need to be microwaved, which is the best way to preserve vitamins since it’s a fast cooking method. Also consider buying pre-washed and chopped veggies or salads that you can throw on your plate, in a salad, on a sandwich, or in a wrap.
- This may sound redundant, but add foods that are high in fiber to your meals and snacks. This includes veggies, but also fruit, beans, and whole grains. High fiber foods digest slower and are more filling, which is helpful if you find that you are hungry a lot.
- Choose unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats most of the time. Eating foods high in saturated fat can cause an increase in insulin resistance, even shortly after eating a fatty meal. Unsaturated fats can actually help improve insulin resistance.
- Limit sugary drinks. This includes juice, drinks with honey, and sugary coffee drinks. Liquid sugar makes our blood sugar spike the fastest since our body does not have to break down the food to be absorbed. The sugar hits your blood quickly. My suggestion is to save your sugar for desserts instead of drinks.
- And the final tip of the day – work in those treat foods. That’s right. Don’t aim to eat a perfect diet all of the time because you are very likely going to feel deprived if you never eat sweets or chips again. You are much better off allowing yourself to eat these foods when you really want them so that you won’t feel the need to eat a lot of them all at once when you “fall off” your diet plan.
Changing what you eat is not the only way to improve insulin resistance. Stay tuned for more ways to improve insulin resistance with other lifestyle changes.
Click on PCOS nutrition counseling to learn more about working with me for individual nutrition counseling!
While I’ve already mentioned carbs, protein, and fats in previous blog posts, I feel like it might be helpful to take a step back and explain what each of these nutrients is and why they are important.
Macronutrients are the major nutrients that our bodies need to properly function. Most foods contain a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat but tend to have one dominant macronutrient.
- Provide us with energy. Breaks down to blood sugar which is the fuel that all of our cells run on for energy.
- Sources of carbs include grains, foods made from flour, starchy vegetables (corn, peas, beans, sweet potatoes, and potatoes), cereal, oatmeal, fruits, juice, milk, and anything made from sugar (honey, brown sugar, corn syrup, or maple syrup).
- Non-starchy vegetables (greens, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) are made up of carbohydrates, but have a lot of water and fiber, and therefore are not a large source of carbohydrates or calories. (They are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals!)
- Carbs are not “bad”. When people avoid them to lose weight, they are very likely to “binge” on them later since our body craves the energy that carbohydrates provide.
- Carbohydrates digest quickly, especially if they don’t have much fiber, protein, or fat. Having a lot of carbs at one time can make blood sugar and insulin spike.
- 45-65% of calories should come from carbohydrates.
- All of our body is made up of protein. Our body uses protein to build and repair itself, keep fluids and pH balanced, and can act as chemical messengers (hormones). Enzymes are a type of protein which helps with digestion, moving muscles, and clotting blood.
- Concentrated sources of protein include meat, fish, chicken, beans, tofu, tempeh, soy, milk, cheese, yogurt, and “veggie meat”.
- Protein digests slower than carbs and doesn’t make blood sugar rise as quickly.
- 10-35% of calories should come from protein.
- We use fat to help store energy, regulate body temperature, protect our organs, and send hormones throughout our body.
- Unsaturated fats are considered “heart healthy” and are more commonly found in plant sources and fish. These fats are liquid at room temperature and can be found in olive and canola oil, avocado, nuts, nut butter, and seeds. Omega 3 fatty acids are most commonly found in fish, flax, chia, and some algae.
- Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are associated with increasing risk of heart disease. This type of fat should be limited and examples include high fat dairy (butter, whole milk, high fat cheese), processed meat, fat you see on meat, and coconut or palm oil.
- Trans fats are created when unsaturated fats are chemically processed (hydrogenated) and turned into a solid fat. These fats cause the most damage to our hearts and have been taken out of a lot of foods in recent years. Sources can still be found in shortening, non-dairy coffee creamers, shelf stable cookies, pies, and pastries, fried foods, and some margarines and oils. Look for the words “partially hydrogenated” on ingredient lists and avoid these foods as much as possible.
- 20-35% of calories should come from fat, with the majority coming from unsaturated fat.
Are you interested in learning more about nutrition and how it affects PCOS? Click PCOS Nutrition to contact me about nutrition counseling!