The reality of the ideal PCOS diet

The reality of the ideal PCOS diet

September is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month and as we continue to raise awareness on this painful condition, today we look at diet.

PCOS, affects around 12% of women who are childbearing age. It is a serious genetic, hormone, metabolic and reproductive disorder. It is the leading cause of female infertility. It can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and endometrial cancer.

Frequently misdiagnosed, PCOS can cause:

  • Missing periods or make them hard to predict
  • Cause acne and unwanted body and facial hair
  • Raises the risk of other health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Causes weight gain.

Although there is no cure the symptoms can be treated. Many women with PCOS are also able to get pregnant, although they may need to take medication to improve their fertility. Therefore, it is important to be correctly diagnosed and why the issue of misdiagnosis is so contentious in PCOS.

Weight gain and PCOS

Women with PCOS are more likely to be overweight because of the hormonal imbalances associated with the syndrome. It makes it difficult to lose weight and increases cravings for food.

This is why diet can often play a part in management of the condition. Even modest weight loss can lessen PCOS symptoms by reducing inflammation. However, advice such as just lose weight and exercise more is rarely helpful! The truth is that the hormonal imbalance associated with PCOS works against the advice.

The situation is not helped by a plethora of fad diets available on the internet and in women’s magazines. In truth, according to dieticians there isn’t one diet that fits all for PCOS. However, there are general guidelines for how to eat in order to better manage the symptoms. These include:

  • Balancing the blood sugar with plenty of protein, fibre, and healthy fats
  • Following an anti-inflammatory diet, which includes foods like omega-3-rich seafood and nuts
  • Consuming plenty of antioxidants in the form of colourful fruits and vegetables
  • Minimising consumption of certain fats and processed carbohydrates.

With this in mind, here are few PCOS superfoods recommended by dietary experts and healthcare professionals:

  1. Lentils

Lentils provide both plant-based protein and high fibre content, which can help keep the blood-sugar level steady. They make an inexpensive and healthy alternative to other protein sources like meat.

  1. Salmon

Salmon is high in protein, B vitamins, and omega-3 oils. Omega-3 oils are especially important in PCOS as they may help decrease inflammation and lower blood triglycerides.

  1. Almonds

Healthy fats, magnesium, vitamin E, fibre, calcium, and protein are all present in almonds. This nut a nutritional powerhouse for those with PCOS. They are good for the heart and help prevent blood sugar and insulin spikes (important in those PCOS patients who may be pre-diabetic).

  1. Blueberries

In these small, colourful berries are a powerful mix of antioxidants, fibre, and vitamin C. They decrease inflammation, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress, all important issues in PCOS.

  1. Walnuts

Walnuts are a nutrient-dense food which make a great choice in PCOS because they contain a balance of healthy fats, plant-based proteins, and fibre. All of which may help manage blood sugar levels. In fact, one study showed that women with PCOS who ate walnuts for six weeks experienced lower levels of the bad type of cholesterol and an improved insulin profile.

  1. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are an excellent superfood. They are high in both protein and fibre. Because of their versatility they make an antioxidant-rich addition to many meals. There is also some evidence that certain types of mushroom may support ovulation in some women with a PCOS diagnosis.

  1. Mint tea

Drinking spearmint tea has been shown to lower male hormone levels in women with PCOS. It is also naturally sugar-free, so it does not increase blood sugar levels.

If you suspect you may have PCOS, then you should seek the advice of your registered health professional. A correct diagnosis is the most important first step in managing the condition.  However, all of the above foods make an excellent addition to a properly balanced diet. A good diet is important for all woman who are trying to conceive. So, start incorporating them in your meals.

Happy eating!