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The PCOS Diet Plan: Foods To Eat And Avoid With PCOS

PCOS Diet Plan

PCOS Diet Plan - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

30-Second-Summary
  • PCOS is a condition that is quite prevalent among women and is marked by multiple cysts in the ovaries.
  • The underlying cause of PCOS is the overproduction of hormones called androgens.
  • Insulin resistance or elevated insulin levels can be the reason for excessive androgen production.
  • Insulin levels can be controlled by following an appropriate diet plan that excludes refined carbs and includes anti-inflammatory foods.
  • Some foods that you should consume are fibrous, anti-inflammatory spices, dark chocolate, and lean protein.
  • Foods that you should avoid include refined carbohydrates, sugary snacks and beverages, and inflammatory foods like red meat.
  • Pairing a healthy diet plan with regular exercise and relaxing activities can help you manage most PCOS symptoms.

Introduction

PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a condition fairly prevalent among women of birthing age. It is caused by hormonal imbalances and improper metabolism. PCOS results in multiple cysts in the ovaries due to the overproduction of hormones called androgens.

As a result, it leads to irregular menstrual cycles or no menstruation. Other common symptoms of PCOS include acne, excessive body hair, and male pattern baldness. Many women suffering from PCOS also have to deal with weight gain.

Apart from these symptoms of PCOS, it can increase the risk of heart disease, endometrial cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. Moreover, it can be a stressful condition to live with due to the various physical changes and menstrual issues that accompany it. Hence, women with the condition are encouraged to manage these symptoms with an appropriate PCOS diet plan and lifestyle changes.

While the symptoms of PCOS can be daunting, you can manage and minimize them with an appropriate lifestyle.

What Is Meant by a PCOS Diet?

While PCOS is not curable, most of its symptoms can be managed with a healthy diet and lifestyle. It also reduces the risk of severe illnesses like endometrial cancer in the future. A PCOS diet plan includes foods that reduce the severity of PCOS symptoms.

Likewise, it excludes food groups that may further aggravate PCOS symptoms. Pairing this diet plan with an active lifestyle can help you lead a healthy and normal life despite having PCOS. Hence, you need to understand the connection between PCOS and food.

How Are PCOS and Food-Related?

Polycystic ovary syndrome
Many women with PCOS have high insulin levels in their blood. It is a side-effect of insulin resistance. Your body produces insulin to keep your blood sugar levels in check. When you have insulin resistance, it means that your body is unable to control blood sugar with the usual amount of insulin.

To compensate for this, the body ramps up insulin production, resulting in abnormally high insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels cause the overproduction of androgens, which aggravates PCOS. Hence, a PCOS diet plan focuses on insulin control.

When you consume sugary foods or refined carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels will spike. This spike in blood sugar encourages insulin production, which worsens PCOS symptoms. Similarly, high blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance leads to inflammation on the body, and inflammatory foods further worsen this condition.

Therefore, foods rich in refined sugar or carbohydrates top the list of PCOS foods to avoid. Instead, women must consume foods that slowly release energy and prevent a blood sugar spike.

Furthermore, anti-inflammatory foods and herbs can combat the ill effects of insulin resistance. These foods can prevent symptoms like acne and stress common among PCOS sufferers. Hence, you must plan your diet accordingly for relief from PCOS symptoms.

Top Foods You Should Consume To Manage PCOS

1. Fibrous Foods

According to studies[1], consuming dietary fiber can reduce insulin resistance and androgen production in women. In turn, it may help reduce PCOS symptoms. A lower intake of fiber and magnesium in your diet can be the culprit behind insulin resistance. Hence, you must eat more fibrous foods to keep PCOS symptoms at bay. Some of the best fibrous foods for PCOS include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, beans, lentils, and leafy greens. You can also try berries, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. Include different fibrous foods in different meals for variety and more micronutrients.

2. Anti-Inflammatory Spices

Anti-inflammatory spices and herbs are some of the best foods for PCOS. These foods will reduce the inflammation caused by insulin resistance and minimize various PCOS symptoms. Ginger, garlic, turmeric, black pepper, ginseng, and rosemary are some herbs and spices you can include in your meals. Apart from herbs and spices, you can also eat berries, fatty fish, and leafy greens to reduce inflammation-induced symptoms like acne and fatigue.

While consuming these anti-inflammatory foods will relieve your symptoms, be sure to remember the PCOS foods to avoid. Inflammatory foods like sugary beverages can negate the benefits of these herbs and spices and must be avoided.

3. Lean Protein

Lean Protein
Lean protein is something you can include in your PCOS food list. It offers sustained energy for a long time without causing a sugar spike or inflammation. Hence, it is a filling option to include in your meals that may help you with weight management. Tofu, chicken, or fish prepared in no or little oil are excellent meal options. Do note that they do not provide much fiber. Hence, you must include fibrous foods in your meals along with lean protein. A side of salad or steamed vegetables with lean protein can be a great balanced meal for you.

4. Herbal Teas

You can find various PCOS tea blends on the market that may alleviate PCOS symptoms with the best foods for PCOS. These teas include a blend of anti-inflammatory ingredients and micronutrients that help with PCOS symptoms. Some popular teas that may help with PCOS are chamomile tea to reduce stress, peppermint tea to ease menstrual cramps, and cinnamon tea to regulate menstrual cycles. These are herbal blends that may improve various PCOS symptoms over time.

Plus, they contain antioxidants and micronutrients to improve your overall health and may reduce bloating caused by PCOS too. Therefore, you can include them in your PCOS diet plan.

5. Dark Chocolate

A delectable item you can include in your PCOS food list is dark chocolate. It is rich in minerals like zinc and magnesium, which can help reduce PCOS symptoms. Further, it contains potent antioxidants called Flavonoids that reduce free radical damage and inflammation. Moreover, chocolate has mood-boosting properties that can alleviate PCOS-induced anxiety. Hence, you can include sugar-free dark chocolate in your diet to minimize the symptoms of PCOS.

Another great way to include some of the best foods for PCOS is a soothing cup of hot chocolate. Prepare it with unsweetened dark chocolate powder, cinnamon, and almond milk for therapeutic treatment.

Top Foods To Avoid If You Have PCOS

Refined Carbohydrates

  • Refined Carbohydrates – According to studies[2], a decreased carbohydrate intake may contribute to better insulin resistance and endometrial health in the long run. Refined carbohydrates in white bread, cookies, ice creams, and white pasta may cause a blood sugar spike in the body. It can lead to abnormally high insulin levels in those suffering from PCOS. Hence, it is wise to replace these refined and processed food items with complex carbohydrates or lean protein. Look for whole-wheat, multi-grain options when you can’t avoid these foods altogether. Also, if you consume more lean protein and fiber, you will automatically stop craving carbohydrates frequently.
  • Inflammatory Foods – Inflammatory foods are the top PCOS foods to avoid. PCOS causes inflammation in the body that manifests as acne, fatigue, stress, and anxiety. To reduce the same, you must consume anti-inflammatory foods and decrease the consumption of inflammatory food items. Some foods that can cause inflammation are red meat and processed snacks.

    Furthermore, sugary foods are a common cause of inflammation too. Some individuals face inflammation caused by dairy products like milk and cheese. You can replace these with plant-based dairy products like almond milk and tofu. By making these small changes in your PCOS food list, you can manage most of the symptoms of this condition.

  • Sugary Drinks And Snacks – Ofcourse, Sugar is one of the topmost PCOS foods to avoid. It causes inflammation, spikes blood sugar, and triggers insulin production, aggravating PCOS. However, it is not just granulated sugar you need to avoid but also the hidden sources of sugar. Sugar lurks in seemingly healthy breakfast cereal, digestive cookies, and packaged juices. It may also be listed by an alternative name on the ingredients list, such as dextrose, corn syrup, or sucrose.

    So, read your labels carefully and avoid all sugary beverages and snacks. You should notice a visible improvement in PCOS symptoms when you remove sugar from your PCOS diet plan.

  • Lifestyle Changes That Can Help With PCOS

    Daily physical activity
    Apart from consuming the best foods for PCOS, you can make specific lifestyle changes to reduce your symptoms. The most effective change is daily physical activity or exercise. Daily exercise, along with minimal intake of refined carbs, can help reduce insulin resistance. Plus, it can regulate weight gain that accompanies PCOS and bust anxiety.

    Pick any exercise or physical activity that you enjoy because being regular with exercise is crucial. Be it weight training, aerobics, running, swimming, or cycling, choose activities that you can be consistent with for the best results. A minimum of 20 minutes of exercise daily is what you should aim for, but more will be better provided you don’t over-exert yourself.

    Besides exercise and a well-curated PCOS food list, stress-busting activities can be helpful too. PCOS causes significant stress and anxiety in many women, and meditation can address the same. If you are a beginner in meditation, look for guided meditation videos online. You can also enroll in a yoga class to ease your anxiety.

    Other activities that might work are listening to music, gardening, reading, or creative tasks like painting. If you still struggle with anxiety, do not hesitate to contact a therapist who can help you navigate your symptoms better.

    Conclusion

    PCOS is not just a physical condition but something that can cloud over every aspect of a woman’s life. It causes irregular or no menstrual cycles, painful menstrual cramps, and the fear of infertility. It also leads to inflammation, bloating, acne, and weight gain that damages one’s confidence. Furthermore, it leads to stress and anxiety and increases the risk of life-threatening diseases like heart disease, endometrial cancer, and diabetes.

    Because of these daunting PCOS symptoms, the fear and apprehension surrounding the condition are justified. However, you must also understand that with a healthy lifestyle and PCOS diet plan, most of the symptoms can be managed or reduced. A healthy diet and healthy lifestyle may also minimize the risk of health complications in the future.

    If you have PCOS, do not lose hope! Follow these diet tips, lead an active lifestyle, and take help from a therapist if needed. With these positive changes, you can lead a healthy and stress-free life despite PCOS.

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