5 Best Foods for Those With PCOS
If you are living with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), you're likely aware that your diet plays a significant role in managing your symptoms. PCOS, a hormonal disorder prevalent in women of reproductive age, is often associated with insulin resistance, leading to an increased risk of issues like weight gain, fertility problems, and other health complications.
But don't worry - there's plenty you can do to manage PCOS and improve your wellbeing, starting with what you eat.
The key to managing PCOS lies in adopting a balanced diet that's rich in certain nutrients. To support you on your journey, we've put together a list of the top 5 foods for those with PCOS. These foods play a crucial role in harmonising your hormonal equilibrium and alleviating some of the challenging symptoms linked to PCOS.
First things first, what is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormone disorder that may surface any time after puberty. Often, it's diagnosed in women of childbearing age who are experiencing difficulties conceiving. PCOS impacts a substantial proportion of individuals, with estimates suggesting that around 10% of women of reproductive age in the UK are affected. That's potentially up to 3.5 million people in the UK alone.
This condition can trigger a variety of health complications. It's not uncommon for those with PCOS to experience irregular or missed periods, develop ovarian cysts, or battle with excessive hair growth and acne. Chronic inflammation and infertility are also common. Moreover, research indicates that those with PCOS are more prone to insulin resistance, increasing their risk of diabetes.
Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. The condition can lead to a variety of health issues, including insulin resistance and inflammation. However, making specific changes to your diet can help manage the symptoms and improve your overall health. Here are five foods that are particularly beneficial for those with PCOS.
Lean proteins and plant-based alternatives
Lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, and fish, can help to regulate your hormones and manage PCOS symptoms. They’re low in unhealthy fats and high in essential nutrients, which can assist in maintaining a healthy weight. For those following a vegan or plant-based diet, there are plenty of protein-rich alternatives to consider.
- Tofu and tempeh: These soy-based products are packed with protein and can easily be incorporated into many dishes.
- Quinoa: Unlike many plant foods, quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs.
- Lentils and other legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes are excellent sources of protein and fibre.
- Seeds and nuts: They are rich in protein and healthy fats. Chia seeds and flaxseeds also have the added benefit of providing omega-3 fatty acids.
Fruits and vegetables
Next on our list is the cornerstone of any healthy diet - fruits and vegetables. They are packed with a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre. They also carry potent antioxidants that help combat inflammation, a common issue in women with PCOS. When it comes to fruits, opt for those lower in sugar, such as berries or citrus fruits. For vegetables, focus on leafy greens and brightly coloured varieties like bell peppers and tomatoes.
Whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa, are excellent choices for those managing PCOS. Unlike refined grains, whole grains have all parts of the grain — the bran, germ, and endosperm. This means they're higher in fibre, can help regulate blood sugar levels, and keep you feeling fuller for longer. In addition, they are rich in B vitamins that support energy metabolism and hormonal balance.
Don’t let the word 'fat' put you off. Healthy fats, like those found in avocados, olives, and fatty fish such as salmon, are crucial for hormone production and can help manage PCOS symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce the levels of androgen hormones - often elevated in PCOS. Remember, though, moderation is key.
Lastly, consider incorporating dairy alternatives into your diet. Some studies suggest that dairy can contribute to inflammation and insulin resistance, both of which are not ideal for PCOS management. Alternatives such as almond milk, coconut milk, or soy milk can offer similar nutritional benefits without the potential downsides. Try to choose unsweetened versions to avoid added sugars.
The bottom line
It’s essential to remember that everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, it's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider or a nutritionist for personalised advice. Remember, healthy eating is a journey, not a destination. Start by making small changes, and gradually incorporate these foods into your diet. With time, consistency, and a bit of patience, you'll adapt to a healthier lifestyle and manage your PCOS symptoms more effectively.
Riya Lakhani ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer with a special interest in plant-based nutrition. She has completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, and has developed a passion for writing about all things plant-based.