A woman cutting up fruit for her PCOS diet.
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Eating well with PCOS

Eating well with PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a common health concern that affects anywhere from 6 to 10% of women of childbearing age. Women with PCOS may experience symptoms that affect their fertility, such as irregular periods, gestational diabetes, higher rates of pregnancy loss, and infertility. Having PCOS is also a risk factor for developing diabetes later on in life.

Diet changes to consider when you have PCOS

While not all women with PCOS have the same symptoms, or even any symptoms, diet and lifestyle changes work together to support your health. Here are some suggestions to help you eat well with PCOS.

Prioritize protein

Studies have shown that a higher protein diet helps to manage glucose levels and keep you feeling full. To get the healthiest proteins, focus on fish (at least twice a week), legumes, and low fat dairy. By including a source of protein at every meal and snack you can be sure you are getting enough protein spread throughout the day.

Balance carbs

A study that looked at the effect of a low glycemic index diet compared with a conventional diet showed glucose tolerance improvement and more regular menstrual cycles among women with PCOS. Choose carbohydrate foods that are higher in fiber like 100% whole grains, rolled oats, brown rice, and whole fruits and vegetables. Avoid added sugar in processed foods and refined carbohydrates which are easily digestible and raise blood sugar fast.

Include anti-inflammatory foods

Women with PCOS may also be living with chronic low-grade inflammation. In a study that looked at a low glycemic and anti-inflammatory diet, participants with PCOS appeared to have lost weight, lowered their cholesterol and inflammatory markers, and have improvement in their menstrual cycles. An anti-inflammatory diet may include more herbs and spices, omega-3 fatty acids, green tea, and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Never skip a meal

Small meals and snacks throughout the day help balance glucose and insulin levels. Try to have something to eat every 3 to 4 hours to stabilize your blood sugar and combat cravings and hunger.

Focus on foods to include!

With much of the advice out there telling you what not to eat, spend your time choosing the best foods to eat. Planning meals in advance by choosing lean proteins, healthy fats, and an abundance of vegetables and fruits can help you reach your nutrition goals faster and more easily.

Consider supplements

There are many supplements that are used for PCOS. Some may improve your metabolic risk factors, such as Myoinositol, while vitamin D could help with improving insulin resistance and infertility. If your diet is low in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil could give you a boost. Long-term metformin use is also associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. Always talk with your provider before making changes to your supplementation.

About the author: Jennifer is a dietitian passionate about connecting good nutrition with tasty food. She runs a private practice, Nourish for Life, where she works with new moms and parents of young children to help them eat well and have a healthy relationship with food. She is a mom of one tiny human and two fur-babies, and loves creating yummy new recipes in her free time.

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