Many, but not all, women with PCOS also have insulin resistance. Also, it is thought that PCOS is closely associated with irregularities in glucose metabolism, even if insulin resistance is not present. So, any PCOS diet would be incomplete if it did not consider the management of blood sugar and insulin levels.
Insulin is responsible for the way in which carbohydrates are broken down in the body and how they are stored. They can either be moved into the muscles to be used as energy or they can be turned into fat, to be used later.
When women become resistant to insulin, they need more and more insulin to manage any sugar in their blood. This leads to an increase in androgen (male hormone) production. Too many of these male hormones lead to many of the symptoms of PCOS, including: hair loss, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain and an irregular menstrual cycle.
There are many different foods that impact on insulin levels, not just carbohydrates. Also, it is important to look at what else is being eaten with carbohydrates as protein and fiber tend to moderate the processing of carbohydrates, causing them to enter the blood stream in a slower, more controlled manner.
With that in mind, the following foods should be avoided as part of your PCOS diet:
- Foods with a high Glycemic Index
- Refined sugars
- Saturated fats
Eliminating all of these foods from your diet requires a huge amount of motivation and dedication. It will also mean a serious change of lifestyle. Although it is not easy, it is vital to managing your PCOS and you will see the benefits as your symptoms begin to improve.
Avoiding the above foods and eating low GI carbohydrates forms the basis of any PCOS diet. However, it is also important to not only focus on what you should eliminate, but also what foods you should be enjoying in your diet. Here are some PCOS friendly foods that can be readily enjoyed as part of your PCOS-beating plan.
- Wholegrains and low GI carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and brown or wild rice
- Vegetables – make sure you have good colour and variety
- Fresh fruit
- Lean, organic and preferably pasture-fed meat
- Foods high in Omega 3 and essential fatty acids
Including the above foods in your diet will ensure that you are getting all of the necessary vitamins and nutrients, as well as increasing your fibre intake and will help to keep your blood sugar and insulin levels more stable.
You can also manage your insulin levels by:
- Eating foods that are high in fibre as they will also cause a slower, more controlled rise in blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Incorporating legumes and vegetables in your diet as they’re high in fiber and nutrients and will manage your sugar levels.
- Combining protein and carbohydrates as protein helps to regulate the blood sugar spike caused by the carbs.
- Eating small, healthy meals more frequently to manage cravings and hunger pangs and NEVER missing breakfast!
- Eating wholegrain foods instead of processed, refined foods. Also, whole fruit instead of fruit juice will maintain insulin and blood sugar levels.
By following some of these basic principles, you will be better able to regulate your insulin levels, which in turn will manage your testosterone levels. One of the best things you can do to keep your PCOS in check is to change your diet and eating habits!