What is PCOS?
PCOS is a common endocrine condition that affects around 1 in 10 people with ovaries in the United Kingdom. This means that it is caused by an imbalance in hormones. This is associated with several symptoms such as acne, irregular periods, hair loss and more.
PCOS and insulin resistance
A symptom associated with PCOS is insulin resistance; when the body is sensitive to the presence of insulin. The hormone insulin regulates the sugar levels in the blood. Therefore, individuals who are insulin resistant may find it useful to understand foods that will help to elongate blood glucose spikes.
It is important to remember, that it is still possible to enjoy a balanced diet without restriction.
What are the best foods for my PCOS?
It is important to remember that there is no “best food” for PCOS.
Carbohydrates are key when managing blood glucose levels. When choosing carbohydrates it can be helpful to understand the glycaemic index (GI) of foods. GI measures how quickly a carbohydrate will increase blood sugar after consuming a snack or meal.
High GI foods raise blood sugars quickly, triggering the production of insulin and consequently impacting PCOS symptoms.
However, low GI foods raise the blood sugar levels gradually, making them the preferred option. Examples of low GI foods include; beans, peas, dairy, nuts and wholegrains.
Protein takes more time to digest than carbohydrates. When protein foods are paired with carbohydrates it can lessen a spike in blood sugar levels. Foods that are high in protein include eggs, chicken, lean red meat. Tofu, lentils, and beans are also good protein options if you are vegetarian or vegan.
Fibre is an important component for the improvement of digestive health. It helps to lower cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity – key for helping to manage PCOS symptoms. Good sources of fibre include: oats, legumes, leafy greens and beans.
It is common for individuals to struggle to meet the recommended intake of fibre. A top tip to improve fibre intake is swapping white rice or pasta to wholegrain alternatives.
Fruit and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are great as they include nutrients, are a great source of fibre and have a very low G.I index. It is great to incorporate as many fruits and vegetables into meals as possible.
Aiming to increase the amount of unsaturated fats in your diet can help with the chronic inflammation associated with PCOS. Foods high in unsaturated fats include: oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds.
The main takeaway
To conclude, there is no one diet for PCOS and as everyone’s symptoms of PCOS are so different, something that works for one person may not work for all. It is possible to enjoy all foods that feel good for you. If you want to, you can incorporate some of these gentle nutrition tips if they feel good for you.
Written by Michala Rooney. Reviewed and edited by Annabel Sparrow (Associate Registered Nutritionist).