What To Eat If You Have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is becoming increasingly prevalent in women
- The disorder has no cure and can cause infertility, obesity and cancer
- Eating and avoiding certain foods can help reduce its impact
Living with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can be frustrating and difficult for many women. There is no known cure, the exact cause remains unknown and it can lead to other problems like infertility, diabetes, excessive male-pattern hair growth and difficulty in losing weight.
The good news is that PCOS is closely linked with lifestyle which means that a few alterations in diet and some regular exercise can help most women effectively manage the disorder, reduce the symptoms and mitigate the possibility of its long-term effects like heart disease and cancer.
Diet is an essential component of a good PCOS management plan. According to doctors, shedding a few kilos and eating the right food can help minimise the disorder’s impact. Here’s a look at the foods women with PCOS must avoid and those they must eat.
What You Need to Avoid
1. Processed Foods
Any and all processed foods must be avoided by women diagnosed with PCOS. Generally high in sodium and unhealthy fats, these can cause unwanted weight gain which worsens the symptoms and effects of PCOS.
“Anything that is processed and packaged must be consumed in limited quantities,” says Shreya Katyal, Nutritionist, Dietician and Founder of Diets & More, “These are high in trans fat and the real nutritional value is negligible.”
Additionally, according to Ms Katyal, the fats from processed foods can often get deposited on the ovaries, worsening the situation.
Soy milk and all other soy products—chunks, tofu and chaap—should be avoided in a PCOS diet. Several studies have indicated that soy is not good for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome because ‘phyto oestrogen’ which can trick bodies into further reducing the production of oestrogen by detecting adequate levels already present.
“This means that the secretion of male hormones will increase creating a misbalance. In PCOS, oestrogen levels are already low which means that the symptoms can worsen with soy,” says Shreya Katyal.
3. Milk and Milk Products
Milk, paneer, cheese and butter may be a regular part of most people’s lives but are not recommended for women with PCOS. This is because women with PCOS have the propensity to develop insulin resistance and the ingestion of dairy can lead to higher levels of insulin.
“Whole milk, in particular, must be avoided,” Ms Katyal advises, “If you have to consume dairy, stick to skimmed milk and limit your intake as far as possible.”
4. Refined Flour
High in carbohydrates and low in fibre, refined flour should be cut out of PCOS diets. This means that white bread, pasta, kulchas, cakes, etc should be avoided as far as possible. White flour is a high glycemic index (something which increases a person’s blood sugar level) food which triggers the release of more insulin when consumed. Since women with PCOS can develop insulin intolerance, flour should generally be avoided.
What You Should Eat
1. Fruits and Vegetables
“A high fibre diet is recommended for anyone with PCOS,” says Shreya Katyal. For this reason, it is a good idea to include plenty of vegetables and fruits in one’s diet.
Fibre helps reduce blood glucose levels, reducing the amount of insulin produced and can also help in weight loss.
“It is all about cutting out the unhealthy fat from processed food and replacing it with healthy fats which fruits and veggies can provide,” explains Ms Katyal.
2. Nuts and Seeds
Speaking of healthy fats, nuts and seeds are a great source and perfect to include in a PCOS diet. These are also packed with protein.
Ms Katyal recommends that women diagnosed with PCOS eat a handful of nuts and seeds like flax seeds, pine nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc. on a daily basis.
Fish is a great source of not only protein but essential fatty acids and are great for women with PCOS.
“Essential fatty acids, such as omega 3 are vital. They can help in balancing hormones and also in managing weight,” says Shreya Katyal.
About The Expert: Shreya Katyal, Nutritionist, Dietician and Founder of Diets & More
Dietician Shreya Katyal aims at lifestyle modification to motivate everyone towards a healthier version of ‘themselves’. With a diploma in Dietetics, Nutrition and Health, she has been practicing for many years now.