Diet and PCOS: Are the foods you consume friend or foe?

Polycystic ovary syndrome is an endocrine disorder diagnosed by two of the three symptoms: 1. absent or irregular periods (this means you are not ovulating regularly, which leads to fertility challenges), 2. excess andosterone hormones (i.e. testosterone), and/or 3. polycystic ovaries on ultrasound.  Insulin resistance, your body’s inability to take glucose into cells, can be a contributing factor to PCOS.  Your doctor may prescribe medication such as metformin to help control insulin resistance and birth control to regulate menstruation (birth control does not restore ovulation, a topic I will discuss another time). 

Did you know that diet could be a key factor in normalizing insulin and regulating hormone balance?  According to an article in Fertility and Sterility (2013), a low carbohydrate, high fiber, diet may support healthier insulin levels. 

 Foods to avoid:

  • Simple carbohydrates ­—think white flour, white pasta, pastries, baked goods, muffins and white bread.  Your body breaks down simple carbohydrates into sugars and this can lead to inflammation, weight gain, and insulin resistance.  Aim for foods that are low on the glycemic index.

  • Sugary drinks —soda, sports drinks, fancy coffees, alcohol, and fruit juices. Remember, sugar is a carbohydrate!

  • Inflammatory foods— excess red meat (beef is the highest on the glycemic index and it contains estrogen so consume in moderation), refined sugars and white flour.

PCOS friendly foods:

  • Wide variety of non-starchy vegetables —darky leafy greens, beans, broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, eggplant, sea vegetables, onions and garlic.  Starchy vegetables are should be consumed in moderation as they are higher on the glycemic index. These include: squash, parsnips, sweat or white potatoes, and beets.

  • Fruits are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals.  Very sweet fruits (melons, mango, papaya, cherries, figs etc.) should be consumed in moderation, as they are high on the glycemic index.

  • Fish and grass-fed animal protein.

  • Eggs (try to aim for organic, free-range).

  • Nuts and seeds.

  • Spearmint tea (some research suggest this herb may lower androgen levels).

Modifying your diet and exercising daily, even just 20-30 minutes a day, can support healthy insulin and hormone levels, which can lead to more regular ovulation and menstruation.