PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, which affects as many as 13% of all women, is a leading cause of infertility. Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that helps manage blood sugar and affects how your body metabolizes fat and protein. It helps convert sugars and starches into energy. What are the best types of foods to eat when you have PCOS?
With insulin resistance, your cells stop responding to insulin, and that results in higher insulin and blood sugar levels. As a result, women with insulin resistance struggle with unwanted weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Insulin resistance can also impact ovulation (the development and release of eggs) and implantation. Fortunately, studies have shown that diet and lifestyle modifications can positively influence PCOS.
One study looked at the effects of lifestyle modification (diet and exercise) on treatment of PCOS patients as compared to women receiving medication for PCOS. The lifestyle modification group had a 20% clinical pregnancy rate, as compared with approximately 12-14% in the other groups. They also had an improved lipid profile, which generally includes cholesterol. The study concluded that lifestyle modification might be the first line of “treatment” for PCOS patients.
Another study concluded that a lifestyle intervention targeting women with obesity and infertility improves their chances of conceiving, especially without fertility treatment, and noted that results suggest lifestyle intervention could benefit women with PCOS even more.
PCOS Diet Dos and Don’ts
- Eat whole, fresh foods instead of processed, packaged foods.
- Consider eating 4-6 small meals a day. Eating more frequent, smaller meals, rather than 3 meals a day can help maintain blood sugar levels. And don’t skip breakfast.
- Eat a low-sugar diet. It’s important to read labels, because sugar comes in many forms and has many names, including agave, corn syrup, fructose, sweetener, and sucrose
- Limit processed carbs. Carbohydrates are converted to sugar for energy. Skip bread, pasta, pastries and rice.
- Eat healthy proteins at each meal. Protein is an excellent source of energy for your body. Healthy sources of protein include fish, poultry, beans, nuts and seeds.
- Load up on fiber. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are full of fiber. As a bonus, many leafy greens are good sources of protein.
- Enjoy healthy fats. These include avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nut butter, and fatty fish like wild salmon.
- Eliminate wine, alcohol and other sugary drinks such as sodas and juices.
Is the Keto Diet a PCOS Diet?
The ketogenic, or keto diet, is a very low carb diet which has been shown to reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. It generally contains 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs. One small study showed that the ketogenic diet may be a potential treatment option for women with PCOS. The four patients who were followed lost weight, resumed regular menstruation and two conceived naturally. The study authors note that there is need for a larger study comparing the keto diet to other diets used for PCOS.