Here are what Collette Harris (in her book ‘The PCOS Diet’) terms the PCOS food rules…
Now most of these are common sense, and in fact, general healthy eating rules that everyone can benefit from – but they are particularly pertinent for women with PCOS and we will be looking into these further in upcoming ‘health’ and ‘diet’ features for the site.
1) Drink lots of water: The department of health recommends that we should drink about 1.2 litres of fluid every day. This is the equivalent of 6-8 glasses. Drinking more water can help improve your energy levels, reduce headaches, help lubricate your joints, aid digestion, increase fat burning, help your liver and kidneys function correctly. Drinking very cold water can also help your body burn more calories as it makes your body work harder to counteract the temperature of the water. Drinking water when you feel peckish is also a good idea; often the signal between our stomach and brain gets confused and the crossed wires cause us to believe that we are hungry when really all we need is more fluid…
2) Get your five a day: A standard rule we should all try to aim for – Fruit and vegetables provide much needed sources of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
3) Get complex and low GI: Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, tend to be high in fibre and nutrient-rich – perfect for a balanced diet. Swap highly refined flour products (say goodbye to the white bread, cakes and starchy snacks) for whole grains. Whilst this is often mentioned in healthy eating guides it is particularly important for us girls with PCOS – complex and low GI carbs take longer to convert into glucose subsequently promoting a weaker insulin resistance, the ultimate goal to help manage those pesky PCOS symptoms.
4) Aim to eat a diet that is high in fibre: It has been said by nutritionists that we should aim to eat around 30-50g of fibre a day…it’s harder than it appears! Fibre is another essential for managing your PCOS as it slows the conversion of carbs into glucose, helping maintain the blood-sugar balance. Fibre also helps you feel full longer after eating which always helps to avoid excess snacking!
5) Eat more protein: It is recommended that we eat 2-5 portions of protein each day…protein helps maintain a good blood-sugar balance and gives your body an even supply of the amino acids it needs to build and repair cells and manufacture hormones and brain chemicals. Ideally your protein intake should be split throughout the day so that at every meal you take in some protein with carbohydrates…this will help reduce your insulin production levels; another bonus for battling those PCOS symptoms!
6) Focus on EFAs: AKA Essential Fatty Acids – It’s important to try as alter your diet so you obtain as little fat as possible from saturated, animal fats or transfatty acids. Get your fat instead from essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. EFA rich foods include nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, flaxseed oil and all kinds of oily fish. Our bodies need essential fats to regulate hormone function and strengthen cell walls. EFAs help keep insulin levels lowers and is in fact the best blood-sugar stabilser.
7) Have lots of Phytonutrients: What the heck are phytonutrients? Well phytonutrients are nutrients found naturally within the skins of most fruits and vegetables (often the cause of their colour, smell and flavour). It is important to try and include as many naturally colourful and phytonutrient rich foods in your diet on a daily basis as they offer natural protection against all kinds of disorders and reduce the risk of diabetes, heart-disease and memory loss.
8) Eat to reduce cholesterol: Controlling cholesterol is vital for all of us; for women with PCOS it is particularly beneficial as it helps to protect against heart disease. With an increased risk of heart disease in women with PCOS, due to low levels of “good” cholesterol and increased levels of “bad” cholesterol, this can help manage your PCOS and any subsequent health risks sooner rather than later!
9) Cut down on the salt: Salt (aka sodium chloride – don’t be fooled by the labels!) is found in far too many foods today, meaning that we all seem to be consuming much, much more salt than our daily recommended intake. Salt causes fluid retention (I don’t know anyone who enjoys feeling bloated) and can raise blood pressure…women with PCOS are four times more likely to suffer from high blood pressure than their non PCOS counterparts as it is…why add to this risk if it can be avoided? So why not think when cooking – instead of using salt why not try using herbs, spices, lemon or ginger to add flavour to your food?
10) Eat regularly: Don’t worry about eating three times a day, instead make sure you eat little and often; start your day with breakfast, have a mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon tea and supper this will stop you feeling so hungry throughout the day and help regulate your blood sugar and carbohydrates.