When you have polycystic ovary syndrome, your levels of female sex hormones are imbalanced. This can cause irregular menstruation, ovarian cysts, difficulty getting pregnant and male-like characteristics, such as body hair and a deepened voice. Although the cause remains unknown, experts believe that the hormone insulin contributes. Lowering your glycemic load, or the level of impact carbohydrate-containing foods have on your blood sugar, can improve your insulin levels, potentially leading to fewer symptoms. For best results, seek specified guidance from your doctor or dietitian.
Many women with PCOS struggle with weight control. Rather than opt for a low-carbohydrate diet, which can be especially dangerous for PCOS sufferers, Martha McKittrick, a registered dietitian affiliated with OBGYN.net, recommends emphasizing low-glycemic carbohydrate sources, such as whole grains. While sugary and low-fiber cereals are high-glycemic, with scores over 70 on the 1 to 100 glycemic index scale, whole grains are considered low. Particularly low-glycemic options, with GI scores 50 and below, include whole wheat, pearled barley, quinoa and bulgur. When purchasing prepared foods, make sure whole grains appear as the main, or top-listed, ingredients.
Low-Fat Milk and Yogurt
The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois recommends that people with PCOS incorporate lean protein-rich foods into meals for improved wellness. Low-fat milk and yogurt provide protein and carbohydrates and have low GI scores of 32 to 33. Avoid high-fat milk products, such as whole milk and ice cream, however, which have more saturated fat and a higher GI. If you do not tolerate or consume dairy products, choose plain or unsweetened soy milk for similar benefits.
Whole Fruits and Non-Starchy Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, water and fiber. Unlike dried fruits, fruit juices and instant potatoes, whole fruits and vegetables are low glycemic. McKittrick recommends incorporating fruits or vegetables into balanced meals. Have blueberries with your whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk, or a fresh spinach salad with grilled fish and brown rice. Particularly low-glycemic fruits and vegetables include berries, apples, citrus fruits, tomatoes, leafy greens, bell peppers, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower -- all of which fall below 41. Because watermelon has a high GI of 71, limit your intake or pair it with low-GI foods to reduce insulin imbalances.
Legumes, such as beans, lentils and split peas, are podded plants that contain valuable amounts of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber and antioxidants. Unlike animal protein sources, they are cholesterol free and very low in fat. GI-wise, most varieties fall between 15 and 40. Nutritious legume-based dishes include low-fat vegetarian chili, lentil soup, three-bean salad and hummus.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds have a very low glycemic impact, with scores falling below 30. For a reduced risk for PCOS complications, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, McKittrick recommends consuming omega-3 fatty acids in place of saturated fats, which are prevalent in butter, whole milk, fried foods and fatty meats. Walnuts and ground flaxseeds are particularly high in omega-3 fats. Because they are dense in fat and calories, keep your portion sizes modest.
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com