Making the right food choices can make a world of difference in reversing PCOS problems. Gaining an understanding of why your body processes food differently and why the right diet is so important can help in motivation towards success. Eating the right foods can help overcome unwanted PCOS symptoms such as unfair weight gain, acne, hormone imbalances, infertility, anxiety, mood changes, lack of energy, facial hair or hair loss, and more.
Understanding the Importance of Reversing Insulin Resistance
It is now more clearly understood that the problem with PCOS does not originate in the ovaries, but instead, the reverse is true - PCOS causes the ovaries to be dysfunctional. The problem lies in the increased resistance to insulin. The higher the insulin levels go, the more negative effect it has on everything else. Increasing Insulin results in the increased production of androgens (male hormones) from the ovaries, leading to acne, unwanted facial hair, and hair loss. This increase in androgens in turn, along with the elevated Insulin levels, result in the disruption of normal ovarian function. This disruption is what leads to decreased or absence of ovulation, resulting in skipping periods and often infertility. The wrong diet leads to abnormal elevated blood glucose levels, which then over time creates unwanted weight gain, diabetes, etc. but also such day-to-day issues such as and mood swings, depression, and lack of energy. The PCOS diet HAS to be directed towards reversing insulin resistance. The right diet decreases glucose, which then decreases insulin production and need. This in turn results in the burning of fat for fuel instead of glucose, which then leads to weight loss. The diet is KEY!
I would also like to add if you have been diagnosed with a “type” of PCOS that doesn’t include insulin resistance, it is still recommended to follow this same diet. If you are not showing signs of insulin resistance now, it is highly likely you will develop later if you do not follow the proper diet. Insulin and glucose control have a huge impact on ovary function and PCOS, regardless of what symptoms you may currently be experiencing.
What is the Recommended PCOS Diet?
The Recommended American Diet that came out back in the 1970’s – a 50-60% high carbohydrate and low-fat diet – was a complete failure. High carbs are the enemy of us all, but especially for women with PCOS. Carbohydrates stimulate the same addictive centers in our brain that drugs do and set off signals that cause us to crave more carbs only hours after we’ve consumed them, setting us up on a vicious cycle to consume more. Since women with PCOS already have problems handling and processing carbohydrates, it becomes imperative carbs are kept at a minimum. They are, amongst some other things, the enemy for you!
The diet I recommend is as follows:
40-45% or more healthy fats
There is a lot of similarity here to a ketogenic diet, which can be helpful to find recipes and daily diet plans. However, there are some variations to a keto diet that are particularly important for PCOS patients. For the most part, I recommend a plant-based diet, which I think is best for all of us to consume.
The Importance of Choosing Organic and Non-GMO
This is probably THE most important thing to know in starting to alter your diet to help reverse PCOS, and for all of us who seek to maximize our health: when at all possible, seek out and choose Organic and Non-GMO (non-Genetically Modified Organism) foods. Most of what we consume these days has, for decades, been sprayed with large amounts of Round Up, containing the deadly carcinogen Glyphosate, as well as many of extremely harmful toxins as well, often in combination. We’re talking corn, soybeans, vegetables, fruit. You name it, and it has these poisons present. And sad to say, the government entities tasked with keeping us safe, such as the EPA, FDA, and USDA, have been complicit in allowing these multi-billion-dollar Agro-Chemical corporations to get away with it, all in the name of profits.
Thankfully, as consumers are becoming aware of this crime perpetuated on them, more and more organic foods are becoming readily available to us. It’s not always the cheapest alternative, and sometimes you can’t find organic or non-GMO, but when available it is absolutely the best way to go.
What Foods Should You Avoid?
- Sugar! Sugar is, literally, toxic to the body! It must be avoided. Unfortunately, sugar is in so many of the food items sold to us as consumers that it takes a real dedicated effort to understand all the different ways it can be disguised in what we buy. But, it is absolutely critical you become “food label savvy” and eliminate sugar from your diet. More sugar means more Insulin produced, which then leads to worsening Insulin Resistance. And know this: sugar is actually the food cancer grows on!
- Carbs – especially the high, starchy, refined and processed carbs out there. This includes pastas, white potatoes (sweet potatoes are much better and healthier for you), flour, breads, wheat, grains, cereals, and rice. Many people think wheat is healthy, because that is exactly what the food industry wants you to think. But the reality is, the wheat and the numerous food products that contain wheat is in no way similar, at all, to what wheat originated as. Now, it is so heavily sprayed with toxic pesticides, it has lost essentially all healthy nutrients that used to be present and creates all sorts of allergic reactions to our bowel that is extremely harmful to our bodies.
- Dairy is not healthy for us, nor is lactose, the sugar in milk. And here again is yet another form of sugar women with PCOS don’t need! Thankfully these days, there are a lot of healthy alternatives to dairy, such as almond and cashew milk, etc. If you need to use butter, use organic.
- Fats – there are good, healthy fats, and there are bad fats. First, the bad fats: bad fats are trans fats, such as those found in fast food, fried foods, packaged foods, processed snack foods, and sugary, fatty snacks such as donuts, etc., and saturated fats. Saturated fats are found most often in animal meats – beef, some chicken, pork, and lamb. It is also found in cheese, butter, sour cream, and milk.
What About Meat?
A note about meat consumption: since most ketogenic diets allow for, and even promote, meat consumption, especially as an important source of protein, I would not state that meat is harmful in and of itself. However, the problem is that most meat available to consumers today is not healthy. It is laden with antibiotics, hormones, bacteria, and pesticides that are very harmful to our bodies. Limited amounts of meat can be a healthy choice, but it is essential that the source is organic, grass fed (and “grass finished”), free range, and free of all harmful chemicals and additives. Also of note, however, is that studies show that animal protein has been shown to cause an increase in insulin production nearly as much as carbohydrates do! So, this would be especially problematic and is in part why I recommend PCOS patients stick to plant-based foods. We can get all the protein we need from plants – vegetables and fruits.
What Foods Can You Eat?
- Carbs and Proteins. Vegetables and fruits (keep in mind, however, that fruits have their own sugar – fructose – so don’t overdo). Look to consume legumes and tubers. Examples of legumes are beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and peanuts. Examples of tubers are potatoes (sweet only), taro, artichoke, beets, and carrots. Also look for chia seeds, tempeh, and quinoa. Other good sources of protein are tofu and eggs – again, needs to be organic!
- Fats – healthy fats are essential. Fats got a bad rap years ago. Unhealthy fats as listed above are definitely bad and need to be avoided, but healthy fats are absolutely essential to our health. Healthy fats are polyunsaturated and monosaturated. These include foods such as avocado, olive oil, all types of nuts, and healthy seafood.
- Speaking of seafood, I do think seafood can, and should, be part of a healthy diet. However, most of what is available and consumed is not healthy! Once again, most of what is sold in grocery stores is farm raised, full of antibiotics, bacteria, dyes and chemicals, and even heavy metals like mercury. The only thing you should consume is that which is wild caught, period.
Making a Lifestyle Diet Change is Critical to Your Long-Term Health
For women suffering with PCOS, nothing is more important than your diet. Nothing! It is imperative you make these changes for a lifetime of optimal health. It isn’t necessarily a short-term “diet” but instead is a lifestyle change that is critical to your health. The fact that you already face these challenging PCOS symptoms daily shows how strong you already are. With your strength and determination, you can do it!
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