Making certain dietary changes may help limit your risk for polycystic ovary syndrome and ovarian cancer, although dietary changes alone can't be used to treat or cure either condition. Losing weight, following a low-glycemic-index diet and eating a diet rich in nutrients may be beneficial for keeping your ovaries healthy.
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Healthy Ovaries and Weight
While there isn't conclusive evidence that any one particular food increases or decreases ovarian cancer risk, and body fatness may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Being overweight also plays a role in PCOS. Weight loss is one of the main treatments for PCOS, as this can help limit insulin resistance and reduce the symptoms of PCOS. If you're overweight, focus on exercising more and making changes to your diet to lose weight. This may be hard, however, as PCOS may make it more difficult to maintain a healthy diet.
Following a diet consisting mainly of low-energy-density foods, or foods without a lot of calories per gram, may make it easier to lose weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This type of diet allows you to eat larger portion sizes without going over your recommended daily calories. This means you're less likely to be hungry between meals, since it is the amount of foods and not the number of calories that determines how full you feel after eating.
Foods low in energy density also tend to be nutrient-rich foods. For example, high-fiber foods and most fruits and vegetables are low in energy density. Both sugar and fat increase energy density. Following a diet rich in nutrients may help limit mortality risk in people diagnosed with ovarian cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2014.
Following a diet low on the glycemic index may help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, according to a study published in Annals of Oncology in 2003. This type of diet may also be beneficial for those with PCOS, notes Brigham and Women's Hospital. The glycemic index is an estimate of how much and how strongly foods containing carbohydrates cause blood sugar levels to rise. Foods lower on the glycemic index have less of an effect on blood sugar, which can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and minimize insulin resistance.
Processed foods and those cooked for long periods of time tend to have a high glycemic index, while acidic foods, those high in fiber and those that contain protein or fat and carbohydrates tend to be low on the glycemic index.
Nuts, beans, rye bread and most fresh fruits and nonstarchy vegetables are low on the glycemic index, while dried fruits, potatoes and white bread or rice are higher on the glycemic index.
Portion Size Importance
No matter which type of dietary changes you make, you'll need to pay attention to portion sizes to avoid gaining weight. Too much of even healthy foods can cause weight gain, with each 3,500 extra calories you eat leading to an additional pound of body weight. Likewise, if you eat a large enough portion, even lower-glycemic-index foods can raise blood sugar levels.
- Brigham and Women's Hospital: Combating Polycystic Ovary Disease Through Diet
- British Dietetic Association: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- American Institute for Cancer Research: Ovarian Cancer 2014 Report
- Annals of Oncology: Dietary Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load and Ovarian Cancer Risk: A Case–Control Study In Italy
- Journal of the National Cancer Institute: Diet Quality and Survival After Ovarian Cancer: Results From the Women’s Health Initiative
- Clinical Diabetes: The 3 R's of Glycemic Index: Recommendations, Research, and the Real World
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger
- Linus Pauling Institute: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load