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The Best Diet for Women With PCOS

author image Lauren Clark
Lauren Clark is a registered and licensed dietitian. She has expertise in weight management, diabetes, cardiovascular nutrition and autism. Clark holds a B.S. in food, nutrition and dietetics, as well as an M.S. in family and consumer science, both from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.
The Best Diet for Women With PCOS
PCOS is a common disorder in women. Photo Credit: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is the most common hormonal disorder in women of child-bearing age. Affecting 1 in 10 of women, this syndrome causes the pituitary gland and ovaries to overproduce the hormone androgen. Although the cause of PCOS is unknown, it is believed that insulin resistance plays a major role in hyperadrogenism. Insulin resistance decreases the body’s ability to process insulin and control blood glucose levels. Therefore, specific dietary considerations are recommended.

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Carbohydrate Controlled Diet

Brown rice.
Brown rice. Photo Credit: tunçsel ülkü/iStock/Getty Images

Many diets have been examined in relation to PCOS, including low carbohydrate, low fat and low glycemic index, but the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that a carbohydrate controlled diet is the best dietary approach to treating PCOS. If you are diagnosed with PCOS you should limit your intake of refined grains and simple carbohydrates such as candy, juice, soda and concentrated sweets. These foods are easily digested and cause a rapid spike in blood glucose. With insulin resistance, your body is unable to compensate for this rapid spike. Choose complex carbohydrates, which are higher in fiber, delay digestion and the release of glucose into the blood. Recommended foods include unrefined or whole grains such as whole wheat breads and pastas, brown rice, high-fiber cereals and beans.

Protein and Fat

Whole wheat crackers.
Whole wheat crackers. Photo Credit: turtix/iStock/Getty Images

Consuming complex carbohydrates in combination with protein or fat will work to delay the release of glucose into your blood and keep blood glucose from spiking. Choose five to six whole wheat crackers and low-fat string cheese for a healthy snack. When planning meals and snacks, be sure to bundle complex carbs with protein or fat for better blood glucose control.

Additional Recommendations

Butter at room temperature.
Butter at room temperature. Photo Credit: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Other dietary recommendations include limiting or eliminating saturated and trans fats from your diet while including mono and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil and avocado. Saturated fats, such as butter, shortening and animal fats, are solid at room temperature. It is also suggested that you drink at least eight glasses of water daily and take a multivitamin and calcium supplement

Importance of Exercise

Exercise regularly.
Exercise regularly. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Exercise is also key in treating PCOS. Weight loss plays an important roll, as obesity and insulin resistance are directly related. Not only does exercise help to lower blood glucose levels, but weight loss can help to reduce insulin and androgen levels. However, weight loss can be challenging if you suffer from PCOS, as weight gain and difficulty with weight loss are both complications of the syndrome. Reducing total caloric intake is an effective way to reach a healthy weight.

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