What to eat if you have PCOS

how to manage pcos
Written by Vicki Ma (Accredited Practising Dietitian and Sports Dietitian)

You have just been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (otherwise know as PCOS) and have no idea what to eat! DON’T PANIC – here’s a simple guide to help you understand how to management this condition.

What is PCOS?

It’s an endocrine disorder among women caused by changes in hormonal levels. This change prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg each month; resulting in tiny, cyst-like formation on the ovaries. For most women, the most underlying cause of this condition is insulin resistance.

Insulin Resistance and PCOS

A majority of women with PCOS have insulin resistance and high insulin levels. Insulin resistance is a condition where the body does not respond appropriately to the hormone insulin. To try and overcome the resistance, the body secretes more insulin than normal. High levels of insulin circulating around the bloodstream can increase our hunger level, increase fat storage and decrease our bodies ability to breakdown fat.

What foods to watch out for?

People diagnosed with PCOS should modify the amount of carbohydrate in their diet. Large intakes of carbohydrate foods increases insulin levels which increases testosterone levels (acne/hair), leading to increased fat storage.

Carbohydrate foods include: bread, pasta, rice, noodles, cereal, biscuits, cakes, ice-cream, fruit, potato, corn, sweet potato and soft drink. You can still eat carbohydrate foods, but make sure to have only moderate amounts and choose Low Glycemic Index (GI) options.

Examples of quality low GI carbohydrate foods

Breads/Cereals: wholegrain/ multigrain/ soy-linseed bread, rolled oats, muesli, multigrain Weet-bix
Rice/ Pasta/ Grains: basmati rice, pasta, rice noodles, quinoa, barley
Dairy: milk / yoghurt
Fruit: apple, banana, orange, peach, grapes, mango, pear
Starchy Vegetables: sweet potato, Carisma or Nicola potato, corn
 

Biscuits/ Muesli Bars: Vita-Weat 9 grain, Ryvita multigrain, Be Natural Trail bars

Importance of exercise

  • Exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity – when we exercise the glucose is absorbed by the muscle and not stored as body fat.
  • Just targeting low intensity cardio training will not help the body burn fat for people who have insulin resistance – it will only deplete the glucose in the bloodstream causing you to be really tired and hungry
  • A combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training (light weights) is more effective to improve insulin sensitivity and glycaemic control and reduce body fat then either activity alone.

Try and aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week and two days of resistance training per week.

If you’d like more specific dietary advice for PCOS management, our Dietitians’ can help create an individualised meal plan to suit your needs. Make sure to contact us for further information!

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