Curating the right PCOS diet

09 September 2020 | Opinion

Eating a well-balanced diet can do wonders for women suffering from PCOS Image credit- shutterstock.com Image credit- shutterstock.com

Prevalence of Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in India women is becoming a growing area of concern. In fact, it is estimated that one in every five women in India suffer from PCOS. Over the last decade, the number of PCOS patients has exponentially grown due to changes in lifestyle and diet habits.

What is PCOS?

According to the PCOS Challenge Association, “Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a serious genetic, hormone, metabolic and reproductive disorder that affects women and girls”. Young women with PCOS typically suffer from irregular periods, obesity, and experience unwanted male-pattern hair growth. However, older women with this disorder may find it difficult to conceive and are at higher risk of miscarriages. Besides, women who are suffering from PCOS are more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and many other health complications. In addition to all this, PCOS also affects mental health, causing mood swings, anxiety, and depression. PCOS can also be genetic. 

How to control PCOS?

PCOS is not curable, but it is manageable. Making changes to lifestyle and diet is the best way to control PCOS. It has been observed that PCOS is more common among urban women owing to their poor lifestyle, eating habits that lead to weight gain, and lack of physical activity. It is, therefore, crucial that women with PCOS workout for at least 20 minutes every day. When it comes to food, a clean plant based diet rich in protein with less sugar and carbohydrates is recommended. Moreover, a minimum of 8 hours’ worth of sleep is necessary to maintain a healthy body.

What should you eat?

Protein

Eating a well-balanced diet can do wonders for women suffering from PCOS. The diet must include enough protein to help manage insulin resistance. However, it is important to choose the right protein source. For example, having more red meat may lead to increased cholesterol levels in the blood, eventually causing other health problems. Some of the best proteins that PCOS patients should include in their diet are beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, etc.

Complex carbs

Carbs make the most of our diet, but knowing the difference between good carbs and bad carbs is crucial. PCOS patients should always opt for whole grains such as whole wheat, whole jowar, brown rice, whole barley, quinoa, bajra, etc. Since whole grains are high in fibre, they help with insulin resistance which is a major problem in PCOS.

Whole fruits and vegetables

Leafy vegetables should make up a large part of the diet for individuals with PCOS. There is a common myth that fruits can worsen insulin, but taking 1-2 servings of fruits daily is recommended as fruits are an excellent source of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Herbs and condiments

Herbs like Ashwagandha and Tulsi are good for controlling PCOS. Ashwagandha helps in correcting irregular periods, obesity, infertility, and hormonal imbalance. It does this by reducing cortisol, which is a stress hormone and testosterone. This herb also helps the body use insulin for glucose uptake. Tulsi also reduces cortisol levels, blood sugar, and prevents weight gain. Other than that, green tea is a great antioxidant that prevents or slows the conversion of testosterone to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Flax seeds and cinnamon are also excellent for PCOS.

What should you avoid?

Dairy products

Dairy consumption can increase the insulin levels in the blood which can trigger excessive production of testosterone causing serious acne. Milk products also contain a significant amount of carbohydrates which can elevate the levels of insulin. 

PCOS is not a disease, it is a disorder. Lakhs of women manage to live their lives comfortably even with PCOS. It only requires a clean, plant based diet and the right exercise regime to control it successfully. As September is the PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) awareness month, it is expected that more and more women will realize the severity of this disorder and adopt a holistic and clean lifestyle to manage it.

 

Aarti Gill, Co-founder of OZiva, Mumbai

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