Q: I was recently diagnosed with PCOS. I am a healthy 35-year-old and I am devastated with the increased possibility of heart disease, diabetes and complications in pregnancy without the help of medication. Are there any foods I can add to my diet to help battle this syndrome?
A: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is linked to insulin resistance, so the goal with your nutrition plan is to keep your blood sugar and insulin levels moderate and stable throughout the day.
First and foremost, if you’re overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can improve your condition. (However, not everyone with PCOS is overweight.) If weight loss is part of your plan, you’ll need to watch your total calories and stick with around 1200-1600 total calories per day. And you’ll want to make sure you’re exercising most days of the week — even just 30 minutes of walking most days of the week can be hugely beneficial.
To keep blood sugar in check, follow these tips:
Choose high-quality carbs versus low-quality carbs. High-quality carbs — vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains — are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other healthful nutrients. Poor-quality carbs can trigger unhealthy spikes in blood sugar, so you’ll want to dramatically limit your intake of these foods. Poor-quality carbs include: sugary foods (soda and sweetened drinks, fruit juice, candy, cookies and baked goods, sugary cereals, and added sugar in coffee, etc.); white bread, pasta, and crackers; and anything else made from white refined flour.
Eat even healthy carbs in moderation. Enjoy 1-2 servings per meal. A serving is equivalent to ½ cup whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or beans/lentils; 1 slice whole wheat bread (or 1 ounce of bread); 1 serving of healthy cereal; ½ cup cooked oatmeal; ½ cup starchy vegetables like peas, corn, or potatoes; ½ medium baked potato; or 1 piece (or 1 cup) of fruit. You do not have to limit non-starchy vegetables — they’re super low in calories and high in fiber.
Pair carbs with lean protein at meals and snacks. Pairing a high-carb food (like fruit, starchy vegetables, or whole grains) with a lean protein helps blunt the rise in blood sugar that occurs after a meal. So, try to include a source of lean protein at most meals and snacks. Good protein choices include: skinless chicken and turkey; fish and seafood; lean beef; pork tenderloin; eggs; reduced-fat or nonfat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese); nuts and nut butters; and whole soy foods.