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Nutrition Strategies for Managing PCOS

By Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist Clare Keating

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects many individuals, particularly those of reproductive age. It is characterized by a range of symptoms, including irregular menstrual cycles, excessive hair growth, acne, and often, weight gain. Nutrition plays a crucial role in managing PCOS and its associated symptoms. In this blog post, we will explore evidence-based nutritional strategies to help individuals with PCOS manage their condition effectively.

1. Balanced Macronutrient Intake:
A balanced macronutrient intake can help regulate insulin levels and manage weight, which are key factors in PCOS management.

Focus on:
Carbohydrates: Choose complex carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (GI) to prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar. Examples include whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits like berries.

Proteins: Incorporate lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, tofu, and legumes. Protein-rich meals can help stabilize blood sugar levels and promote satiety.

Fats: opt for healthy fats like those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. These fats support hormones and overall health.

2. Fibre-Rich Diet:
A diet rich in dietary fibre can help improve insulin sensitivity and support weight management. High-fibre foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and seeds. Aim for at least 25-30 grams of fibre per day.

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and may improve insulin sensitivity. Include sources like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts in your diet.

4. Mindful Eating and Portion Control:
Practicing mindful eating and paying attention to portion sizes can prevent overeating and aid in weight management. Slow down while eating, savour each bite, and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.

5. Limit Added Sugars and Processed Foods:
A high intake of added sugars and processed foods can contribute to insulin resistance and weight gain. By minimising sugary beverages, sweets, and highly processed snacks in your diet you can reduce the impact of or chance of developing insulin resistance.

6. Dairy Choices:
For individuals with PCOS, opting for low-fat or non-fat dairy products may be beneficial. However, the research is mixed and suggests that dairy consumption should be individualized, as dairy can affect individuals differently and some people may benefit from a lower dairy intake.

7. Vitamin D and Calcium:
Vitamin D deficiency is common in individuals with PCOS and may contribute to insulin resistance. Adequate intake of vitamin D and calcium-rich foods (e.g., dairy products and fortified dairy alternatives) or supplements can be beneficial.

8. Cinnamon and Chromium:
Some studies suggest that cinnamon and chromium supplements may improve insulin sensitivity. Consult with a healthcare professional before adding supplements to your regimen.

9. Consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian:
Individuals with PCOS have unique nutritional needs. Consulting an Accredited Practising Dietitian who specializes in PCOS can provide personalised guidance tailored to your specific condition, preferences, and goals.

Evidence supports the role of nutrition in managing PCOS and its associated symptoms. A balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, fibre, and essential nutrients can help regulate insulin levels, support hormonal balance, and manage weight. Remember that individual responses to dietary changes can vary, so it’s important to work with a healthcare professional or Accredited Practising Dietitian to develop a nutrition plan that suits your needs and goals. By making informed dietary choices, individuals with PCOS can take proactive steps towards improved health and well-being.

(Note: This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a healthcare provider or accredited practising dietitian before making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.)

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