The main thing I did, was to try to cut out the following as much as possible:
Maida/ Refined flour
Starchy vegetables : Potatoes, corn, peas, tapioca, pumpkin, yam
Fried food/ snacks
White rice/ white pasta
Now, you may blink at this list and wonder what on earth is left to eat. That’s exactly what I did when my gynaecologist told me to avoid these. The truth is, it is really hard. It takes a lot of will power, but, it really works if you can do it!
In India, our meals are very heavily driven by carbohydrates. Our staples like rice, chapati, aloo, paratha etc are all refined carbohydrates which are essentially doing nothing to help abate PCOS.
Now, not all carbohydrates are bad, but the refined carbohydrates I have mentioned above, causes the insulin levels to shoot up. Insulin resistance is one of the major changes seen in this hormonal disorder, affecting almost 50% of women with PCOS.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas which reduces the blood sugar levels in our body, allowing body cells to use glucose for energy.
In insulin resistance, the body cells have difficulty absorbing glucose, resulting in an increase in blood sugar.
Carbohydrates which are rich in fiber help regulate insulin levels in our body.
A good way to start is to stick with foods with a lower glycemic index (GI). Glycemic index in simple terms describes how a certain food affects blood sugar.
Lower the glycemic index, lower the effect of the food on blood sugar.
Some foods which can be included in a healthy diet for PCOS are as follows:
- Whole Grains: Bran, oatmeal, barley, brown rice, chapati/roti (wholewheat flat bread), whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, dalia (broken wheat)
- Non starchy vegetables : Spinach, broccoli, carrot, beans, beetroot, cucumber, lettuce, celery, mushroom, methi, bhindi (lady’s finger), gobi (cauliflower), tomatoes, asparagus, eggplant (brinjal/baingan), bean sprouts, sweet potato
- Fruits: Watermelon, strawberry, avocado, peaches, apples, oranges, grapes, berries, musk melon, pears, apricot, mango, papaya, kiwi
Remember to always prefer whole fruits over fruit juice to prevent a spike in insulin levels.
- Proteins & fats : Egg, chicken, Red meat, yoghurt, oily fish, hummus, nuts, paneer/tofu, lentils (dal), chickpeas (channa), kidney beans (rajma), olive oil, coconut/coconut oil, avocado
Instead of having three big meals a day, you may want to eat smaller meals through out the day in order to manage your blood sugar levels.
A good meal plan to combine carbohydrates with protein and/or fat with every meal to regulate the effect on the blood sugar that the carbs can cause.
Portion size is very important, eating a large portion of healthy food can be detrimental too.
So now we have a fair idea about what we need to eat and what we should avoid in a PCOS friendly diet.
In the next post, I’ll go into a sample daily/weekly meal plan to lose or maintain weight for PCOS.