PCOS: Conquer Your Symptoms with Nutrition

PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is an endocrine disorder that can inhibit fertility and is linked to increased insulin resistance, risk of diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Though the condition is usually diagnosed by a gynecologist, nutrition is on the forefront for controlling and improving symptoms!

Here are the top 5 ways that a dietitian can help you take control of your PCOS:

1. Learn how to eat a Carbohydrate Consistent diet.

An increased risk of insulin resistance means that your body may not be able to process glucose as effectively as it should, leading to elevated blood sugar levels that wreak havoc over time. Learn how to identify carbohydrates in your food, choose appropriate portions, and spread them evenly throughout the day to minimize risk of blood sugar spikes. Eating similar amounts of complex carbohydrates with each meal will keep your blood sugar steady.

2. Find your healthy body range.

If you are overweight or obese, even small reductions in body weight can help reduce symptoms. A dietitian can help you find a nutrition plan that will keep you satisfied but help you shed extra pounds in a sustainable way. Be sure to incorporate activity into your life, as well; about 30 minutes a day is a realistic goal to make a difference.

3. Consider choosing Low Glycemic Index foods.

The Glycemic Index (GI) of a food helps you determine how much it will spike your blood sugar. Though it’s not a perfect science, there’s research showing that lower-GI foods help improve some PCOS symptoms. The best part of following a low GI diet is that it naturally promotes things like whole grains and complex carbs rather than refined grains or simple sugars, which is definitely a worthwhile diet shift.

4. Conquer your blood lipids.

Women with PCOS are more likely to have elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which are strong predictors of cardiovascular disease later in life. Choose lean proteins, plant based oils, nuts and seeds, and reduced-fat dairy (or small portions of regular dairy) to avoid saturated fats which can exacerbate those blood fats.  Try to limit your intake of fatty processed meats, fried foods, butter, lard, heavy cream, and highly processed foods.

5. Learn if supplements could be right for you.

Certain supplements have been linked to improvement in PCOS symptoms, so your dietitian can help you decide if they are the right path for you. Inositol is perhaps the most popular of these molecules, as its linked to improvements in insulin resistance, blood lipids, and fertility.  Other more common supplements including Vitamin D and fish oil may also help improve insulin and blood lipid imbalances.

 

If you are struggling with your PCOS and are looking for more nutritional guidance, contact The Peoples Plate for in-person or virtual counseling and get a jump start on improving your health!

Skip the Sip: Why you should keep the fruit but ditch the juice

Juice seems to be everywhere in the American diet, from apple juice at kids’ snack time to orange juice on every breakfast table.  While I love the taste of juice as much as the next guy, when it comes to health, I know that choosing an actual fruit is the way to go. (and yes, this includes 100% fruit juice).

Here’s the deal: nature packages fruit in the perfect way by combining sugar with tons of fiber.  Yes, you’re consuming some simple sugars, but by slowly consuming it along with slow-digesting fibers, you also slow down glucose absorption and minimize blood sugar spikes. When we instead take a fruit, squeeze out the sweet juice, and discard all of that wonderful fiber, we wind up absorbing way more sugar in a fraction of the time.  This leads to blood sugars that climb too quickly and go far above the desired limit. If you have pre-diabetes, diabetes, or insulin resistance, this is exactly the type of sugar overload you want to avoid.

A large orange, for example, has ~15 grams of sugar mixed in with 4.5 grams of fiber, and it will probably take a while to eat. Your standard 12 ounce single-serving bottle of orange juice, on the other hand, has about 35 grams of sugar and no fiber– and most of us could drink that in a few minutes!  Think about what a difference that makes for your blood sugar spikes.

Here are my tips for avoiding the fruit juice sugar spike:

  • If you just can’t kick the craving for juice, try diluting it to cut the sugar. Mix with water for a milder flavor, or try mixing with seltzer for a bubbly alternative.
  • Don’t be fooled by the healthy sound of “100% fruit juice”– although they may be pure natural juice, they are still incredibly high in sugar.
  • There are lower-sugar juice available on the market if you’re comfortable consuming non-nutrative sweeteners (aka artificial sweeteners without calories). Always check the label, though, to see just how much lower the total carbohydrates (which includes sugar) will be.
  • If you’re used to drinking juice with certain meals/snacks, try substituting it with fruit if cutting it out cold turkey sounds too ambitious.  If you like juice with breakfast, swap it for a small fruit cup, add berries to your pancakes or cereal, or slice up an orange for that same OJ flavor. If you usually choose juice for something sweet on the go, try a more portable fruit like grapes, clementines, or apples.
  • Juice can actually be a better alternative than other sweeteners if you’re using it as an ingredient in place of table sugar or corn syrup, as you will still get some vitamins and minerals from juice but not from straight sugar. Try substituting a 100% fruit juice concentrate like apple or grape for granulated sugar in your baked goods, keeping in mind that the sugar content may be similar but the nutritive value is a bit better.  You’ll likely need ~6oz juice for every 1 cup of sugar, and a bit less liquid as even juice concentrate contributes liquid.