Can the food you eat help manage the symptoms of PCOS? It is estimated that as many as 1 in 10 women in the UK suffer from PCOS, making it one of the most common causes of female infertility. Whilst the cause of PCOS is not yet fully understood, changes to your diet may improve your chances of pregnancy and this is an area where a nutritional therapist can give personalised advice. Nutritional Therapist Angela Attwood will be available at our "Holistic Approach to Fertility" event at Wickford on 8th June.
What are the best foods to eat if you have PCOS and want to improve your fertility?
Women with PCOS may find it more challenging to conceive, due to an imbalance of hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which may lead to irregular or absent periods. Other symptoms of this condition include enlarged ovaries, ovarian cysts, acne, excess hair and obesity.
Nutritional therapist, Amy Huggins gives her top tips. Amy has taken part in our Fertility Fayre in Cambridge and fellow nutritionist Angela Attwood provides consultations in our Wickford clinic.
1. Manage weight
A key step which can be taken to improve PCOS and its symptoms is to manage weight and reduce BMI.
An excess of body fat increases the amount of oestrogen in the body, causing hormone imbalance which has a negative impact on fertility. It is believed that those affected by the condition may be insulin resistant which can cause unbalanced blood sugar, as well as insatiable cravings for carbohydrates and sweets which can make it even more difficult to maintain a healthy BMI.
2. Have a food plan to control blood sugar
Therefore, adopting a food plan which keeps blood sugar balanced throughout the day is essential. The easiest way to manage blood sugar is to adopt a low GI diet, avoiding foods with a high glycemic rate, which cause spikes and subsequent crashes in blood sugar.
High GI foods (with a GI of 70 or above) includes simple and refined carbohydrates including sweets, biscuits, and baked goods. Sugar with its GI of 100 should be eliminated completely, and replaced with low GI alternatives including coconut sugar, stevia and xylitol. Using these natural sweeteners means you can still enjoy delicious indulgent desserts whilst reducing your BMI.
3. Eat protein breakfast
All meals should be protein based, accompanied by a good fat source and complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, or buckwheat noodles, as well as a generous helping of vegetables. Replacing carbohydrate heavy breakfasts such as cereal, with a protein rich one such as scrambled egg with avocado is an excellent choice.
A great lunch option would be chicken or salmon with a large green salad and quinoa.
For an evening meal, steamed fish with sweet potato and wilted greens, or a large king prawn, cashew and vegetable stir fry would be both nutritious and satiating.
4. Some fats are good
It is worth noting that eating good fats will not make you fat, but will actually increase your body’s ability to become a fat burning machine.
Snacking between meals, and therefore having six small meals a day, may also be effective for those with PCOS, and a proactive way to prevent the dreaded 3pm reach for the biscuit tin. It is worth noting that caffeine and alcohol also insulin to spike and should be limited.
Whilst a diagnosis of PCOS can be upsetting (especially as there is much about this condition which is yet unknown) adopting some simple dietary changes can have excellent results in a relatively short space of time, not only boosting fertility but improving overall wellness and vitality.
- Eat little and often (4-5 times per day)
- Cut out refined sugar completely
- Limit alcohol and caffeine
- Adopt a low GI way of eating
- Eliminate sugar and replace with stevia or xyliotol
- Eat low GI fruits such as berries and apples and avoid high GI tropical fruits
- Eat protein with every meal and eliminate simple carbs
Recipes to help overcome PCOS
Berry Bliss Breakfast Recipe
This delicious smoothie containing good fats, proteins, fibre and anti-oxidants will keep hunger locked up until lunch!
- 400ml unsweetened coconut water
- Large handful of frozen blueberries
- 1 medjool date
- Handful of frozen kale
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- ½ ripe avocado
- 3 ice cubes
Method: Blitz all ingredients in blender and enjoy immediately
Sugar free chocolate mousse
You would never guess this indulgent and creamy chocolate mousse was made with avocado!
- 1 large ripe avocado.
- 1/4 cup raw cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup coconut milk or almond milk.
- 2 tsp stevia (or other natural sweetener)
- 1 tsp natural vanilla extract
- Handful of raspberries (for topping)
Purée the avocado until smooth.
Mix together the cocoa powder and milk until combined and add to the avocado.
Stir in the stevia, and vanilla extract
Transfer the mousse to individual bowls and store in the fridge until ready to eat.