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PCOS diet: List of optimal food choices for managing symptoms

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Feb 22, 2024 07:52 PM IST

PCOS symptoms are now seen in very young girls too. Health experts share diet tips with a list of optimal food choices for managing PCOS symptoms

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is a hormonal disorder affecting women, that leads to various symptoms like irregular periods, weight gain and infertility. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent long-term complications, including Type 2 diabetes and endometrial cancer.

PCOS diet: List of optimal food choices for managing symptoms (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels)
PCOS diet: List of optimal food choices for managing symptoms (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Siddhant Bhargava, Fitness and Nutritional Scientist and Co-Founder of Food Darzee, shared, “Diet plays a key role in insulin regulation and managing other PCOS symptoms. A balanced diet comprised of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds is essential. Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods should be avoided as far as possible. An ideal PCOS diet includes complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index.”

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He revealed, “Whole wheat, millet, fresh fruits, and fiber-rich foods like nuts, salads, and vegetables should be consumed regularly. These food groups ensure slow sugar absorption, preventing sudden spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Proteins, in sources like low-fat milk, fish and eggs, keep the body satiated and lower the glycemic index of meals. Healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, and nuts, should be given priority over excessive butter and cream. Vitamins and minerals that the body absorbs from seasonal fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are a catalyst for overall well-being.”

According to him, specific food groups beneficial for those suffering from PCOS symptoms include -

  • Whole grains - daily, jowar, bajra
  • Pulses - chana dal, moong dal
  • Lean proteins - chicken, fish
  • High-fiber vegetables - spinach, methi, broccoli
  • Fruits - apples, berries
  • Spices - clove, cinnamon
  • Nuts - almonds, flaxseeds

Dr Siddhant Bhargava cautioned, “Certain refined and processed foods such as fried foods, sweets, starchy vegetables, processed fruit juices and red meat must be avoided. These items can intensify insulin resistance, hinder weight management, and worsen hormonal imbalances. A healthy diet, rich in whole foods can assist in managing PCOS symptoms, leading to weight management and preventing associated complications. It is essential to strike a balance by also moderating portion sizes and making informed choices to navigate the challenges of PCOS.”

Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Mridula Raghav, Consultant Obstetrician, Gynaecologist and Infertility Specialist, explained about the role food choices play in managing PCOS symptoms and said, “We all know that PCOS is found more commonly in obese or overweight women. This led to the thinking that diet or adipose tissue could be the leading cause. As per the dogma theory - dysbiosis of gut microbiota, intake of poor diet can lead to the passage of undesirable molecules from bacteria into the blood which can cause inflammation in the body ultimately leading to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes the secretion of male hormones or the androgens which are responsible for symptoms of PCOS like irregular periods, acne, hair fall, etc. Maintaining a balanced diet can reduce the state of this chronic inflammation in the body which is now said to be one of the root causes of PCOS.”

Talking about the benefits of limiting processed foods, refined sugars and caffeine in the context of PCOS, she said, “Food having a high content of saturated fat and refined sugar can favour the growth of bad bacteria in the gut while reducing the good gut bacteria like the lactobacillus which can lead to this whole squeale of chronic inflammation in the body. A high saturated fat/ low fibre diet per se increases gut permeability causing the transfer of substances from bad bacteria triggering inflammation. The human gut is home to millions of bacteria. When a baby is born the gut is sterile, soon bacteria start colonizing the gut initially derived from the mother's birth canal followed by the external environment and food as we grow up. So, you must feed your growing kids also properly to avoid diseases like PCOS which are now seen even in very young girls too.”

Asserting that staying hydrated can help manage PCOS symptoms and overall health, Dr Mridula Raghav concluded, “The human body is mostly made of water. It is required in the literal functioning of everything in our body. Staying hydrated can help in better digestion of food that we consume. 4/5 food items are optimal for managing the symptoms of PCOS. High fibre diet - fruits and green leafy vegetables, olive oil instead of butter or vegetable oil, beans and other legumes instead of red meat, whole grains like wheat, and barley, whole fruit as dessert. Avoid any bakery product, namkeen, biscuit or maida because it’s refined flour or alcohol.”

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