Last week I shared with you the 3 food groups to AVOID if you are struggling with PCOS symptoms. If you missed it, you can read the post here.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to be on a super strict, boring diet if you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
Yep, you read that right.
You can fill your diet with tons of delicious and nourishing foods, that help your hormones to function optimally.
The junk does need to go though!
By junk food I mean crisps, chocolate bars, biscuits, takeaways, fizzy drinks, cereal, processed meat and microwave meals.
I wouldn't even class it as real food anyway.
Start by cutting out the main offenders and adding in more of the foods I will be discussing today, and your hormones are going to be a lot happier!
Think of food as information and building blocks for our body.
Would you rather repair and rebuild tissues in your brain using building blocks from a McDonalds burger, or a fresh piece of wild salmon?
It's your choice!
Here are 3 food groups to consume more of if you have PCOS...
#1 Anti-inflammatory fats
Our sex hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, are created using cholesterol, found in fat. Cholesterol has been demonised for decades now, because of claims it clogs our arteries and leads to heart disease.
Cholesterol isn't the bad guy, it's actually an essential, healing nutrient in the human body. One of its functions is to repair micro tears in our blood vessels, this is why it is commonly found in 'blocked' arteries. The cholesterol is there to help! It's like blaming the fireman for the fire.
What actually causes arterial damage, cardiovascular disease and stroke risk is actually chronically high blood pressure, long term stress and insulin resistance, caused by excess carbohydrates and sugar , not fat!
Women with PCOS are at higher risk of these conditions, therefore a lower refined carb/higher fat diet is often recommended. Healthy fats help stabilise our blood sugar levels and don't create an insulin spike, like refined carbohydrates and sugar can.
I recommend consuming a serving of healthy fat at every meal. Women with PCOS should stick to the anti-inflammatory fats such as wild oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, coconut products, cacao, egg yolks, grass fed butter and ghee.
Fat also helps to improve the absorption of several nutrients found in vegetables, and high quality animal fats (eggs, fish, meat, butter) contain the fat soluble nutrients vitamin A, D, E and K.
#2 Cruciferous vegetables
Pretty much all veggies are great for ladies with hormonal imbalances, but non more than the cruciferous family. These include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and brussels sprouts.
They are rich in fibre, which helps to act as a sweeping brush through the intestines and promote bowel function, so that we can eliminate toxins and 'used' hormones. Fibre also keeps us full and satiated for longer, so that we don't feel the need to keep reaching for the chocolate biscuits every couple of hours.
Poor gut health can be a massive factor to be aware of in PCOS. Consuming foods rich in fibre can help to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, which regulate our immunity, mood and metabolism. If you cannot tolerate or digest fibre rich vegetables, you may need to investigate your gut for chronic infections or bacterial overgrowths, and address these things, before adding in more fibre.
It can also support blood sugar regulation by slowly controlling the release of glucose into our bloodstream, preventing the spikes and crashes of our blood sugar, which can lead to chronic inflammation, insulin resistance and internal stress. All of which are drivers of PCOS symptoms such as acne, hair loss, hirsutism, weight gain and irregular cycles.
Cruciferous vegetables are particularly beneficial for our hormones because they contain sulphur compounds and nutrients like diindolylmethane (DIM) which act as cofactors for liver detoxification, and also promote the detoxification of oestrogen metabolites down the 2-OH (healthy) pathway, rather than the 4 OH (harmful) route.
Green leafy vegetables like kale, cabbage, chard and collard greens are highly anti-inflammatory. Because PCOS is a condition driven by inflammation, these types of plants should be eaten on a daily basis, if possible.
#3 High quality protein
We need amino acids from protein to build our sex hormones, neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and to support phase 2 liver detoxification. The health of our liver is so important if we are struggling with PCOS and hormonal imbalances, therefore we need to provide it with the nutrients it needs to function optimally.
We need to process and eliminate both internal and externally produced toxins on a daily basis, however this process has a high requirement for nutrients. When we don't have enough of the co-factors, vitamins or minerals for this, these toxins and 'used' hormones can start to recirculate back into the body, wreaking havoc on our systems.
Protein also helps us build lean muscle tissue, thereby increasing our metabolic rate and supporting insulin sensitivity. Muscle tissue can help to 'soak up' excess blood sugar in the bloodstream, which is a helpful mechanism if you happen to be one of the 7 in 10 women with PCOS dealing with insulin resistance. If you are active and exercising regularly (hopefully you are!), you require more protein than a couch potato or someone with a sedentary lifestyle.
Consuming protein, fat and fibre together in a meal every 4-6 hours is the best way to stabilise blood sugar levels and keep insulin spikes at bay. High quality protein sources include eggs, fish, poultry, organ meats, red meat, tempeh and organic tofu. It is important to buy the highest quality protein we can afford, especially animal products, as we want to be eating food from healthy animals, not sick ones. Although organic, wild and free range products may be more expensive, they are less inflammatory and much better for your body and the environment.
Start by including these food groups in your diet on a regular basis before you even think about intermittent fasting, ketosis, supplements or macronutrient ratios.
The rest of your diet should be based on real, whole foods, however it is bio-individual, based on your PCOS type, current lifestyle and the other health issues that you may be dealing with.
If you would like further support from me to help determine your PCOS type and nutrition needs, you can become a client or get in touch to arrange a free 30 minute 'PCOS Troubleshooting' call.