Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating With PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)

Plant-based eating can offer several benefits for individuals with PCOS

While more research is needed to fully understand the effects of a plant-based diet on PCOS specifically, adopting a plant-based eating pattern can contribute to overall health improvements, which may help manage PCOS symptoms. Some potential benefits of following a plant-based diet in treatment of PCOS include the following:

Improved insulin sensitivity:

Insulin resistance is common in PCOS. Plant-based diets, particularly those rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, can improve insulin sensitivity. These foods are typically low in glycemic index, meaning they cause a slower and steadier rise in blood sugar levels, which can help regulate insulin levels.

Weight management:

Many individuals with PCOS struggle with weight management. Plant-based diets, when structured properly, can support weight loss or weight maintenance due to their focus on whole, unprocessed foods that are generally lower in calories and higher in fiber. Additionally, plant-based diets can help reduce visceral fat (fat around the organs), which is often increased in individuals with PCOS and associated with metabolic disturbances.

Hormonal balance:

Plant-based diets can help promote hormonal balance by providing a variety of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. These components can support the body’s natural detoxification processes, reduce inflammation, and help regulate hormone levels, potentially alleviating some PCOS symptoms.

Reduced inflammation:

Chronic low-grade inflammation is associated with PCOS and its complications. Plant-based diets, particularly those rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, are naturally anti-inflammatory due to their high content of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Improved gut health:

Plant-based diets are generally high in fiber, which supports a healthy gut microbiome. A diverse and balanced gut microbiome has been linked to improved metabolic health and may indirectly benefit individuals with PCOS.

Cardiovascular health:

PCOS increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Plant-based diets, particularly those low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can help improve cardiovascular health by reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and inflammation.

What about SOYA?

Soya and soy-based products can have potential benefits for individuals with PCOS due to their unique nutritional profile. Here’s how the use of soya may be advantageous:

Hormonal regulation:

Soya contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones, which are plant compounds that can have estrogen-like effects in the body. In PCOS, where hormonal imbalances are common, the isoflavones in soya may help modulate estrogen levels and promote a more balanced hormonal environment.

Insulin sensitivity:

Soya products, such as tofu and tempeh, are a good source of plant-based protein and have a low glycemic index. Consuming protein-rich foods can improve insulin sensitivity and help stabilize blood sugar levels. This is beneficial for individuals with PCOS, as insulin resistance is often a key factor in the condition.

Weight management:

Soya-based foods, when incorporated into a balanced diet, can contribute to healthy weight management in individuals with PCOS. They are typically low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and they provide high-quality plant-based protein that can help promote satiety and support weight loss or weight maintenance.

Heart health:

PCOS is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and soya products can provide cardiovascular benefits. Soya protein has been shown to help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and improve overall lipid profiles, which is beneficial for heart health.

Nutrient content:

Soya is a good source of various nutrients all with benefits in reducing symptoms or long-term effects of PCOS. These nutrients include protein, fiber, B vitamins, calcium, and iron. Incorporating soya-based products into the diet can help ensure an adequate intake of these essential nutrients, which is important for overall health and well-being.

How to incorporate Soya:

  • Edamame: Edamame is a popular way to enjoy young soybeans. Steam or boil the pods until they are tender, then sprinkle them with a little salt for a simple and tasty snack. You can also add edamame to salads, stir-fries, or grain bowls for an extra protein and fiber boost.
  • Tofu: Tofu is a versatile soy-based protein that can be used in various dishes. It absorbs flavors well, so you can marinate it or add it to stir-fries, soups, curries, or salads. Firm or extra-firm tofu is suitable for grilling, baking, or pan-frying, while silken tofu works well in smoothies, desserts, or creamy sauces.
  • Tempeh: Tempeh is another soy-based protein with a nutty flavor and firm texture. It can be sliced, marinated, and grilled or sautéed. You can also crumble it and use it as a ground meat substitute in dishes like chili, tacos, or pasta sauces.
  • Soy porridge: Soya Life Premium Porridge
  • Soy milk: Soy milk is a dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk. You can use it in smoothies, cereals, or as a base for hot beverages like coffee or tea. It can also be used in baking recipes as a substitute for regular milk.
  • Soy-based yogurt: Look for soy-based yogurts in your local grocery store or make your own using soy milk. You can enjoy it as a snack, add it to smoothies, or use it as a topping for granola or fruit.
  • Soy-based meal replacement drinks: Soya Life Instant Meal Replacement Drink
  • Soy-based meat alternatives: There are various soy-based meat alternatives available, such as soy burgers, soy sausages, or soy crumbles. These can be used as substitutes in recipes that call for meat, such as burgers, tacos, or pasta dishes.

Other plant-based foods with benefits in treatment of PCOS:

Several specific plant foods have shown potential benefits in the treatment of PCOS. Here are some examples:

  • Berries: Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are rich in antioxidants, fiber, and phytochemicals. They have anti-inflammatory properties and can help regulate blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for individuals with PCOS. Berries can be enjoyed as a snack, added to smoothies, or used as toppings for yogurt or oats.
  • Leafy green vegetables: Leafy greens like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and broccoli are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are low in calories and high in antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and support hormonal balance. Including a variety of leafy greens in salads, stir-fries, or smoothies is a great way to enhance nutrient intake.
  • Legumes: Legumes in addition to soybeans, such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans, are excellent sources of plant-based protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. They have a low glycemic index and can help stabilize blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and support weight management in individuals with PCOS. Legumes can be incorporated into soups, stews, salads, or used as a meat substitute in various recipes.
  • Whole grains: Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, oats, and buckwheat provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, and essential nutrients. They have a lower impact on blood sugar levels compared to refined grains and can help improve insulin sensitivity. Incorporating whole grains into meals, such as grain bowls, salads, or porridge, can contribute to a balanced and nutritious diet for PCOS management.
  • Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and fiber. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, while lignans may help regulate estrogen levels. The fiber content of flaxseeds can aid in digestion and support gut health. Ground flaxseeds can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, or used as an egg substitute in baking recipes.
  • Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice known for its anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its active compound called curcumin. It may help reduce inflammation associated with PCOS and support overall well-being. Turmeric can be used in various dishes, such as curries, stir-fries, or added to warm beverages.

Consuming these foods daily, within a balanced eating plan should have major benefits in treatment of PCOS: how to do this in a few simple steps:

Shop Right

Include the following in your weekly shopping list:

  • A variety of berries
  • Leafy greens: Spinach, broccoli, lettuce
  • Soy-based products: edamame, Tofu, Tempeh, Soy porridge, Soy milk, Soy-based yogurt, , Soy-based meat alternatives such as soy strips, soy burgers, soy sausages, or soy crumbles.
  • Other Legumes: lentils, butter beans, black beans, chickpeas, baked beans etc.
  • Whole grains: Low GI seed bread, quinoa, brown rice, oats, and buckwheat
  • Flaxseeds: Ground flaxseeds
  • Turmeric

Eat Right

  • Make a smoothie: add berries, soy yoghurt / Soya Life Meal replacement Drink, oats, ground flaxseeds.
  • Make oats or Soya Life porridge: top with berries and ground flaxseeds.
  • Snack on wholegrain crackers / raw celery / baby carrots dunked in hummus.
  • Snack on fruits or veggies
  • Incorporate legumes into lunch and/or supper every day! (add lentils to your stews/soups; add chickpeas / red kidney beans to your salads; add black beans to a spicy rice dish; add baked beans on top of wholegrain toast / in wraps. The options are endless!)
  • Use soy-based meat alternatives as your protein source at all meals, or even snacks (portion control).
  • Spice your meals / dishes with turmeric (use it daily to obtain the max benefit).
  • Ensure that each meal includes wholegrain + a plant-based protein + veggies/salad or fruit.
  • Drink 2l water / day.
  • Choose low fat foods (<5g per portion)
  • Eat small meals / snacks every 3 hours.
  • Avoid sugars, refined carbs, high-sugar cold drinks.

Following a plant-based diet and incorporating these specific plant foods including soya into a well-rounded, balanced diet can provide a range of health benefits for individuals with PCOS. However, it is important to note that individual responses may vary, and it’s recommended to consult with a registered dietitian or a healthcare professional who specializes in PCOS to create a personalized eating plan tailored to one’s specific needs and goals.

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