We live in an increasingly health conscious society where we are becoming more aware of how food can impact on our bodies and well being, healing us or putting us at risk of disease. Superfoods are becoming increasingly popular for their touted health benefits. Well, let’s have a look at some PCOS superfoods that may help us manage our symptoms.
It’s important that we eat well-balanced, healthy whole foods and incorporating some of these foods into your diet will help to improve some of your symptoms. This list is by no means definitive but it is a good place to start. I make sure that they also frequently appear in my weekly meal plans.
Avocados have gotten some bad press in recent years as it is considered to be fairly high in fat. While this is true, the fats contained in avos are healthy fats and are actually anti-inflammatory in nature (1). This anti-inflammatory property is important in terms of PCOS as we are prone to chronic inflammation (2). One study even suggests that “inflammation directly stimulates the polycystic ovary to produce androgens.” (3) Yikes that doesn’t sound good! Inflammation is also problematic as it increases our resistance to insulin, making our symptoms worse (4).
Another aspect of avocados is that they help with the absorption of oil-based nutrients and carotenoids in particular. So, adding avocados to your salad will ensure that you are getting maximum nutrients from your salads and foods. (1)
For a long time I have been enjoying nuts regularly as a snack. I find them filling and are not likely to spike my insulin levels as they have a low glycemic index and actually lower the glycemic index of other foods you might be eating at the same time (Eg: an apple with a handful of nuts will have a lower GI than the apple on it’s own) (5)
But, it gets even better… There was a recent study of 31 women with PCOS (6). They were divided into two groups: one group received walnuts and the other got almonds. They ate these nuts daily for a 6 week period. The results were very interesting.
Researchers found that the women in the walnut group had increased sex hormone-binding globulin. This is important because SHBG binds to testosterone and lowers the amount of free testosterone in the blood (7) which will help to improve our overall symptoms.
The women in the almond group has lower androgen or testosterone levels. So, it looks like nuts are a really healthy snack to introduce into your PCOS diet. Just be aware that they are quite high in calories (22 almonds is about 160 calories) (8) .
Cinnamon is a wonderfully versatile spice that can be enjoyed on both sweet and savoury foods. The good news is that it is also great for your Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Here’s why:
The first thing is that research has been shown to lower blood glucose in people with Type 2 diabetes. We know that this is important as many of us are insulin resistant and are at rick of becoming diabetic. The study showed that cinnamon consumption results in a lower demand for insulin (9). (Insulin acts on our ovaries to produce testosterone so if we can manage our insulin levels, we’ll be able to better manage our testosterone (10)
To take that one step further, there was another piece of research done on 45 women with PCOS. They found that women who taken cinnamon daily have nearly twice as many periods and two of the women in the study fell pregnant spontaneously (11)
I know what you’re going to ask me now: “How much should you have?” Well, the first piece of research suggests 3g of cinnamon per day. That’s just over half a teaspoon. I see many spiced almond milk lattes in my future, interspersed with cups of spearmint tea to ensure variety!
Apple Cider Vinegar
I’ve been making a lot of gluten free breads recently as I try to find alternatives for my carb-loving daughter. One of the staple ingredients in these breads (see Elana’s Pantry for some delicious ideas) is apple cider vinegar. I have heard that it is good for PCOS but have not really researched it, until now…
It seems that apple cider vinegar improves sensitivity to insulin (12) So, taking ACV before a meal will reduce your blood sugar levels after the meal, as well as the amount of insulin needed to cope with the meal. Not only that, but it also helps to prevent sharp rises and falls in your blood sugars and insulin. Hmmmmm, I wonder if that would help with carb cravings? A quick Google search tells me that lots of women feel it does help with cravings.
So, how should we take it? Firstly, find an organic one so it’s free of nasties. Secondly, 20 g (roughly 2 tablespoons) in water before meals is what was used in the research. Might be worth a try?
Did you know that 67-85% of women with PCOS are vitamin D deficient(13)? So basically, most of us. Also, the symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency include:
- Insulin resistance
- Ovulatory and menstrual irregularities
- Lower pregnancy success
- Elevated cardiovascular disease risk factors
Sounding a little too familiar isn’t it?
Well, there are very few dietary sources of Vitamin D but salmon happens to be the best source, with 4oz of salmon providing 127% of your recommended daily intake. (14)
Not only that, salmon (especially wild salmon as opposed to framed salmon) is also high in Omega 3 which is known to help lower testosterone levels in women with PCOS (15)
So, why not have at least one serving of salmon per week to help battle your PCOS?
Summing it Up
Not one food is ever going to manage all of our symptoms but by incorporating a variety of healthy foods into our diet we will be better able to manage our symptoms.
So, to sum it up, why not try for a couple of servings of each of the following:
- Apple cider vinegar
If there are any other PCOS Super foods that you enjoy as part of your PCOS friendly diet, please let me know by leaving me a comment below!