Low Glycemic Index Meals for Better Symptom Management
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age, and it is estimated to affect 1 in 10 women worldwide.
PCOS is characterised by various symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycles, hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, weight gain, and cysts on the ovaries. While the exact cause of PCOS is still unclear, research suggests that diet and lifestyle play a crucial role in managing the condition.
One dietary approach that has shown promising results for women with PCOS is a low glycemic index (GI) diet. In this article, we will delve into the benefits of a low GI diet for PCOS, the importance of keeping a food diary tailored to your type of PCOS, and provide you with some delicious low GI recipes that can aid in better management of PCOS.
The Benefits of a Low Glycemic Index Diet for PCOS
First you may want to know what the glycemic index is, and how it relates to PCOS. A low GI diet is centred around consuming foods that have a low glycemic index, which is a measure of how quickly carbohydrates in food raise blood sugar levels.
Foods with a low GI are digested more slowly, causing a gradual and steady release of sugar into the bloodstream. This helps to prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar levels, which can trigger an overproduction of insulin.
This is why it is heavily correlated with women with PCOS who often struggle with insulin resistance, and thus, a low GI diet can be particularly beneficial.
Insulin resistance is a common feature of PCOS, whereby cells in the body become less responsive to insulin, leading to higher levels of insulin in the bloodstream. This can disrupt the hormonal balance, increase the production of androgens (male hormones), and worsen the symptoms of PCOS.
So, by following a low GI diet, which emphasises whole, unprocessed foods that are rich in fibre, healthy fats, and protein, women with PCOS can manage their blood sugar levels more effectively and better improve insulin sensitivity.
In addition to better blood sugar control, a low GI diet has been shown to help with weight management, which is often a challenge for women with PCOS. Foods with a low GI are generally more filling and can help to reduce hunger and cravings, leading to improved portion control and feelings of satiety.
By adhering to these measures, it is easier to maintain a healthy weight, and since excess weight can exacerbate hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance, it is going to be the best approach in managing symptoms all round.
Eating for Your Type of PCOS
Keeping a food diary can be a useful tool for women with PCOS to better understand how their diet affects their symptoms, and in this case, how particular foods correlate with increase of symptoms.
However, it's important to note that not all PCOS cases are the same, and the type of PCOS you have can impact the type of foods that work best for you.
There are four main types of PCOS: insulin-resistant PCOS, post-pill PCOS, inflammatory PCOS, and adrenal PCOS. Each type has its unique hormonal imbalances and symptoms, and the dietary approach may vary accordingly.
For women with insulin-resistant PCOS, focusing on a low GI diet that includes whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and plenty of non-starchy vegetables can be beneficial.
These foods can help to regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Avoiding high GI foods such as refined carbohydrates, sugary foods, and beverages can also help to prevent blood sugar spikes and manage insulin resistance.
Post-pill PCOS refers to PCOS that develops after discontinuing the use of oral contraceptives. In this case, it's important to focus on rebalancing hormones and supporting the liver, thus, foods that are rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, and fibre, such as leafy greens, vegetables, berries, avocados, and fatty fish.
In this case, it might be a good idea to limit red meat, processed foods, and excessive caffeine and alcohol; these can disrupt hormonal balance and worsen PCOS symptoms.
There is also inflammatory PCOS, characterised by increased inflammation in the body, which can further worsen hormonal imbalances. Therefore, a diet that focuses on anti-inflammatory foods, such as fatty fish, nuts, seeds, turmeric, ginger, and colourful fruits and vegetables, can help to reduce inflammation and manage PCOS symptoms.
Avoiding processed and sugary foods, as well as foods that you may be intolerant or allergic to, are also of course beneficial.
Finally, adrenal PCOS is associated with high levels of stress and increased production of cortisol, the stress hormone. A diet that supports adrenal health and stress management can be helpful in this case; this includes foods that are rich in vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, and adaptogenic herbs, such as leafy greens, citrus fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and ashwagandha, can be beneficial too.
Similarly, like the other types of PCOS, reducing intake of caffeine, sugar, and processed foods, which can further stress the adrenals, is beneficial.
It's important to note that every individual with PCOS is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It's essential to listen to your body and work with professionals where necessary.
Regular monitoring of symptoms, blood sugar levels, and hormonal balance can also help to assess the effectiveness of your dietary approach and make necessary adjustments.
Delicious Low Glycemic Index Recipes for PCOS
With all that info in mind, here are some options for low GI recipes for PCOS that you can use as guidance for a PCOS friendly diet:
Lemon Herb Grilled Chicken with Roasted Vegetables
Marinate chicken breasts in a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and parsley), salt, and pepper. Grill the chicken until cooked through. Meanwhile, toss a variety of non-starchy vegetables (such as bell peppers, zucchini, and carrots.
Quinoa and Vegetable Stir-Fry
Cook quinoa according to package instructions, when cooking add minced garlic, ginger, and diced vegetables. Suitable veg can include the likes of broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and snow peas.
Stir-fry the vegetables until crisp-tender. Add cooked quinoa and low-sodium soy sauce to the skillet, and toss to coat. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, and garnish with green onions and sesame seeds for a tasty and filling stir-fry.
Baked Salmon with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato
Drizzle your salmon with olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until salmon is cooked to your desired level. Meanwhile, toss some sprouts and cubed sweet potato with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven until crispy and caramelised. Serve the baked salmon over the roasted vegetables for a nutritious plate.
Lentil and Vegetable Curry
For the veggies, there are some options too! Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, minced garlic, and ginger until fragrant. Add curry powder, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and red pepper flakes, and cook. Add your choice of vegetables, such as cauliflower, carrots, and bell peppers, cooked lentils, canned tomatoes, and vegetable broth.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Stir in coconut milk and spinach, and cook until spinach wilts. Serve the lentil curry over brown rice or quinoa for a delicious and fibre-rich meal.
Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken
In a bowl, toss together mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, red onion, kalamata olives, and crumbled feta cheese. In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, dried oregano, salt, and pepper to make the dressing.
Grill the chicken until cooked through, and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing. Arrange the grilled chicken on top of the salad, and drizzle with more dressing.
This refreshing and protein-packed Greek salad makes a perfect light meal for PCOS-friendly eating (and for those who want a quick fix for the day!)
Creating a Food Diary for PCOS
Creating a food diary can be a helpful tool for managing PCOS symptoms and identifying any potential trigger foods or patterns. Here are some tips for creating a food diary that works for your type of PCOS:
Be consistent: Try to record everything you eat and drink consistently, including portion sizes, cooking methods, and any condiments or sauces used. Also, note the time of day and any symptoms you may experience after eating.
Include all food groups: Make sure your food diary includes all food groups, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vegetables. This will help you to have a balanced diet and identify any imbalances in your nutrient intake.
Pay attention to the glycemic index: As a PCOS-friendly diet focuses on low glycemic index foods, make sure to note the glycemic index values of the foods you consume in your food diary. This can help you to identify any potential triggers or patterns related to high or low glycemic index foods.
Listen to your body: Pay attention to how your body reacts to different foods. Note any symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, mood swings, or changes in menstrual cycle in your food diary. This can help you to identify any potential food intolerances or triggers.
Work with a professional: It's important to work with a nutrition coach that is knowledgeable in the relationship between PCOS and diet. They can provide guidance on the types of foods that are beneficial for your type of PCOS and help you complement exercise and diet to combat nagging symptoms.
Before you go…
A low glycemic index diet can be beneficial for managing PCOS symptoms, especially for individuals with insulin resistance PCOS. By incorporating low glycemic index foods into your meals, you can help regulate blood sugar levels, manage hormonal imbalances, and improve overall health.