F.R.E.S.H Nutrition team
Top 10 Tips for Women with PCOS
#1.) Make sure you’re getting enough iodine. Many people are following low-sodium diets these days, not realizing that the iodine supplied by iodized salt is essential for your thyroid as well as your ovaries. Research has found that low levels of iodine are connected to an increase in ovarian cysts. Though iodized salt can be a source of iodine, there has been much debate as to whether or not iodized salt even contains adequate levels of iodine at present. To make sure that you’re getting enough, increase your intake of foods rich in iodine including kelp, wakame, and other sea vegetables, potatoes with the skin on, good quality, probiotic-rich yogurt, and navy beans.
#2.) Avoid BPA. Many women consume excessive amounts of BPA solely from drinking from water bottles. Studies have shown that women with PCOS tend to have larger amounts of BPA in their blood. As BPA is an endocrine disruptor, this can cause havoc for anyone, especially those with PCOS. When looking for a bottled water check to make sure that the bottle is BPA free. Penta is one brand which does not use BPA in their bottles. Or, skip bottled water altogether and use a glass bottle to take your own tap water or filtered water with you anywhere.
#3.) Consider herbal hormonal support. Shatvari (asparagus extract) can help lower elevated insulin levels and regulate the menstrual cycle. Talk to an ayurvedic practitioner for more help on how plant extracts such as this one can help manage your symptoms of PCOS.
#4.) Eat a high-protein, low-carb diet. Shoot for at least 20% of your daily calories from protein. This means if you eat 1400 kcal / day, you would need at least 70 g protein daily. This will help improve your insulin resistance as well as your weight.
#5.) Don’t be afraid of fat. Fat is needed in order to feel full. If you’re cutting back on carbs, it will be hard to stick to your high-protein diet unless you have adequate fat. Plus, fat is needed to absorb certain vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, and K). Vit. D has been shown to be low in many women with PCOS. Therefore, adequate fat intake will help make sure your vitamin D level is the best that it can be without supplementation!
#6.) Have your vitamin D levels checked. As stated before, many women with PCOS have low vitamin D levels. Correction of vitamin D deficiencies have been found to be very effective at improving insulin resistance. Though milk and fortified orange juice contain vitamin D, it’s not in the best form that our bodies can absorb. Try to make eggs (with the yolk), sardines, and wild caught sockeye salmon part of your diet at least 3-5 times per week.
#7.) Increase intake of anti-inflammatory foods. Research has shown that many women with PCOS exhibit evidence of inflammation within their bodies. Inflammation is linked to an increased risk of cancer. One way to increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods such as ginger and turmeric is to add small knobs of fresh turmeric and ginger into your smoothies. Cumin is also a wonderful anti-inflammatory spice which goes great in bean dips, as well as with chicken, and other meats!
#8.) If you have PCOS and insulin resistance, consider asking your medical provider about having your vitamin B-12 level checked. Low B-12 levels have been found to be more prevalent in women with PCOS and insulin resistance, and have also been found in conjunction with elevated homocysteine levels. As a high homocysteine is a risk factor for heart disease, it is important that you know where you stand. If you’re taking Metformin this is extra important, as Metformin can lead to decreased B-12 levels in your body. When you don’t have adequate B-12 you often feel low on energy, which makes it difficult to exercise.
#9.) Exercise a little every day. Regular exercise has been shown to help women with PCOS lose weight as well as manage some of the symptoms of PCOS. You don’t have to go crazy with hitting the gym for an hour a day, just make some time to be a little more active. You can easily add a little extra activity just by making a commitment to clean some part of your house every day (yes, cleaning is exercise), carrying your groceries through the store using a handbasket v.s using a push cart, or going for a short walk once you’ve finished eating your lunch at work. If you have kids, this could mean committing to playing with them for an additional 30 minutes daily. Of course the gym is great, but it’s not practical for everyone. Just think about your daily routine and you’ll find you have a little room!
#10.) Relax! Find an activity that you enjoy that has absolutely nothing to do with diet and exercise, and make sure that you do it at least once a week. When you have a goal in mind like losing weight, even just thinking about preparing a meal can be stressful. Research shows that chronic stress can actually impact your insulin levels in a negative way. That means that worrying about being the perfect weight, or when you’ll get pregnant, can actually bring you further away from your goal. So make some you time, and go to the movies, or go for a painting class, or whatever is that one activity that makes you feel centered.