Just by watching an hour of TV, or flipping through your favorite magazine you know of the thousands of weight loss “plans” or diets that are around today. For women with PCOS, it may be a bit misleading or confusing…. we know we’re supposed to watch our carbs, only eat “good carbs” as this is what best controls our insulin resistance, therefore controlling our PCOS. But the question is, which diet or plan do we choose?
Below are the most common eating plans used by women with PCOS. I say eating plan because I don’t consider them “diets”. We are not starving ourselves, eating the wrong things for a short amount of time to lose weight, etc. This is a life long choice for us. If we want to control our PCOS and its symptoms, we need to chose an eating plan and stick to it, indefinitely.
The glycemic index (GI) is a system used to classify foods with carbohydrates on how fast they raise our blood-sugar levels. There are 3 general categories:
High GI Foods (GI value 70%2B)
These cause a fast rise in blood-glucose levels
Medium GI Foods (GI value 55-69) These cause a medium rise in blood-glucose
Low GI Carb Foods (GI value 54 or less) These cause a slow rise in blood-sugar
This is considered the best option for women with PCOS. A low-GI plan is a balanced diet based with medium and low GI carbs, plus healthy protein and fats (including plenty of healthy whole grains as well as fruits and vegetables. A great plan to follow is Weight Watchers, as they base their meals on the Glycemic index principal.
South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet consists of lean proteins, healthy fats and oils, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables and fruits and is a favorable diet for PCOS. The theory is if you cut back on carbs, and eat a higher percentage of protein that your body will have less insulin responses to carbs.
It consists of three phases, where you slowly add more carbs back into your meals. The point of the first phase is to get rid of cravings that PCOS’ers have for carbs by eliminating them completely. Then, as good carbs are added into back, you are less likely to lose control and binge. The types of carbs allowed on the SBD are those that score low on the glycemic index.
The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet is about balancing your hormones to control hunger on fewer calories but still getting the nutrients your body needs for long-term health. The Zone is a moderate-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, moderate fat diet that has approximately one gram of fat for every two grams of protein and three grams of carbs. These dietary ratios are based off of the dietary recommendations from the Joslin Diabetes Research Center at Harvard Medical School for the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The Zone’s meals include:
- Low-fat protein
- Low glycemic-load carbs (mostly fruits and vegetables)
- Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats
Diets to Avoid
Another common “low carb” plan is The Atkins diet. This is NOT recommended for women with PCOS, in fact it should be avoided completely. The Atkins diet has been associated with a large number of heart related conditions and even death. It focuses on completely removing carbs, and eating high fat, unhealthy proteins (such as hamburger, bacon, etc) which is why we need to stay FAR away.
Women with PCOS already have a higher risk of heart disease, high cholesterol/blood pressure and stroke, so adding a diet high in fatty proteins would only increase our risk. Plus, starving your body of the carbs it needs to survive only increases the risk even more.