by AmyPlano | May 11, 2023 | PCOS Breakfast Foods, PCOS friendly recipes, Weight Loss
Are you wondering what to eat for breakfast if you have PCOS? Women with PCOS have unique nutrient needs and it is important to plan your PCOS breakfast ideas out accordingly.
Breakfast is one of the most-skipped meals of the day. Many of my PCOS clients come to me at first and admit they aren’t eating breakfast.
I hear lots of excuses for why they are skipping breakfast. Whether it is because you don’t have time, aren’t sure what to eat, or trying to limit your calorie intake, skipping breakfast is actually doing you more harm than good!
A balanced breakfast full of lean protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats, can boost your energy levels, stabilize blood sugar levels, and keep you satisfied until lunchtime. No more feeling “hangry” when 10 am rolls around.
Keep reading to learn why eating breakfast is important for PCOS, as well as six PCOS-friendly breakfast ideas from a specialized women’s health dietitian. Let’s get into it.
Need more PCOS-friendly meal ideas? Make sure you check out my high-protein meal ideas blog next!
Why is Eating Breakfast Important for PCOS?
When they say, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, there is some truth to that statement. Breakfast is essential, especially for women with PCOS, because it starts your day off on the right foot.
It is easy to want to reach for a coffee first thing in the morning and push off eating until later. However, this can cause a dip in blood sugar levels and an increase in cortisol spikes (your stress hormone).
Since women with PCOS are prone to hormonal imbalances, neither of those is ideal for optimal hormone health. Instead, you can support your body to take on the day by giving it the nutrients it needs.
Even further, eating a nutritious breakfast can help prevent reactive hypoglycemia, a sudden dip in blood sugar that occurs after not eating consistently. It can also help improve your insulin resistance, which is a hallmark characteristic of PCOS.
Components of a PCOS-Friendly Breakfast
If you aren’t new to my blog, then you know that I consistently talk about the importance of balancing out your meals. This means trying to have a component from each food group at as many meals as possible. Doing so can help ensure you are hitting all of your nutrient needs!
When it comes to creating a PCOS-friendly breakfast, it’s important to include a balance of lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs (preferably high-fiber). These components work together to help stabilize blood sugar levels, promote satiety, and provide sustained energy throughout the morning.
- Some great protein sources for breakfast include eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu, and lean meats such as turkey or chicken sausage.
- Healthy fats can be found in foods like avocado, nuts, olive oil, seeds, and nut butter.
- Complex, high-fiber carbs can come from options such as fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, whole-grain bread, quinoa, or sweet potatoes.
By incorporating these into your breakfast routine, you can help manage your PCOS symptoms and set yourself up for a successful day.
Importance of Eating Breakfast for Weight Loss
As a PCOS dietitian, I often highlight that women with PCOS who want to lose weight should eat breakfast as part of their daily routine.
Eating a balanced breakfast can help reduce cravings and prevent overeating later in the day. Skipping breakfast, on the other hand, can lead to overeating and poor food choices throughout the day, as well as a sluggish metabolism.
When combined, this can cause unwanted weight gain and make it more challenging to reach your ideal weight.
In fact, research has shown that people who eat breakfast are more likely to lose weight and keep it off compared to those who skip it.
So, if you’re looking to lose weight and improve your PCOS symptoms, make sure to prioritize a healthy breakfast each day!
6 Healthy PCOS Breakfast Ideas
Curious about what a healthy breakfast looks like? Below I will be sharing six healthy breakfast ideas for PCOS. Try these out next time you need some inspiration on how to make your breakfast both delicious and nutritious.
Remember that these are simply ideas and feel free to modify them based on your food preferences.
Mexicali Breakfast Burritos
Breakfast burritos are a great balanced breakfast option because you can add whatever you’d like to the inside! These Mexicali-inspired burritos combine eggs with black beans, for an extra protein and fiber boost.
Make a couple of extra burritos, wrap in foil, and freeze them for the days when you are in a time crunch. Simply toss them in the microwave or reheat using an air fryer.
- Whisk together your eggs, add a splash of milk of your choice, and set aside. Saute diced onions and peppers in a large skillet on medium heat.
- Add black beans and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Next, pour your eggs over top of the vegetables. Cook until the eggs are cooked through.
- Warm whole-grain tortillas in a pan. Assemble your burritos using the toppings of your choice.
- Great options include avocado, salsa, pico de gallo, and fresh cilantro.
Mango Chia Seed Pudding
Chia seed pudding is an underrated breakfast choice. If you are wanting a break from Greek yogurt or can’t stomach dairy, chia seed pudding is a great alternative.
Chia seeds are high in both protein and fiber, making them perfect for a nutrient-dense breakfast. Add your favorite fruits and whole-grain granola on top to complete the meal. Chia seed pudding is also ideal for on-the-go because there is no reheating required!
- Combine chia seeds, milk of choice, honey, and vanilla extract in a bowl or mason jar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- When you are ready to eat, pour chia seed pudding out. Dice up your fresh mango and put it on top.
- For additional crunch, add whole grain granola, coconut flakes, and/or mixed nuts.
Breakfast Sandwich with Sweet Potatoes
Nothing is better than a good breakfast sandwich, right? The key is to use high-quality, PCOS-friendly ingredients such as lean protein sources and whole-grain bread.
Making your breakfast sandwiches at home can lower saturated fat and sodium content. Add a serving of diced sweet potatoes on the side to keep you satisfied until lunchtime.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss diced sweet potatoes with olive oil, smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Spread the potatoes out on the baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and golden brown.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, fry the eggs. Slice and toast whole-grain English muffins until golden brown.
- To assemble the sandwiches, place a handful of baby spinach on the bottom half of each English muffin. Top with sliced avocado, and a fried egg. Place the top half of the English muffin on the egg to finish the sandwich.
- Throw your diced sweet potatoes on the side for a complete meal!
Tofu Scramble on Toast
Tofu scramble is a common plant-based alternative to scrambled eggs. So if you don’t eat eggs, or are feeling like changing it up, try this scramble instead.
The secret ingredient is ground turmeric which turns the tofu a familiar yellow color. Turmeric is also said to be anti-inflammatory, making it beneficial for women with PCOS.
- Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Saute onions and diced peppers.
- Grab your extra firm tofu and crumble it into the pan. Add turmeric, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, and sea salt. Coat until tofu is cooked through and slightly crispy.
- Toast 2 pieces of whole grain toast. Add fresh arugula and tomato slices to the bottom. Top with your tofu scramble mixture.
Green Protein Smoothie Bowl
While regular smoothies are great, they can sometimes lack sufficient calories and protein to keep you from getting hungry right after.
To combat this, you can create a protein smoothie bowl. By adding in a high-quality protein powder, you are contributing towards hitting your protein goals for the day.
This smoothie bowl is also very nutrient-dense since it is filled with dark leafy greens and healthy fats from the avocado. Avocado in smoothies? Yes, that’s right! It can give your smoothie a more thick consistency and you don’t even taste the flavor.
- Combine banana, frozen mango chunks, milk of choice, spinach, avocado, and vanilla protein powder in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour the smoothie into a bowl.
- Add your desired toppings, such as extra sliced banana, fresh berries, whole-grain granola, unsweetened shredded coconut, or chopped nuts.
Smoked Salmon Sandwich
The last breakfast idea I have for you all is perhaps the easiest to make. Smoked salmon bagels are extremely simple and quick to whip together in the morning, with no pots or pans required.
Salmon is a PCOS-friendly food because it is high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. You can find sliced smoked salmon at most grocery stores.
- Toast your favorite whole-grain bagel. Spread low-fat cream cheese on top.
- Add your smoked salmon, fresh dill, cucumbers, and avocado slices.
- Enjoy on its own or with roasted potatoes on the side!
PCOS Breakfast Ideas: The Takeaway
What if you are feeling tight on time in the morning? Don’t worry, this happens to the best of us. Make sure you have easy PCOS breakfast ideas on hand as well for the days you are in a time pinch.
You can also batch-prep many of these meals ahead of time to have over a few days. This can save tons of time in the long run!
Overall, the most important thing is that you are taking the time to fuel your body in some way in the morning. Not only can this promote weight loss, but it can help balance out your hormone levels as well.
Want to take the guesswork out of meal planning? Our customized PCOS meal plans and programs help women with PCOS:
- Improve fertility, lose weight, increase energy levels, improve mood, and more!
Don’t wait another minute frustrated with your PCOS symptoms. Together we can help you lose weight, get healthy AF, and find your happiness again.
Read through my list of comprehensive, effective nutrition programs to find the perfect fit for you. Can’t wait to hear from you!
by AmyPlano | Apr 22, 2023 | General information about PCOS, PCOS friendly recipes, Weight Loss
Are you looking for high-protein meal ideas that are PCOS-friendly? Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal and metabolic disorder characterized by irregular or missing periods, increased androgens (male hormones), and multiple ovarian cysts.
While PCOS can cause many unwanted symptoms including acne, abnormal hair growth, and weight gain, a healthy diet can play an essential role in managing these symptoms.
Protein is one of the most important macronutrients for a healthy PCOS diet. Incorporating high-protein meals into your day can help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce insulin resistance, and promote weight loss.
In today’s article, I will be going over how to build a PCOS-friendly dinner plate that prioritizes protein. I will also be providing you with five high-protein meal ideas for when you need some inspiration in the kitchen!
How Can High Protein Meal Ideas Help with PCOS?
When you are first diagnosed with PCOS it can be very difficult to know where to turn and what to eat. Diet is so crucial to managing PCOS symptoms because 50-70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance.
In general, a PCOS diet should focus on:
- Lean protein sources
- High fiber foods
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Anti-inflammatory foods
- Low glycemic index foods
Lean protein sources are especially important for PCOS and are what we will focus on in today’s blog. Since women with PCOS are often insulin resistant, their bodies may have a harder time processing carbohydrates.
Protein, on the other hand, has little effect on blood sugar levels and can help regulate insulin secretion, making it an ideal macronutrient for women with PCOS.
Additionally, protein has been shown to promote feelings of fullness, which can help reduce overeating and promote weight loss. Weight loss can be very challenging with PCOS, but is important for managing the condition.
If you need additional guidance, consulting with a specialized PCOS dietitian like myself can help to ensure you tackle your PCOS symptoms and loss weight sustainably.
How do I Build a PCOS Plate?
While I give you all the information and the types of foods you should be eating in my PCOS-friendly food blog, I understand the difficulty of taking these separate food components and building them into a meal you look forward to eating.
Here are a few tips for building a PCOS Plate:
- Aim for 20+ grams of protein per meal (3-4 ounces of chicken, meat, or fish)
- Fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies (broccoli, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
- Fill ½ of your plate with whole grains or starchy veggies (potatoes, beans, squash, quinoa, and brown rice)
- Add a healthy source of fat (avocado or olive oil)
Combining all of these elements into a meal will create a blood sugar-balancing plate that will keep you satisfied and your hormones happy- making it perfect for PCOS.
High Protein Meal Ideas for PCOS
Now we will get into some high-protein meal inspirations that are PCOS-friendly. If you are struggling with what to make for your meals, try out one of these ideas below!
Remember that you can modify any of the meals based on your preferences and dietary restrictions.
Quinoa, Tomato, Corn, and Black Bean Salad with Grilled Chicken
Quinoa is a great source of whole grains and also provides a solid amount of protein at eight grams per cup. Creating a quinoa salad full of fresh produce makes for quick and easy meal prep for the week.
Top the salad with 4-6 ounces of grilled chicken or turkey for an extra protein boost to keep you satiated until your next meal!
- Cook quinoa using the package directions. Add chopped cherry tomatoes, kerneled corn, and black beans.
- Make a dressing mixture with olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and honey.
- Top the salad with 4-6 ounces of grilled chicken. Combine together and serve.
Sheet Pan Salmon, Sweet Potato, and Brussel Sprouts
This sheet pan salmon meal is super easy to prep and makes for easy clean-up!
Salmon provides a great source of protein at 23 grams for 4 ounces. It is also high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
Brussel sprouts are a high fiber, non-starchy veggie great for filling up and giving volume to your plate. Lastly, adding sweet potatoes gives you extra fiber as well as beta-carotene which is converted into Vitamin A in the body.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place fresh salmon on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil.
- Cut up your Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. Place around the salmon fillets.
- Drizzle olive oil on top. Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.
- Bake until the salmon reaches the proper internal temperature and the sweet potatoes are tender.
Greek Yogurt Parfait with Berries, Chia Seeds, and Flax Seeds
Greek yogurt is a solid source of protein at around 15 grams per serving. Additionally, greek yogurt provides beneficial probiotics for gut health as well.
Topping it off with some fresh berries is a great way to add in some fiber and antioxidants. Combining with other toppings such as chia and flax seeds makes this an amazing blood sugar-balancing breakfast that you can eat on the go.
- Choose your favorite non-fat Greek yogurt.
- I love Two Good and Fage because of their high quality and low sugar content.
- Wash and prep your berries of choice. Add them on top of the yogurt.
- Choose the rest of your toppings. Ideas include:
- Flax, chia, and hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, low-sugar granola, mixed nuts, nut butter, and honey for a bit of sweetness.
Tofu and Veggie Stir Fry
For my vegetarian PCOS ladies, a tofu veggie stir fry can be a perfect high-protein meal option to include in your diet. Tofu is a source of soy protein that has been researched to improve insulin resistance and decrease oxidative stress and excess androgens.
- Press the tofu to dry and season it with garlic powder, pepper, and a little salt.
- Throw into a frying pan with some olive oil and minced garlic and cook till crisp.
- Cook in the same pan broccoli, fresh green beans, and peppers to give the meal some fiber.
- Prepare and cook brown rice noodles according to their package. Brown rice can also be used.
- Top with coconut aminos, a healthier alternative to soy sauce, and enjoy!
Grass Fed Beef and Bean Tacos with Whole Wheat Tortillas
Grass-fed beef is a great source of protein, iron, and B Vitamins. It differs from grain-fed beef because it has less saturated fat which can cause inflammation in the body.
Cooking up ground grass-fed beef with low-sodium taco seasoning serves as a great base for your next Taco Tuesday. Adding black beans to the taco along with sliced avocado and salsa can add some extra flavor as well as fiber and healthy fats.
- Prep your grass-fed ground beef and saute it in a pan. Add low-sodium taco seasoning.
- Rinse and drain a can of black beans. Add to the ground beef.
- Saute vegetables of your choice, my favorites are roasted peppers and onions, broccoli, and zucchini.
- Heat whole wheat tortillas and start assembling your tacos.
- Top with sliced avocado, salsa, and/or pico de gallo. If you are looking for a healthier sour cream alternative, try Greek yogurt mixed with spices.
High Protein Meal Ideas for PCOS: The Takeaway
There are plenty of meal combinations you can cook up to manage your PCOS symptoms. These are just a few of my favorites that you can include in your meal planning.
Remember to try to include a protein source in as many meals as you can, to promote satiety and improve insulin resistance.
There is not one perfect meal for PCOS and I encourage you to mix it up. Try new foods and recipes to keep things interesting. Eating healthy does not have to be boring!
If you want further guidance on meal planning and nutrition around PCOS, in my nutrition coaching program, we work together to come up with a personalized plan that prioritizes high-protein meals and other macronutrients to achieve your health goals.
Don’t let PCOS control your life, take control of your health today and head over to my services page for support and guidance on your journey to your best health!
by AmyPlano | Apr 4, 2023 | General information about PCOS, Weight Loss
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS is a hormonal and metabolic condition that affects women all over the globe. If you have PCOS, you may be wondering what PCOS diet and lifestyle habits you can do to improve your condition.
Making dietary changes can help manage your PCOS symptoms, assist with weight loss, and treat hormonal imbalances. While there is no specific PCOS diet, there are certain foods and nutrients that you can add to your day to best support your health.
Keep reading to learn how your diet can play a role in PCOS and my favorite PCOS-friendly foods. These are foods that I recommend all of the time to my nutrition clients as a specialized PCOS dietitian!
How Can Diet Help Manage PCOS Symptoms?
Lifestyle and diet strategies are considered one of the first lines of defense against PCOS. What you decide to eat can help regulate your blood sugar levels, prevent insulin resistance, and manage your weight. These are common problems that women with PCOS face and lead to unwanted symptoms.
Here are a few benefits of a healthy diet for PCOS:
- Reducing inflammation
- Managing hormonal imbalances
- Improving fertility
- Promoting weight loss
- Regulating blood sugar levels and preventing further metabolic complications
- Increasing energy levels and overall quality of life
There is no one-size-fits-all PCOS diet. Each person will have unique dietary needs based on a variety of factors. It is always recommended to consult with your healthcare team or a registered dietitian before starting a new diet, supplement, or treatment protocol.
Can PCOS-Friendly Foods Help With Weight Loss?
Many women with PCOS come to me because they are frustrated that they aren’t losing weight. And trust me, I get it. Having PCOS can make it much harder to lose weight.
That being said, studies do show that women who can lose weight with PCOS have improved symptoms and metabolic markers. Which is hugely important for managing the condition!
Since PCOS can make weight loss more challenging, it may require a multifactorial approach. This means you will want to consider your physical activity, diet, supplement routine, and overall stress management techniques. You have to look at the full picture when it comes to PCOS weight loss.
While eating PCOS-friendly foods can help with weight loss, that is not the only goal of implementing a PCOS diet. The foods I have listed below will help you manage underlying hormonal issues associated with PCOS and weight loss can be a positive side effect.
PCOS-Friendly Foods to Prioritize
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are types of polyunsaturated fatty acids that have many benefits for your overall health. The two main types of omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for women with PCOS. They can help improve insulin resistance, which is a common driver and side effect of PCOS. Additionally, they were shown to improve other metabolic markers such as triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
Foods high in omega-3s include:
- Fish and other seafood, especially cold-water fish (salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, mackerel)
- Seaweed and algae
- Flax seeds, flax seed oil
- Canola oil
It is important to note that plant-based sources of omega-3s are not as easily used by your body. Fish and fish oil are the best ways to get omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
If you don’t like fish or are plant-based, you may want to consider taking a fish oil supplement to get your daily dose of omega-3s.
Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate and a component of plant foods that goes undigested in your digestive tract. Many people aren’t getting enough fiber throughout the day, which can have consequences for your overall health.
In fact, low intake of dietary fiber in women with PCOS is associated with insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism (excess male sex hormones). Both insulin resistance and high androgen levels can worsen PCOS symptoms.
Additionally, fiber is an important nutrient to help with weight management. It can increase your satiety and satisfaction after eating, which later on can curb your appetite and any cravings. An increase in fiber intake has been shown in studies to help with metabolic improvement and weight control in women with PCOS.
High-fiber foods include:
- Whole grains (quinoa, whole wheat, buckwheat)
- Legumes (lentils, beans)
- Nuts and seeds (chia, flax, walnuts, cashews)
- Fruits and vegetables (broccoli, apples, dried fruit, avocado, berries)
Lean Protein Sources
Protein is a vital macronutrient for many of your bodily processes. It can help you feel full for longer, satisfy cravings, stabilize your blood sugar levels, and more.
This macro is especially crucial for women with PCOS and should be prioritized at as many meals as possible. An increase in protein vs carbohydrates has been proven to increase weight loss and improve glucose metabolism in PCOS patients. Try to aim for around 15-20 grams of protein per meal.
Keep in mind that your protein intake should be primarily from sources that are lean and high quality. Protein that is high in saturated fats could have the opposite effect on your weight loss and metabolic markers.
Great sources of lean protein:
- Meat and poultry (turkey, lean and grass-fed beef, chicken)
- Greek yogurt
- Seafood and fish
- Plant protein (legumes, beans, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seeds)
Low Glycemic Index Food
Low glycemic index (low GI) foods are foods that have a low value on the glycemic index scale. The glycemic index rates foods based on their ability to spike your blood sugar levels. Foods that rank low on the scale are less likely to raise your blood sugar than foods with higher values.
Eating low-GI foods can be beneficial for both weight loss and insulin resistance. When researchers looked at the effects of a low GI diet on PCOS, they found that it can have a variety of benefits.
A few studies found that it could positively impact fertility, hirsutism (dark hair growth), weight, and even emotional health. Because of this, low-GI foods seem to be a promising addition to a PCOS-friendly diet.
Some examples of low GI foods:
- Non-starchy vegetables (peppers, broccoli and other green vegetables, tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce)
- Fruits (berries, apples, lemon, limes, pears, avocado, apricots)
- Whole wheat/wheat bran
- Beans and legumes
Research has confirmed that chronic inflammation can be a big contributor to PCOS. Many women with PCOS are found to have higher levels of inflammatory markers.
Inflammation can lead to a whole host of negative consequences for your symptoms and the development of the condition.
One way to combat inflammation is to eat foods with anti-inflammatory properties. When emphasizing these foods, they can help correct hormonal balances, specifically by reducing your androgen levels.
Anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts)
- Green tea
- Olive oil and other healthy fats (nuts, fatty fish)
- Other leafy greens
PCOS Diet: The Takeaway
As you can see, there are plenty of PCOS-friendly foods that you can add to your diet plan. I encourage you to choose a few options from the lists above and plan them into your meals.
Regardless of the specific benefits, eating a diet that is nutrient-dense and diverse is one of the best ways to support your body.
If you are looking to take the guesswork out of your diet, working with a registered dietitian can be extremely helpful!
In my nutrition coaching program, we will work together to come up with a personalized plan to help you manage your PCOS and any other health goals that you have. There is no better time to invest in your health! Head over to my services page to learn more about my current offers today.
by AmyPlano | Mar 20, 2023 | General information about PCOS, PCOS and metabolism, Weight Loss
A common symptom and driver of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is insulin resistance or the inability of your body to effectively use the hormone insulin.
Did you know that up to 80% of women with PCOS deal with insulin resistance (IR)?
While it is not part of the diagnostic criteria for PCOS, the two are frequently associated with one another. If IR is not treated properly, it can lead to further hormonal and metabolic problems. Which for obvious reasons, you want to avoid!
In today’s article, I will be breaking down the connection between PCOS and IR. This includes what insulin resistance is, how it relates to PCOS, and my best tips for improving IR as a PCOS dietitian. Keep reading to learn more!
Are you pre-diagnosis and wondering if you have PCOS? Head over to this page on my website to learn more information about what PCOS is and how it is diagnosed.
What is Insulin?
Insulin resistance involves a naturally occurring hormone inside your body called insulin. Insulin is produced in your pancreas and regulates the amount of glucose, or sugar, in your blood.
How it works (in simple terms):
- When you eat food, it gets broken down into sugar and enters your bloodstream
- Your pancreas is signaled to release insulin
- Insulin works hard to help the sugar get used as energy in your cells or signals the liver to store the sugar to use later
- This lowers the amount of glucose in your blood
However, the process only works this way when your body is functioning how it should. People living with certain conditions, such as diabetes, develop the inability to produce and utilize insulin correctly.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Now that you’ve learned about insulin, let’s dive into what insulin resistance is. Insulin resistance is when your cells stop responding to insulin properly.
Imagine your pancreas is pumping out insulin in response to all of the sugar in your blood. After a while, your cells become sensitive or resistant to this insulin and aren’t able to use it in the right way anymore.
Typically your poor pancreas will react by making even more insulin until it can’t keep up any longer. As a result, your blood sugar levels stay high and can start to harm your body.
Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
So, how do you know if you are insulin resistant?
Typical signs and symptoms of insulin resistance to look out for in women with PCOS:
- Increased or frequent urination
- Excessive hunger or thirst
- Feeling tired all the time
- Feeling hungry after you eat
- Acanthosis nigricans (dark pigmentation and thickening of the skin)
- Elevated inflammatory markers and lipid levels
- High fasting blood sugar and insulin levels
- And more!
Gaining weight and difficulty losing weight are also associated with insulin resistance in women. However, it is important to note that signs and symptoms may be different for everyone.
IR is typically diagnosed using lab work that tests for fasting glucose and insulin levels, as well as the HOMA-IR index (a scale used to assess how your body uses insulin).
How are PCOS and Insulin Resistance Related?
Many people associate PCOS with a hormonal disorder involving the ovaries and ovulation, but it is also a metabolic disorder that has an impact on your whole body.
We are continuing to find out more and more about the connection between PCOS and insulin resistance. Many researchers believe that insulin levels are linked to PCOS because lots of women with PCOS have too much insulin inside their bodies.
Insulin resistance is not only a symptom of PCOS but can actually drive the condition and make it worse. Having high insulin levels in the blood is associated with an increase in androgen (male sex) hormones such as testosterone. We know that women with PCOS already have elevated levels of androgen hormones, so this is not ideal.
In the reverse direction, androgen levels can also increase insulin levels. Many women with PCOS find themselves in a vicious cycle because as one rises, the other follows along. Symptoms start to worsen and quality of life can absolutely decrease!
How are IR and Weight Gain Related?
I mentioned that IR can lead to weight gain- but why is this? When insulin levels are elevated, it causes you to store fat very easily. Insulin can also stimulate appetite and make you more hungry. As your insulin levels increase, you may find that you are craving more sugary and carb-rich foods.
Because of these factors, studies show that women with PCOS and IR are more likely to gain weight and have trouble keeping it off. They also have an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic complications.
If you have PCOS and struggle to lose weight, working on your insulin resistance is a great step towards reaching your weight loss goals.
Tips for Improving Insulin Resistance
Nutrition and lifestyle changes are the best way to improve insulin resistance. Lots of research is emerging on how with physical activity and the right eating patterns, insulin resistance can be repaired.
My best tips for addressing and improving IR:
- Focus on an overall nutrient-dense, balanced diet and a regular exercise routine that is sustainable for you and your lifestyle.
- You do not need to cut out all carbs! Instead, prioritize whole-grain and high-fiber carbohydrate options when possible.
- Examples include quinoa, whole wheat, brown rice, legumes, fruits, and vegetables
- Additionally, pair your carbohydrates with lean protein and healthy fats to create a balanced meal.
- Maintain a healthy weight and get regular bloodwork done to check glucose and insulin levels.
- Eat regular meals at regular intervals throughout the day and try to avoid skipping meals for periods time.
- Address any nutrient deficiencies that may contribute to IR such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega-3s. Include whole food sources of these nutrients in your daily diet.
- Manage your stress levels and make sure you are getting good quality sleep at night.
Some women with PCOS may benefit from insulin-reducing drugs such as Metformin or Actos. It is important to consult with your healthcare team about what treatment options are right for you!
PCOS and Insulin Resistance: The Takeaway
If you are a woman with PCOS, it is likely that you are insulin resistant to some extent and could benefit from reducing insulin levels in your body.
Many signs and symptoms become tolerable after improving IR. Yes, there’s hope! You can use the tips I outlined above as a great starting point for addressing this underlying issue.
Looking for additional guidance and support with nutrition and PCOS? I know this all can be overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, I got you! You do not need to go another day being frustrated over your PCOS symptoms.
I am a specialized PCOS weight loss dietitian and am here to help. Head over to my services page to learn more about my personalized programs that are tailored to your individual needs. It is time to lose weight, get healthy AF, and feel fabulous along the way.
by AmyPlano | Jul 23, 2019 | PCOS and carbohydrates, PCOS and Fats, Uncategorized, Weight Loss
How to Count your Macros when you have PCOS
Learning how to count your macros when you have PCOS is a hot topic! But, before I walk you through how to do this – I need to explain what the heck macros are in the first place. Macros or more properly known as macronutrients represent the amount of the three nutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fat you need to consume to reach to achieve your dietary goals. These values are expressed in grams and are all based on the amount of calories you consume daily.
In order to determine our macros when you have PCOS, you need to know how many calories you should be consuming. In addition, you need to know the percentage of each macronutrient you should be consuming daily. The PCOS Dietitian suggests the following breakdown:
So, basically when someone tells you they are, “Counting their macros,” this simply means they are counting and tracking the amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat they take in each day.
Before we determine how to count your macros when you have PCOS we need to talk a bit about calories. While everyone with PCOS has different dietary goals, most women are seeking weight loss. Therefore, for the premise of this blog, we are going to base the calories and macros on the short-term goal of weight loss.
However, as you can imagine determining your calories for weight loss when you have PCOS is not a simple process. Your calorie needs are just as unique as you are! Your calories for weight loss depend on many variables including your: age, gender, height, weight, body fat, physical activity level, type of job and even your sleep patterns. Therefore, I would highly recommend meeting with a Registered Dietitian who specializes in PCOS to either have your metabolism tested or just to obtain some guidance on how to determine your personalized calorie needs.
In order to illustrate how to count your macros when you have PCOS, we are going to use a calorie amount of 1,400 calories per day. This would likely be a good starting point for a 25 year old female who is 5 feet 4 inches, weighs 180 pounds, is around 30 percent body fat, works out 3 times per week doing cardio 30 minutes per session, has a sedentary desk job and gets around 5 to 6 hours per night of uninterrupted sleep. Once again, your needs will likely be different, but I am using 1400 calories to provide a concrete example of how to determine your macros.
Carbohydrates and PCOS
Not surprisingly, the majority of food we eat is typically made up of carbohydrates? Carbohydrates provide energy for the body. The two main types of carbohydrates – are simple carbs (SC) and complex carbs (CC). SC occur naturally in the foods we eat. They are foods like yogurt and milk products, fruit and honey. SC are also added to food when it is processed. Examples of foods with added SC include soft drinks, cookies, ice cream, most granola bars and candy. Conversely, CC are considered more nutrient dense as they contain more fiber, vitamins and mineral than SC. Complex carbohydrates include foods made from whole grains like rice and pasta as well as legumes (beans, lentils and peas) and starchy vegetables like corn and winter squash.
In our bodies SC break down very quickly. They enter the bloodstream almost immediately causing a spike in blood sugar. This in turn prompts a rapid increase in insulin. Consequently, eating too many SC can exacerbate the symptoms of PCOS by worsening IR and facilitating weight gain.
Conversely, complex carbohydrates can improve insulin resistance as they slowly release glucose allowing for optimal insulin regulation. Due to their slow absorption rate, CC promotes an increased sense of fullness and satiety. That is why I encourage the majority of your be complex carbohydrates.
How to Determine your Carbohydrates Macros when you have PCOS
When you have PCOS, I generally recommend keeping carbohydrates under 40 percent of your total calories. This would mean if you were following a 1,400 calorie diet, you would should be consuming 140 grams of carbohydrates or less per day.
How did I get to that number? Let’s take a look at my math.
Protein and PCOS
Protein is essential. It is pretty much required for every single structure and action in the body. Everything from your hair, nails, skins and bones to your ligaments, hormones and enzymes are composed of protein.
Protein is derived from animal foods like meat, poultry, pork, fish, seafood, eggs and dairy. Plant based proteins include legumes, nuts and soy.
Protein takes longer than carbohydrates to digest and confers a sense of satiety. Also, generally protein by itself doesn’t require much insulin to be processed. This is because protein is not converted to glucose. Hence, protein does not raise insulin like carbohydrates. That is why I often recommend including a small amount of protein with your meals and snacks. This helps stabilize blood sugar and improves your overall insulin response.
How to Determine your Protein Macros when you have PCOS
When you have PCOS, I generally recommend keeping carbohydrates at around 30 percent of your total calories. This would mean if you were following a 1,400 calorie diet, you would should be consuming around 105 grams of protein per day.
How did I get to that number? Let’s take a look at my math.
Fat and PCOS
You might be wondering exactly where fat fits into a healthy lifestyle for PCOS. Despite its demonization, fat is an important part of our diet. Fat supports and cushions our internal organs, helps to regulate body temperature, and allows for proper absorption of several vitamins. Fat also provides the building blocks for many of our sex hormones. Fats are found in a variety of food from butter and oils to dairy products, meats and processed foods.
The right types of fats when carefully consumed can help improve insulin levels. Like protein, dietary fat alone doesn’t require insulin because it doesn’t breakdown into glucose. It also helps keep us satisfied longer thereby reducing overeating. Fat also has the unique ability to provide an increased palatability and mouth feel carbohydrates and fat don’t.
However, in spite of its many awesome insulin-lowering qualities you can’t eat as much fat as want. In fact, diets high in certain types of fats can actually contribute to IR, heart disease, hypertension and certain types of cancers.
How to Determine your Fat Macros when you have PCOS
When you have PCOS, I generally recommend keeping fat at around 30 percent of your total calories. This would mean if you were following a 1,400 calorie diet, you would should be consuming 47 grams of fat per day.
How did I get to that number? Let’s take a look at my math.
Everybody and their mother is counting macros these days and you can too! All you need to know is how many calories per day you need to consume to meet your dietary goals. Then you simply apply the percentages 40, 30 and 30 respectively for carbohydrates, protein and fat. Lastly, you divide these values by each nutrient’s calorie value to arrive at your macronutrient amount in grams. Therefore, using the example noted above for someone following a 1,400 calorie diet their macros would be as follows:
Diet is critical in effectively managing PCOS. The foods we consume have a significant impact on our hormones. Balancing your hormones is critical to having an optimal metabolism. Since it is obvious that the underlying cause of PCOS is hormonal imbalance, it is not surprising that diet can impact the symptoms and metabolic consequences of PCOS. Determining your macros when you have PCOS isn’t difficult it just takes a little math! Macro patterns like the ones discussed in this article that support lower insulin levels should be an integral part of healthy diet for PCOS.