This is part 3 of our PCOS Weight Loss Series. In the previous blog posts, we had a closer look at five things that can lead to weight gain in women with PCOS and make it difficult to lose it. One of the main underlying reasons we discussed is insulin resistance, which drives PCOS in about 75% of cases.
Then we talked about the benefits of a moderate to low-carb diet for PCOS, which focuses on keeping the hormone insulin low. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas whenever we eat carbohydrates. It has 3 roles that we explored further in the last post, which include opening the cells to receive glucose from the blood stream, storing fat and initiating an inflammatory response inside the body. Since high insulin levels can drive the ovaries to produce excess testosterone, lowering insulin can improve PCOS symptoms associated with high levels of this male hormone, which include acne, hair loss, hirsutism and a lack of ovulation. Please read the last posts of this series for more details and additional information.
As previously discussed as part of our series on PCOS and weight loss, a low to moderate-carbohydrate intake, which means getting about 15 to 30% of you daily caloric intake from carbs, is recommended to keep hormones balanced. The main reason why this approach works for women with PCOS, is because it focusses on keeping the hormone insulin low.
The best way to integrate carbs into your daily food intake is to have a small amount of whole grains or starchy vegetables with every main meal. There are other, more practical things, that you can do in order to balance your blood sugar, which basically means that you try to avoid drastic spikes and drops of the glucose levels in your blood. As you know by now, high glucose levels lead to high insulin levels. I would love for you to benefit from this post as much as possible, so I will give you some practical tips that will be easy for you to apply in your life.
So, here is Tip number one for balanced blood sugar levels:
Eat Within One Hour of Waking Up
Did you know that skipping breakfast can wrack havoc on your hormones? If you skip breakfast, your body will interpret this as stress. Consequently, your stress and hunger hormones rise and your metabolism slows down. This can lead to increased cravings for carbohydrates throughout the day, feeling moody and grumpy and worsen your PCOS symptoms. For stable blood sugar levels and to prevent cravings, it’s best to eat breakfast within one hour of waking up. When talking about breakfast, I don’t mean a cup of coffee with a croissant or pancakes. Of course the quality of your food counts, which leads us to my second tip
Load Up on Protein, Fiber and Healthy Fats
Cutting out carbs completely is firstly, impossible to do, and secondly, not recommended for PCOS, especially if you suffer from high stress or have got an underlying thyroid condition. When it comes to carbohydrates, it’s best to choose those that are digested slowly and thus increase glucose levels within the blood only minimally.
Those carbs include pulses like beans, chickpeas or lentils, whole grains like brown or red rice, quinoa or whole oats, and sweet vegetables such as pumpkin or sweet corn.
Don’t eat carbohydrates by themselves. Always combine them with protein, healthy fats and fiber.
For breakfast, you could have some eggs with a handful of vegetables and olive oil and a small slice of wholegrain bread, for example. Lunch could be salmon with vegetables and a small portion of sweet potato mash. Carrots with Hummus or Greek yogurt with berries and some nuts make a great snack.
Protein aids in weight loss and increases your metabolic rate. Fiber found mostly in fruits and vegetables or nuts and seeds like avocados and chia seeds, help improve insulin resistance and are packed with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and anti-oxidants. Fats are vital building blocks for the body and, combined with carbs, can slow down their absorption. Now, let’s have a look at tip number 3:
Eat Every 5 to 6 Hours and Avoid Constant Snacking
Every time you eat, big or small amounts of insulin are being secreted. Did you know that even protein can raise insulin levels? This is especially true for red meat or whey protein, found in milk or most protein powders. In order to keep insulin low, it’s best to avoid too much snacking and if you do, have something high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates. My favorite go-to snacks are eggs and vegetables with humus. Seed crackers also make an amazing PCOS snack. Try to keep meals 5 to 6 hours apart, so your insulin levels can drop. Some women with PCOS suffer from hyperinsulinemia, where blood sugar levels can drop drastically in the afternoon. In that case, a more carbohydrate-rich snack would be a good option.
So, to recap, for balanced blood sugar levels, you want to avoid blood sugar spikes by following a low to moderate carb approach. Eat a small amount of carbs with every meal. Don’t skip breakfast, but eat within one hour of waking up. Have a balanced meal and space those meals about 5 to 6 hours apart. Snack only if necessary.
I hope this blog post is helpful to you. What have you tried before that has worked for you? What will you do this week? Share with us in the comments below and make a commitment to yourself to take action.
Sending you my love,