Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition which many women live with, and are unaware that diet and lifestyle can play a major role in helping manage some of the symptoms. Let us help you understand the symptoms and how small changes in your diet can make a big difference.

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS is a hormonal condition which affects up to 1 in 5 girls and women in their reproductive years. It is caused by increased levels of male hormones in the ovaries which affect the menstrual system and can lead to infertility, enlarged ovaries and ovarian cysts.  The cause of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is unknown, however, family history, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, lifestyle and environment can be contributing factors.


What are the symptoms?

Up to 70% of women with PCOS remain undiagnosed as there are so many symptoms and not every woman experiences every one.  Symptoms include:

  • Excessive hair growth (on face, chest or back),
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding,
  • Mental health issues including depression and anxiety
  • Thinning hair or alopecia
  • Difficulty falling pregnant
  • Swollen belly
  • Irregular or no period
  • Acne
  • Easy weight gain

What are the risk factors?

Women with the following health conditions are at higher risk for developing PCOS:

  • High Blood Pressure,
  • Type 2 Diabetes,
  • High Cholesterol,
  • Heart Disease,
  • Sleep Apnoea.


How can PCOS be managed with diet?

An eating plan designed to maintain a healthy weight can help to manage Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

  • Include lean proteins and vegetables to promote weight loss.
  • Choose Low GI carbohydrate sources – check out our blog for more information on GI.
  • Try to spread your carbohydrates out evenly throughout your day. Breakfast, lunch and choosing a dinner of lean protein and vegetables when you don’t require as much energy.
  • Combine proteins with carbohydrates at breakfast and lunch to regulate blood sugar levels and stay fuller for longer.
  • Choose good fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and fish (salmon and tuna).
  • Keep a regular meal schedule, 2-3 hours between eating helps to maintain blood sugar levels.
  • Try to avoid sugary foods such as juices, dried fruit, smoothies, lollies, milky coffees, refined carbohydrates (pizza, rice crackers, white bread and snack foods) as these foods will spike blood sugar levels.


Menu Suggestion

Breakfast:  2 eggs + 1 slice wholegrain toast + 1 cup vegetables (spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion)

Snack:  4 vitaweet crackers + 2 slices cheese

Lunch:  Wholegrain tuna and salad wrap

Snack:  Mixed nut bar

Dinner:  Lean meat/ fish + 2 cups vegetables (salad or cooked)


If you are struggling to find a healthy diet and lifestyle for your symptoms, we can help provide you with simple and achievable changes to improve your health and manage your symptoms.


Having diabetes doesn’t mean a total removal of all sugar and carbohydrates, its more about being strategic with the TYPE and the AMOUNT you have.


Why does the TYPE and the AMOUNT matter?

The TYPE refers to the glycaemic index of the food eating (think table sugar VS wholegrain bread). The table sugar is going to very quickly be absorbed into your blood stream, potentially spiking your blood sugars, while the wholegrain bread (a low GI food) will take a longer time to be digested, giving you a smoother rise and fall in your sugar levels.


Of course, the AMOUNTof these foods also matters. Eating a small amount of rice (1/3 cup cooked – ½ cup cooked) shouldn’t spike your sugars above your target range, but have 1-2 cups would almost certainly send them sky-high.


Generally speaking, I suggest no more than 2 serves of carbohydrates at any one time for main meals, evenly spread throughout the day, with a low carbohydrate snack in between (up to 1 serve carbohydrates).


Well, what does 1 serve equal you might be asking: 

1 serve is equivalent to:

-      1 slice bread

-      ½ bread roll

-      1 glass milk

-      small tub yogurt

-      medium piece of fruit

-      ½ cup cooked pasta

-      1/3 cup cooked rice, etc.


Now you know more about why we need to be mindful of the TYPE and AMOUNT, how do we put it into practice? Simple swaps and altering of recipes can work wonders in terms of lowering the glycaemic index (the type) and reducing the load (the amount) of carbohydrates.


Some ideas include: 

-      Swapping 1 cup cooked short grain rice for 2/3 cup cooked long grain rice (doongara or basmati) and adding 1/3 cup cauliflower rice

-      Swapping added sugar yogurt for natural Greek yogurt and adding berries (which are low carb, low GI) for flavouring

-      Using 2 wholegrain sandwich thins (equivalent to 1 slice normal bread and low GI) instead of 2 slices white bread (high GI)

-      Swapping 2 cups cooked pasta for 1 cup cooked wholemeal pasta or high fibre pasta and adding 1 cup zucchini noodles (what a good way to get an extra serve of vegetables in! – works well with the kids too!)

-      Swapping a large white wrap for a smaller wholegrain wrap

-      Adding berries to cereal instead of adding banana

Want to know more? We would LOVE to help you better manage your diabetes. Taking control of your own food and keeping your sugar levels within your target range is beyond empowering, so let us help you get there!


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