If you're someone who suffers from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), you likely do everything you can to keep your symptoms at bay. Although the hormonal disorder cannot be cured, it can be managed, and there are a number of foods that can help with PCOS. As is the case with many other health issues, diet matters greatly when it comes to PCOS, and shifting what you can eat can play a role in not only helping you feel better, but possibly improving your fertility down the line.
"PCOS is a chronic syndrome that is identified by hormonal imbalance, insulin resistance, and inflammation," holistic fertility specialist Aumatma Shah tells Bustle. "Natural medicine has quite a lot to offer towards treatment of PCOS which can help to rectify the imbalance. However the likelihood of insulin resistance and inflammation recurring is high if diet is not addressed. Hence, PCOS is syndrome that is best managed long-term with the support of a proper diet."
When it comes to this disorder, controlling blood sugar is important, and including high-fiber and anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce symptoms. Including foods that fit these profiles can aid in helping you feel your best. Here are six foods that help support PCOS, according to experts.
Avocados are a great source of healthy unsaturated fats, which are important in a PCOS diet. "Avocados pack a high dosage of essential fatty acids, which can help regulate hormones, periods, and ovulation," Avner Hershlag, MD, Chief, Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwell Health Fertility, tells Bustle. They can also decrease inflammation and help manage blood sugar.
Legumes, which include beans, lentils and chickpeas, are high in fiber and other important minerals. "Like other protein-rich foods, legumes are filling and digested slowly," Paula C. Brady, M.D., Reproductive Endocrinologist at the Columbia University Fertility Center, tells Bustle. "Due to their fiber and complex carbohydrate content, legumes are also associated with lower blood sugar and insulin levels."
3. Nuts & Seeds
"[Nuts and seeds] both work overtime to regulate cholesterol, insulin resistance, and androgen levels in women with PCOS, while offering a healthy dose of protein and antioxidants," says Dr. Hershlag. Flax seeds in particular help to detoxify the body, bind to excess estrogen and help stabilize hormone levels, and decrease inflammation, says Shah.
4. Leafy Greens
Getting plenty of dark leafy greens into your diet is important when you have PCOS. "Kale in particular is beneficial due to its high levels of calcium," says Dr. Hershlag. "Calcium is key for fueling follicle development and egg maturation in women with PCOS, and it also aids metabolism and thyroid function." Cruciferous veggies, which include kale, cabbage, broccoli, and more, also help the liver flush excess estrogen that can exacerbate symptoms, says functional nutritionist Alisa Vitti, HHC, AADP.
Whole fruits, especially berries, are high in nutrients that can help manage PCOS by fighting inflammation and helping with insulin resistance. "The tasty sugar content of fruit is offset by fiber, which reduces insulin and glucose levels in the blood," says Dr. Brady. "Avoid processed versions of fruit, which are very high in sugar without the fiber component, such as fruit juices, jam, jelly, and canned fruits."
6. Wild Fish
"A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (abundant in fish), has been shown to lower cholesterol, insulin, and testosterone levels in women with PCOS, as well as reduce excess body hair," says Dr. Brady. "As an alternative, omega-3 fatty acids are also available in supplement form." Fish can also help stabilize mood — which can be erratic with PCOS — thanks to these fatty acids, says Vitti.
If you suffer from PCOS, talk to your doctor about trying to incorporate these foods into your diet to help manage symptoms.