Are sugar and PCOS friends? Can I have bread? Can I have carbs with my dinner? Should I cut them out completely?! It’s confusing isn’t it, all the misleading information about what you can and can’t eat with PCOS. The internet is a powerful tool but can be detrimental to many if the wrong information is obtained.
Looking at your intake of carbs, sugar and PCOS is your first step to overcoming PCOS. It is not a sprint, it’s a marathon that can take years of nutritional education, personal experimentation, commitment and self-compassion. Yes I have a Nutrition degree, however the majority of my PCOS knowledge and how I reserved all my symptoms was from my own research and plenty of trial and error.
This is why I do what I do. To make sure you don’t have to waste 15 years of your life trialling every diet, doctor and pill out there. I’ve done it all for you, and can help you change your life around and see changes in as little as a month!
So back to the diet. Let’s start with sugar..
SUGAR AND PCOS
80% of us cysters have insulin resistance, which unfortunately brings a sweet tooth with it. This can make it incredibly difficult to cut out sugar for some of us, as it is incredibly addictive too. Sugar is in just about everything too which makes it even harder to quit. What we want to do is break our emotional connection with sweet foods, and push it out of our diet to control our PCOS.
As a former sugarholic, I can completely empathize with you all. I look back to Uni, and I genuinely used to have pic’n’mix every single day without fail. I would always have to end each meal with someone sweet and wasn’t satisfied until this happened. I was also addicted to icecream, another huge no no for PCOS (full of sugar and high dairy content).
Don’t get me wrong, I do still enjoy sweet things and some are ok in moderation, we just need to stay clear of the processed, artificial stuff. When I first went sugar free, I decided to cut it completely. I saw huge improvements in my skin, mood and energy levels. I also dropped the weight around my stomach and found the less I had sugar, the less I craved it.
As I am a preacher of balance, and life is to be enjoyed I don’t deprive myself of sugar completely anymore. I’m very mindful of when I have it, what type I have and how much.
But what actually is sugar?
Almost all sources of sugar are made from two simple sugars known as fructose and glucose. Fructose for PCOS has much more evidence linked that is worse for us, with higher body fat storage, liver disease and insulin resistance.
Sugar consumption promotes inflammatory pathways and has a big effect on your blood sugars, which could lead to Diabetes later down the line. It is also linked to unwanted facial hair, acne, anxiety and depression.
As much as I promote Low GI foods, unfortunately fructose although harmful for PCOS is actually considered Low GI so this is where It can get confusing. Food companies will use this tactic to confuse consumers, hence we need to be very hot on checking food labels and understanding what we are looking for.
If you are going to have sugar, always go for unprocessed, fresh organic foods. Whole fresh fruit is always the better option than chocolate or sweets as it contains fibre and healthy micronutrients.
To keep fructose consumption within safe levels, aim for 1 – 2 servings a day and stick to LOW GI fruits.
Glucose is a lot subtler in its effect on our body, considering it’s a simple sugar and the prime source of energy. When we have too much too quickly, it can spike our blood sugar levels that drive our hormone imbalances.
If we consistently bombard out bodies will too much glucose, we become less sensitive to insulin. This creates an imbalance which has a detrimental effect on our ovaries, skin and hair. It also contributes to fat accumulation and why it’s very difficult for us to lose weight!
4 foods to instantly stay away from are breakfast cereals, jams, sugary sauces and low-fat products (as they pack them with sugar!)
CARBS AND PCOS
Following on from sugar, refined carbohydrate foods are ones we really need to be careful of – firstly for the fact they usually are packed with sugar, and are the major source of glucose in our diet. Pizza is my absolute go to and I once was a sucker for a warm white roll loaded with butter, but when I wanted to heal my PCOS I knew I had to give this up.
DO NOT fear though, I still eat bread most days (GF!) and enjoy pizza now and again – there are food swaps and choices we can make to not make our PCOS symptoms worse.
Carbohydates by definition are made up of long chains of glucose stuck together into larger molecules. When we eat them, they break down quickly causing our blood sugar levels to rise, contributing to insulin resistance.
High GI Carbs are ones we need to watch out for, and these include bread, pasta, white rice and white potatoes. They are all types of pseudo-sugars and we must avoid them to keep our hormones under control.
We don’t need to banish carbs completely, as our bodies do need them to function for energy, cell regeneration and hormone regulation. It’s the type of carbohydrate we need to consider. Sweet potato and quinoa are two of my go to’s, Low GI and are broken down slowly so our sugar levels remain consistent.
We want to aim to keep our carb intake to 50-100g a day, depending on how much weight you have to lose (if this is a goal of yours!).
To summarise, carbs, sugar and PCOS do not go hand in hand. We want to be filling our plates with plenty of protein, healthy fats and leafy green vegetables. If we can avoid that sweet after each meal, the more our hormones will thank us for it. Pick your carbohydrates wisely, and in moderation.
As I always preach, life is about balance and you deserve to enjoy things that make you happy. Having a sweet treat now and again will not cause you any harm. However, when you start your journey of overcoming PCOS we want to implement habits and your body needs to realise your diet changes to see your symptoms reversing,
Start the journey, get your diet and lifestyle under control, create new habits and you’ll be feeling a happier, healthier fitter you in no time!