A PCOS Diet Plan for Indian Women
PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is affecting more than 50% of adolescent girls in India. It’s a disorder where females develop small cysts in their ovaries.
One of the most common concerns of females suffering from the disorder is – Can we reverse or cure PCOS? The answer to this is unclear. But lifestyle and dietary changes play a remarkable role in managing the symptoms of PCOS and preventing its long-term effects.
PCOS and Its Causes
PCOS is a hormonal disorder affecting the female reproductive system. Metabolic imbalance and fertility issues are some common effects of PCOS in women.
What causes PCOS? - The answer to this question is still unclear. However, research shows that multiple factors like – genes, obesity, poor dietary choices, physical inactivity, and other external factors might contribute to the development of PCOS (1).
Symptoms of PCOS to Watch Out for
Around 50% of women diagnosed with PCOS tend to be obese or overweight. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Hirsutism (excessive male pattern hair growth)
- Oligomenorrhea (irregular menses)
- Insulin resistance
How to overcome these risks? By Managing PCOS
Initially, you can focus on reducing insulin resistance and weight management. This might eventually balance your hormones, keep your periods on track, and also reduce the growth of unwanted hair on your body.
Indian Foods to Add to Your Indian PCOS Diet Plan
Being an Indian, you might come across the question about how to manage your PCOS while following an Indian diet? Don’t worry! Here’s a list of all the foods from your kitchen shelves packed with the potential to manage PCOS.
Make High-Fiber and Leafy Vegetables Your BFF
Increasing your fiber intake might help you control your blood sugar levels. As fibers tend to make you feel full, a high-fiber diet might help you reduce overall calorie intake. And this may aid in managing or controlling your weight. Approximately 25-29g of fibers is recommended per day (per 2000kcal intake). To meet this requirement, you can add grains, legumes, pulses, nuts and oilseeds, fruits, and vegetables to your diet. Dark green leafy vegetables like kale spinach, amaranth, etc. are rich in antioxidants, folate, magnesium, iron, and many such nutrients. Thus, they might help to prevent nutrient deficiencies that might occur due to PCOS. Adequate intake of magnesium might result in reduced levels of androgens (male hormones) in women suffering from PCOS (6). The inositol in green leafy vegetables might reduce your sugar cravings, improve ovulation, and treat infertility issues (7).
Recipes using high-fiber foods and green leafy vegetables to include in diet for PCOS
- Mung dal and spinach chilla (Dosa/pancake)
- Lentil and spinach soup
- Sprouts and kale pulao (rice)
Choose Healthy Fats
Healthy fats or omega-3 fatty acids may relieve the symptoms of PCOS like insulin resistance (8). They might also reduce inflammation and enhance the overall energy levels in your body. Where do you get these healthy fats from? Foods like fatty fish (salmon, sardine, cod, etc.), and nuts, and oilseeds. If you are on an Indian vegetarian diet for PCOS, you can also choose avocados, flaxseed oil, flaxseed oil supplements, eggs, etc. to meet your daily omega-3 fatty acid requirements. Even a tablespoon of roasted or soaked flax seeds can give you around 1800mg of omega-3 fatty acids (more than 100% of daily recommendation by ICMR).
Ways to include healthy fats in Indian diets for managing PCOS
- Breakfast cereals, porridge, smoothies, and puddings with a tablespoon of flaxseed powder
- Boiled salmon and vegetable salads
- Wraps and sandwiches with avocados and boiled eggs
Replace Red Meat with Lean Protein
Red meats such as beef, lamb, mutton, pork, etc. are high in unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats). These fats may increase insulin resistance and male hormone secretion in the body of women suffering from PCOS (9). Hence, it is advisable to replace red meat with lean protein sources like lean chicken, fish, lean beef, eggs, etc. in your diet for managing PCOS.
Say No to Sugar, Refined Cereals, and Saturated Fat
Sugar and refined cereals like Maida (refined flour) are easy-to-digest sugars. They can contribute to a sudden rise in your blood sugar levels. This might affect your insulin metabolism worsening insulin resistance. These products, as they lack fiber, digest faster and make you feel hungry after a short time. You might end up ingesting more calories leading to weight gain. Saturated fats present in processed foods, red meats, cream, etc. might worsen your symptoms of PCOS. Hence, it is recommended to cut off refined cereals, sugars, and saturated fats from the diets meant to manage PCOS.
Healthy alternatives to sugar, refined cereals, and saturated fats
Make Seeds and Nuts a Part of Your Daily Life
Nuts and seeds include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc. A handful of nuts and seeds every day can provide you with healthy fats, dietary fibers, calcium, zinc, and other nutrients. Healthy fats might help you reduce insulin resistance and balance hormones. Zinc in the nuts and seeds might reduce your hair fall and hirsutism (10).
Some healthy nuts and seeds delicacies in India that can be added to your PCOS management diet
Add Flavor (and Antioxidants) with Indian Herbs and Spices
One of the most common herbs found in every Indian kitchen is turmeric. Recently, studies conducted on turmeric have shown that it might decrease insulin resistance among women suffering from PCOS (11). Ayurveda recommends consuming turmeric and ginger along with the diet to attain hormonal balance and manage the symptoms of PCOS (12).
Herbs like Shatavari, Ashwagandha, Holy Basil (Tulsi) can be added to optimize your diet for managing PCOS. They might help you improve your menstrual cycle and insulin resistance. Among spices, cinnamon, cloves, and oregano are rich in antioxidants. Adding them to your PCOS management diet might enhance your fertility, improve the menstrual cycles, and reduce insulin resistance.
How to include herbs and spices in an Indian diet for managing PCOS?
- Simply add turmeric and ginger powder or ready-to-consume turmeric latte spice mix to your milk
- Drink herbal tea once or twice a day
- Consume aloe vera and amla juice twice a day for blood sugar regulation
- Tulsi honey, and tulsi extract can be added to your salad dressings, dals, and khichadi for flavoring
PCOS-friendly Dairy Alternatives
Women with PCOS are at higher risk of obesity and conditions like insulin resistance, diabetes, etc. Reducing the intake of dairy might help to manage obesity and prevent these conditions. There is a long list of dairy alternatives that can be added to your diet for managing PCOS. For instance, tofu, tempeh, soymilk, peanut butter, almond butter, almond milk, coconut milk, and many more. While planning an Indian diet for managing PCOS, you can replace cottage cheese (paneer) with tofu and normal milk with soymilk or almond milk.
Here are the PCOS-friendly breakfast, dinner, and lunch recipes you can plan using these alternatives:
- Tofu bhurji
- Tofu paratha
- Almond milk kheer
- Soy milk payasam
Why is Weight-loss Important for Women with PCOS?
Obesity might become the reason behind the increase in insulin resistance, and secretion of male hormones (androgens). This may worsen the symptoms of PCOS (13). Thus, weight loss is important for women with PCOS to ensure hormonal balance, regular menses, and prevent diabetes as well as infertility issues. Here are some tips for the same:
Lower your carb intake:
A low-carb diet with more high-fiber foods might help you reduce insulin resistance. Further, fibers make you feel full for longer. This in turn may lower your calorie intake and contribute to weight loss.
Increase protein intake:
Protein can make you feel full for a longer time. Digestion of protein also helps your body burn more calories. You can include high-protein foods like legumes, pulses, nuts, oilseeds, tofu, eggs, etc. to your diet to manage PCOS.
Physical activity, especially strength training and yoga might help you with losing weight by improving your muscle strength and burning more calories.
Using herbal products for weight loss:
Herbs are rich in antioxidants that might help your body reduce inflammation and enhance fitness. They also contribute to relieving mental and physical stress. Consuming herbs like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, etc. might increase your basal metabolic rate. Thus, they might aid in the weight loss process. Read the article on “Herbal teas to keep PCOS at bay” to know more.
The prevalence of PCOS among women is increasing with time. There is no strong evidence for its causes. However, PCOS can be managed with dietary and lifestyle changes. Focusing on weight loss, reducing insulin resistance, and hormonal balance with a high-fiber diet, herbal supplements, along with physical activities might help you manage the condition.