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Overweight and obesity is common among with with PCOS, but that doesn't mean you can't be successful! What foods should you avoid eating if you suffer from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

Do you have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and are you struggling with your weight?

You're not alone —  an estimated 44 percent of women with PCOS are obese, something that further increases their androgen levels and insulin resistance, and makes it more likely that they will suffer from infertility. What's more, weight tends to build up around the abdomen in women with PCOS in a phenomenon called android obesity or central obesity. It is exactly this kind of obesity that is most strongly linked to both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. [1]

The very fact that so many others with PCOS are overweight and obese might discourage you. Your doctor may have told you that losing weight with PCOS should be a priority, while well-meaning but clueless busybodies have tried to shove the old "eat less, exercise more" routine down your throat — as if you haven't already tried that! 

Don't give up, though. Losing weight with PCOS may be easier said than done, but it is not impossible. Successfully losing weight with PCOS does require a more targeted approach. 

What is the best PCOS diet plan, and what foods should you avoid if you are trying to lose weight with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

How Much Weight Should You Lose?

How much weight should you lose if you have PCOS and are either trying to improve your general health and reduce your PCOS symptoms, or hoping to get pregnant? While that depends on your current weight and body mass index and it is best to discuss the details with your treating doctor, research does offer some valuable insights. Losing 10 percent of your current weight will help you achieve more regular menstrual cycles, which are also more likely to be ovulatory. [2]

What Is The Best Diet Plan For Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

Research indicates that a low glycemic index diet plan is more beneficial that a conventional healthy diet for women with PCOS [3]. A low GI diet, which has also been shown to help people with diabetes [4], will reduce your insulin resistance and help regulate your menstrual cycles. This makes a low glycemic index diet the best diet plan for PCOS

Women with PCOS who have a lower saturated fat intake are less likely to be obese even when their total daily caloric intake is identical [5], so you can also logically conclude that your PCOS diet should be low in saturated fats. 

What Foods Should I Avoid If Losing Weight With PCOS Is My Goal?

The glycemic index is a system in which values are assigned to foods depending on how fast those foods cause your blood glucose levels to rise. Low glycemic index foods are those with a value of less than 55. Women with PCOS who would like to lose weight with a low GI diet should attempt to refrain from foods with a higher glycemic index to the best of their ability.

If you have decided to follow a low glycemic index, we would encourage you to check glycemic index lists as you plan your meals, and to discuss your diet with your treating healthcare provider as well. 

In the meantime, some of the highest GI foods — the kind that you'll want to avoid if you're trying to lose weight with PCOS — include:

  • Baked russet potatoes and instant mashed potatoes
  • Cookies and crackers
  • Commercial cereals, including cornflakes and cream of wheat
  • Wheat bread, including whole-grain bread, and related pastries
  • Coca-Cola [6]

Saturated fats are present in things like butter, pork, fatty beef, chicken with skin, cheese, and whole-milk products, as well as in highly processed baked and fried foods, and in many commercial cooking oils. They should not make up more than about six percent of your daily caloric intake. Replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats — think fish, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and nuts. [7]

Women with PCOS should also try to steer clear of the artificial trans fats found in commercial hydrogenated vegetable oils, as they increase your risk of conditions you are already at risk of, namely diabetes and infertility. [8, 9]

Research additionally demonstrates that women with PCOS greatly benefit if they gain most of their daily caloric intake from breakfast. Eating a larger breakfast while reducing the calories you take in during lunch, dinner, and snacks lowers your insulin and androgen levels significantly and makes ovulation more likely — thereby increasing your chances of pregnancy, should you want to try to conceive. [10]

I Want To Lose Weight With PCOS: What Other Advice Do You Have?

We would advise you to include your healthcare provider in your weight loss plan. Not only can nutritionist or dietitian referrals lead to a tailor-made PCOS diet plan entirely based on your personal needs and current body mass index, you will also have valuable partners on board if your PCOS diet plan does not lead to the results you were hoping for. 

Should weight loss through diet and exercise alone prove difficult for you, a medication called Metformin has been shown to be effective at helping women with PCOS lose weight. Metformin even increases the efficacy of a low GI diet in PCOS patients. [4, 11]

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