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6 Diet Changes to Control Weight Gain from PCOS

May 21, 2020

The hormonal disorder polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects 1 out of every 10 women during their reproductive years. Women with PCOS often experience issues with hormonal imbalances, metabolism and, as a result, weight gain. Fortunately, several simple dietary changes can help control this weight. 

The Relationship Between Weight and PCOS

About half of all women with PCOS are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Because a high body mass index (BMI) is associated with many health issues, women with PCOS are at an increased risk for fatty liver, hypertension, high cholesterol and elevated levels of insulin. If their weight isn’t controlled, these women also could experience heart disease, stroke or diabetes.

Diabetes and PCOS

Women who deal with weight problems from PCOS often suffer from type 2 diabetes in higher numbers than the average population. When elevated, the hormone insulin is no longer able to effectively control blood sugar levels or manage how food is changed into energy. Insulin resistance for those with PCOS also can be perpetuated by a lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits. 

 Tips for Women with PCOS and High BMIs

While there is no cure for PCOS, a healthy diet can help promote weight loss, lower your blood glucose levels and improve high blood pressure and cholesterol. These six tips can get you started:

  1. Monitor your portion sizes. Start reading nutrition labels on packaged foods to see what’s considered the correct portion size. Often, appropriate portion sizes are much smaller than we think! Besides preventing overeating, reading labels also can help you track your daily caloric intake. 

  2. Eat whole grain and high-fiber foods. When trying to prevent or manage diabetes, you need to be choosy about your carbohydrates. Because fiber helps control blood sugar levels and makes you feel fuller, opt for complex and nutrient-rich carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains. As a bonus, increasing your fiber intake also can help lower cholesterol. 

  3. Limit added sugars. It’s time to tame that sweet tooth! Unnatural sweeteners contribute calories with no nutritional benefits and this excess sugar can lead to obesity and other health problems. Try swapping out candy, cake or cookies for fruit or dark chocolate. You also can decrease your sugar intake by drinking water or sugar-free, flavored sparkling water instead of juice or soda. 

  4. Balance your plate. A well-balanced diet is a key factor in maintaining a healthy weight. Here’s a quick guide: Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as grilled asparagus, roasted broccoli or a salad. Next, fill a quarter of your plate with lean protein such as (non-fried!) skinless poultry or fish. The other quarter of your plate should include a “good” carbohydrate such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta or sweet potato. 

  5. Limit added salt. The majority of sodium we eat comes from processed or restaurant-made foods, which is why it’s best to eat home-cooked food as much as possible. On busy days, choose a packaged food product with the lowest amount of sodium per serving. Also, remember that a low-sodium diet doesn’t have to be bland. Fresh or dried herbs and spices add a lot of flavor.

  6. Choose heart-healthy fats. With heart health in mind, aim to reduce or eliminate foods that are high in saturated or trans fats. Skip the vegetable oil or shortening and instead opt for olive or avocado oil — or oils made from nuts or seeds. But remember: Heart-healthy fats are packed with a significant amount of calories, so consume them in moderation.

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