Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Nutrition

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Polycystic ovary syndrome

(PCOS) and Nutrition


What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone. It helps the body to use sugar as energy.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance happens when the body does not respond to insulin properly. When this happens, the body produces more insulin to compensate. This causes the level of insulin in the blood to become higher than normal.

A high amount of insulin in the blood may make it a little harder to lose weight (however, weight loss is not impossible). It also increases the level of testosterone in the blood. Testosterone is a hormone which naturally occurs in small amounts in all women. But in people with PCOS, testosterone levels are higher than normal due to insulin resistance. High levels of testosterone in the blood cause symptoms of excess hair, irregular

periods, acne, and difficulty in conceiving.

Insulin resistance becomes worse when we gain weight, or are over weight.

The symptoms of

PCOS are caused by

imbalances in hormones

and insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance can be made worse by:

l Poor diet

l Lack of exercise l Smoking

l Carrying excess weight around your waist

 weight =  insulin resistance =  PCOS symptoms  weight =  insulin resistance =  PCOS symptoms

Insulin resistance can be improved by: l Losing weight

l Regular exercise

l Eating a healthy diet and

following a regular meal pattern l Choosing lower GI foods where

possible (see page 6)

REMEMBER: Just losing 5% of your

weight can improve symptoms of PCOS

Body not responding to insulin

properly Weight gain

May encourage fat storage and increase cravings for sweet foods

Body produces more insulin to compensate

Higher levels of insulin in the blood

More testosterone produced

Symptoms: Excess hair, acne, irregular periods, difficulty in conceiving


Other health problems

Having PCOS means that you are at higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Losing weight and making simple changes to your lifestyle can reduce your risk.

Don’t forget exercise!

There is a wealth of evidence to support the benefits of physical activity in people with PCOS including: helping to reduce insulin resistance, helping achieve weight loss, improving mood, protecting against developing diabetes and heart disease.

If you don’t do much exercise currently, remember - any exercise which is more than you would normally do is a great start.

So what can I do to lose

weight, manage my PCOS

symptoms, and reduce my

risk of developing other

health problems?

l Eat regularly - never skip meals. Aim to have 3 regular meals per day with low kcal snacks in between if required l Aim to have a small amount

of starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals at every meal. Try to opt for low GI options where possible (see

page 6)

l Aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day

l Drink plenty of low kcal fluids l Ensure portion sizes are


l Limit high fat high sugar food and drink

l Keep alcohol intake to a minimum as it is high in calories

Low Glycaemic index (GI) Foods

l GI is a measure of how quickly starchy carbohydrate (i.e. bread, potatoes,

pasta, rice, grains, noodles, breakfast cereal) is broken down into sugar and absorbed by the body l A starchy carbohydrate that

is classed as low GI means it is broken down into sugar slowly. This means your blood sugar levels are less likely to rise and fall sharply l Low GI does not mean that the food is low in calories or fat

l Adding protein or fat to a carbohydrate will slow down its absorption e.g. adding tuna or beans to a baked potato (high GI) will result in a medium GI meal

l All types of beans, lentils,

chickpeas and pulses have a low GI

l It is not necessary to limit

any fruit and vegetables as long as you control your portion size

l Limit sugary food and

drink such as sweets, cake, sweet biscuits, fizzy drinks, chocolate etc

l Pure fruit juices are high

in natural sugar and are therefore high in GI. Drink no more than 1x small glass per day

l Don’t add sugar to hot drinks or food. Opt for sweeteners instead

l Alcohol can increase blood

sugar levels if drunk in large quantities. Sugary alcoholic drinks such as cocktails, or drinks with sugary mixers (fizzy pop, fruit juice etc) will increase blood sugars even in small amounts


Food OK Better Best Bread


High fibre white Wholemeal White Bagels Baguette

*Foods high in calories therefore should be limited if you are trying to lose weight

French fries* Mashed Baked/microwaved Instant Pitta bread Croissant, plain* Crumpets Poppadum Rye bread New potatoes Potato crisps*

Mixed grain e.g. granary/multigrain Pumpernickel


Fruit loaf/Raisin bread Sourdough Sweet potato Yam Roast potato* Pasta Rice and other grains Milk and dairy Biscuits and crackers Breakfast cereal Noodles Instant rice White/brown rice Millet Tapioca Semolina Rice crispies Cornflakes Weetabix Puffed wheat Coco pops Bran flakes

Instant porridge, made with water

Basmatic rice, white Cous cous Taco shells Gnocchi

Ice cream*

Rice cakes

Plain scone* RyvitaArrowroot biscuits* Plain scone Special K Muesli Granola Rice noodles Most pasta Ravioli, meat filled Basmatic rice, brown Bulgar wheat Pearl barley Quinoa Buckwheat

Milk and soya milk Low fat yoghurt Full fat yoghurt* Rich tea biscuits Oatmeal biscuits Digestive biscuits* All Bran

Porridge oats made with milk Noodles


For more information regarding low GI foods, visit: www.glycemicindex.com

Meal and Snack Ideas

Use herbs and spices freely to flavour your food. These will not affect GI or calorie intake.

Low GI Breakfast ideas:

l Porridge made with semi skimmed milk

l All bran with semi skimmed milk

l 2x slices of toasted multi-grain / pumpernickel / granary bread with low fat spread

l Baked beans or poached eggs on 1x slices of toasted multi-grain /pumpernickel / granary bread

Low GI Midday meal ideas:

l Jacket potato and salad with

n Tuna mixed with low fat mayonaise

n Baked beans

l Baked beans on 2x slices of toasted multi-grain /

pumpernickel / granary bread l Low fat soup made with

beans or lentils with 2x slices of toasted multigrain / pumpernickel / granary bread l Tuna or chicken with salad

and low fat salad dressing with 1x wholemeal pitta bread


Low GI snack ideas::

l 2x rich tea biscuits l 1x toasted multi-grain/

pumpernickel/granary bread with low fat spread

l 2x ryvita with:

n Sliced boiled egg

n Lean slice of cooked meat

n Low fat houmous

n Cottage cheese / low fat cheese spread

l Low fat yoghurt

l Small handful of unsalted nuts l 1x slice of fruit loaf or raisin

bread with or without low fat spread

l 1x portion of fruit:

n 1 apple / 1 orange / 1 pear / 1 small banana / 1 peach

n 2 plums / 2 kiwi

n 7 strawberries

n 10 grapes

n 15 cherries

n 1 inch slice of melon

Pure fruit juice - limit to 1x small glass per day (approx. 150mls)

Low GI evening meal ideas:

l Fish or chicken with new potatoes or sweet potato and vegetables

l Chicken or fish or sea food with brown pasta and tomato based pasta sauce with extra vegetables l Chilli con carne made with

beans and vegetables (with or without meat) with brown rice

l Stir fry chicken or fish with vegetables and noodles l Fish or chicken with brown

rice and vegetables or salad l Brown rice OR chapattis with

tomato based curry

Please contact us on:


healthwise@salford.nhs.uk Weight Management Dietitians,

Department of Nutrition and Dietetics,

Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Stott Lane,

Salford, M6 8HD

Weight Management Team,

Salford Community Health, Sandringham House, Windsor Street, Salford, M5 4DG

Weight Management Dietitians

Weight Management Team

0161 206 1223

0161 206 6000

Useful websites

www.verity-pcos.org.uk www.nhs.uk/Conditions/ Polycystic-ovarian-syndrome www.glycemicindex.com



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