How Many Carbs Should I Eat With Pcos? Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet, but since they’re so abundant, it’s easy to eat more carbs than you need. This can be a problem if you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS (also known as Cushing disease). When you have PCOS or Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome, managing your diet can be difficult. The condition often causes weight gain and diabetes. This article will show you how to control your PCOS symptoms while helping you lose weight.
How Many Carbs Should I Eat With Pcos
One of the most frequent inquiries I receive from women is concerning carbs as a licensed dietitian nutritionist who often provides counseling to women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. So many PCOS sufferers are afraid of carbohydrates. Although it’s crucial to keep an eye on the kind and quantity of carbohydrates you consume, there’s no need to be afraid of them because they provide vital nutrients for PCOS. What you should know is as follows.
What Are Carbohydrates?
Saccharides are collections of molecules that make up carbohydrates. Several combinations of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms can be found in these saccharides. Carbohydrates can be divided into two categories: simple and complicated.
Simple carbohydrates consist of one or two saccharides linked together (mono- and di-saccharides, respectively). They mostly consist of sugars, which are present in foods like fruit, honey, milk (as lactose), and artificial sweeteners.
The starches and fibers found in vegetables, grains, and legumes are known as complex carbohydrates because they include several saccharides (polysaccharides). Complex carbs typically cause blood sugar to increase less quickly or with a lower glycemic index.
What is PCOS?
A hormonal condition known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is connected to inflammation and insulin resistance. Your cells are resistant to the signals of the hormone insulin, which controls your blood sugar, if you have insulin resistance. Your blood sugar remains higher than it should, as a result.
Regardless of weight, up to 70% of women with PCOS exhibit insulin resistance. Because of this, women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
Higher than average testosterone levels are found in women with PCOS, which disturbs the equilibrium of all hormones. As a result, symptoms linked to hormones like acne, facial hair, mood swings, or painful periods are all present. A vicious loop is created by insulin resistance, which also contributes to the production of more testosterone.
PCOS symptoms can also include problems with fertility, irregular or skipped periods, hair thinning, depression, migraines, and weight gain. Each woman with PCOS may present with distinct symptoms.
Since food plays a significant role in both inflammation and insulin resistance, many women turn to
The Role of Carbohydrates in the Body
Carbohydrates’ main purpose is to give the body energy. Within the cells, glucose is broken down to create energy molecules that can be utilised. Although protein and fat can be utilized as needed, glucose is the body’s primary energy source.
After glucose is used for energy, it is stored as glycogen in the liver. It can be used to produce other substances like hyaluronic acid and ribose, which are contained in DNA and RNA (used to lubricate the joints). Triglycerides are created from excess glucose, and these are then stored as fat in fatty tissue.
How Does the Body Use Carbohydrates?
The physical breakdown of food (chewing) and salivary amylase, an enzyme that breaks down carbs, start the digestion process in the mouth. Carbohydrates are disassembled into monosaccharides in the stomach. As the food mass is exposed to specific enzymes in the small intestine, the majority of digestion takes place there. The digestion of starch is substantially more gradual than that of simple carbohydrates.
Roughage, a vital component of plant-based diets, is dietary fiber, which cannot be broken down by the human body because it lacks the required enzymes. Instead, microorganisms in the intestinal tract break down fiber into water, gas, and other substances, which slows the flow of food and causes a feeling of fullness.
The liver and pancreas collaborate to control blood sugar after the breakdown of carbohydrates into its monosaccharide or less complex parts. Glycogen, which the liver stores as additional glucose, is released into the blood when the body requires it.
The liver then regulates the bloodstream’s production of glucose. The pancreas secretes insulin to transport glucose into the cells and out of the bloodstream if the blood concentration is too high. Glucagon is released to boost the quantity of glucose that the liver secretes back into the circulation if the blood glucose level starts to drop.
Nutrition and Lifestyle Management with PCOS
The most prevalent hormone imbalance, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), affects 9–18% of women of reproductive age. It is distinguished by erratic menstrual cycles, an excess of male hormones, and enlarged polycystic ovaries. Insulin resistance and mid-body obesity are associated with PCOS. This worsens the signs of PCOS and causes an increase in the production of male hormones. By altering your diet, remaining active, and maintaining a healthy weight, you can alleviate these symptoms and possibly lower your chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, the metabolic syndrome, and cancer.
The following recommendations have proven successful in treatment:
- Spread carbohydrate intake throughout the day. According to dietitians, you should aim for 3 meals with about 45 grams of carbs and 2-3 healthful snacks of 15-20 grams of carbs each. Choose high fiber, less processed carbohydrates (such as whole fruits instead of juice and whole grains over white flour) as it will help lower blood sugar. Studies show that eating smaller amounts of food throughout the day helps with weight management, stabilizes blood sugar levels and improves rise in insulin.
- Gradually increase your intake of high fiber carbohydrate foods. Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains increases dietary fiber and helps you feel full on fewer calories. Fiber is indigestible, therefore it slows down the digestion process and the release of sugar into the blood. Studies have shown that high-fiber diets are linked to successful weight management.
- Pair carbohydrates with protein. Combining small amounts of carbs with lean protein and small amounts of fat helps increase satiety and stabilize blood sugar levels. Avoiding low blood sugars will decrease carb cravings. Nutritionists recommend that instead of plain rice, try to have rice with beans and a piece of avocado.
- Consume 25-30% of calories as fat. Choose foods rich in omega-3 and monounsaturated fats most often. Choose heart-healthy fats such as olive, avocado and canola oils, nuts, seeds, and avocados. These fats improve your diet and benefit cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity.
- Practice mindful portion sizes and mindful eating. Aim to have small meals and snacks rather than 3 large meals as it will keep your insulin level steady throughout the day. For example, your insulin will rise much more if you have 3 cups of rice than if you have 1 cup of rice. Avoid eating with distractions as this can lead to overeating.
- Get Active. Exercise lowers insulin levels and can help lead to success in weight management. Take a walk after eating a meal as exercise can be especially helpful in lowering insulin after you eat. Any increase in exercise helps, so it’s important to find an activity, sport, or exercise that you enjoy.
HOW MANY CARBS SHOULD YOU EAT A DAY WITH PCOS?
One question that my PCOS patients frequently ask me is this one. Your doctor may have advised you to stay away from all carbohydrates, including starches and fruit. Or perhaps you read on the internet that the sugar levels in tomatoes and carrots should be avoided. What the heck is left for you to eat when practically every meal, aside from pure protein and fat, contains some form of carbohydrates? The good news is that not all carbohydrates must be avoided.
It’s Not Just About Carbs
I want to stress that a good diet for PCOS is more than just “how many carbs you eat” before I respond to the original question. While it is true that the majority of PCOS sufferers are insulin resistant and should limit their carbohydrate intake since they elevate insulin and blood sugar levels, there are additional nutritional considerations to make when designing a balanced diet for PCOS. For instance, not all carbohydrates are made equal. When compared to a cup of white pasta, the body reacts quite differently to 1 cup of quinoa. Also, it’s crucial that you follow an anti-inflammatory diet because women with PCOS frequently experience low-grade inflammation. Many nutritious anti-inflammatory foods, such as whole grains and berries, are high in carbohydrates, but some low-carb diets could be deemed inflammatory (vegetable oils, processed meats). Finally, women with PCOS should consume a diet that is healthy for the gut because some research indicates that these individuals may have changed gut microbiomes. The majority of gut-healthy foods contain fermentable carbohydrates. As you can see, rigorously reducing your intake of all carbohydrates may have the opposite effect.
I want to stress that a good diet for PCOS is more than just “how many carbs you eat” before I respond to the initial query. While it’s true that most PCOS sufferers are insulin resistant and shouldn’t consume too many carbohydrates (as they boost blood sugar and insulin), there are additional nutritional considerations to make when designing a balanced diet for PCOS. Carbs, for instance, are not all created equal. As comparison to a cup of white pasta, 1 cup of quinoa causes a very distinct reaction in the body. You should also follow an anti-inflammatory diet because PCOS patients frequently have low-grade inflammation. Many nutritious anti-inflammatory foods are heavy in carbohydrates (such as whole grains and berries), while some low-carb foods may be deemed inflammatory (vegetable oils, processed meats). Last but not least, women with PCOS should follow a diet that is healthy for the gut, as some research indicate that these women may have altered gut microbiomes. Fermentable carbohydrates are typically present in foods that are excellent for the gut. As you can see, rigidly reducing your intake of all carbohydrates may be more detrimental than beneficial.
No ONE Carb Recommendation For All Women With PCOS
Returning to the original query, how much carbohydrates should you consume daily? There is no “one size fits all” solution because every woman is different, as you would have realized. We all have various body chemistries, metabolisms, lifestyles, eating choices, and appetites. In my experience, some women may continue to control their weight and symptoms while still consuming a moderate amount of carbohydrates, whilst other women require much stricter carbohydrate restriction.
Factors To Consider When Determining Carb Goal
Most of my patients, I’ve seen, want recommendations on how much carbohydrates they should consume each day. Before advising my patient on how many carbs would be ideal for them, I consider or elicit data from a few different sources. Remember that I am basing this on my experience rather than formal research!
- Degree of insulin resistance. In general, women who are very overweight and have more insulin resistance may find it easier to lose weight and control carb cravings on a lower carb diet. Other women who are lean and not as insulin resistant may not need as much of a carb restriction.
- What has been successful in the past. If you have tried many nutrition plans in the past and tend to get the best results on a lower carb diet, then it’s best to follow what works. Of course, you will need to find a plan that you can stick with. Many low carb diets are not realistic in the long term.
- How carbs make you feel. If eating carbs set you off and make you crave more, then you may be better off with a lower carb diet. On the other hand, if eating quinoa or a small sweet potato with your meal helps to satiate you, then a more moderate carb diet will be better for you. Of course, you will also need to pay attention to the type of carbs you will be eating.
- Activity level. If you are very active, it is likely you may need more carbs than someone who is very inactive. Carbs are the preferred fuel for exercising muscles. However, there are some athletes who are training their bodies to perform optimally on fat.
- Food preferences. If you can’t imagine life without some carbs at each meal (or the thought of keto makes you cringe), then a very low carb diet is not for you!
- Lifestyle. If you are always eating on the run, a low carb diet may not be as practical for you compared to someone who can cook most of their meals.
- Your weight goals. If you are looking for a jumpstart to get some weight off quickly, a lower carb diet may be for you. On the other hand, a more moderate carb diet may be a better choice if you want a plan that is not as restrictive. But even if you do the jumpstart plan, keep in mind that many women with PCOS may not lose weight as quickly as someone without it. Your co-worker may lose 8 pounds the first week on a low carb diet, but you may lose 1-2. And if you are not looking to lose weight, a more moderate carb diet will be best for you
- History of eating disorder. Carb restriction can be a slipperly slope if you have – or have a history of an eating disorder. I would recommend a moderate approach in this case.
Is Keto Good for PCOS?
The question of whether the keto diet is healthy for PCOS frequently arises given how trendy it is right now. A very low carb diet is the ketogenic (keto) diet. To bring the body into a state of ketosis, carbohydrate intake is limited to less than fifty grams per day while dietary fat consumption rises. In a physiological state known as ketosis, the body starts to burn fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.
When carbs aren’t restricted, your body uses them as its main source of energy for its cells. Upon consumption, carbohydrates transform into sugar (glucose). After that, your cells can either use the extra glucose for immediate energy or store it as fat, liver, or muscles.
Low-carb diets are frequently promoted as the solution because insulin resistance is what causes PCOS to worsen. Others may contend that low-carb or ketogenic diets are beneficial for PCOS patients because they treat the underlying causes of insulin resistance.
Is cutting carbs, however, actually the best course of action? Do some women simply have to live on a diet restricted in carbohydrates? Do some women always choose between health and carbohydrates? Which do I prefer? What if there was more to the tale and controlling PCOS didn’t require such a reductionist approach?
As it turns out, not all carbohydrates need to be demonized and not all women with PCOS are necessarily carb intolerant. Even some types of carbs are crucial for maintaining hormone balance. Although most women can benefit from reducing their total intake of refined carbohydrates from foods like pastries, white bread, and juice, very low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet may not be essential to achieve effects.
Low-carb and keto diets may be effective for some women, but they are not a panacea. Moreover, they do not provide actual health over the long run. Yet, I am aware that sometimes we need to see a change in the needle, and in certain cases, attempting a low-carb diet may be a positive step toward your objectives.