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PCOS and the Low GI Diet

As we mentioned in our recent post “At a Glance: PCOS,” a low GI diet is one of the steps in managing polycystic ovarian syndrome.

The underlying cause of PCOS is excess insulin in the blood. A diet consisting of low-GI foods is recommended for women with PCOS–often called the ‘PCOS diet’–because it results in a steady secretion of insulin, resulting in more stable blood sugar levels.

On a scale of values ranging from 0 to 100, the Glycemic Index tells you whether a certain carbohydrate will raise your blood sugar levels a little, somewhat, or a lot.

Foods that contain little or no carbohydrates do not have a GI value. These include meat, fish, eggs, avocado, and most vegetables.

How do I know if a food’s GI value is considered low or high?

The University of Sydney’s website provides an excellent search tool for quickly finding a food’s GI value. It also includes lots of low-GI recipes!

Use the following rule of thumb:

  • A GI value of 55 or below is low.
  • GI values of 70 and above are high.

What foods are part of the low GI diet?

A comprehensive outline of a low GI diet requires much more detail than we could cover here, so here are some resources and sample menus to get you started as you transition to the PCOS diet:

7-Day GI Diet Menu

Low GI Shopping List

Lunch Ideas for a Woman Following the Low GI Diet

The PCOS Diet Cookbook: Delicious Recipes & Tips for Women with PCOS on the Low GI Diet

In the meantime, here are some general PCOS diet guidelines and tips:

  • Generally, you’ll find low GI-friendly foods in the outer aisles of your grocery store – fruits and veggies, meats, fish, dairy, and bread. Keep in mind that these low-GI foods may be high in fat, so choose wisely!
  • Adding acidic ingredients to a meal can help lower its GI value. Examples include pickles and other acidic vegetables, lemon juice, and vinegar.
  • Include soluble fiber in your food by adding chickpeas, beans, and other legumes to your salads and side dishes. Oats and oat bran are great breakfast choices that are high in soluble fiber.
  • Choose whole-wheat pasta and Basmati, brown or long grain. Cook pasta until it is al dente, or firm since soft, overcooked pasta is high in GI.
  • Whenever possible, avoid fast food as low GI choices at these restaurants can be hard to find.

Cinnamon for PCOS

For years, doctors mainly addressed Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) by treating the symptoms, not the cause. Doctors understood that PCOS occurred because of a hormonal imbalance, but they were unsure what caused this hormonal imbalance. Recent research has shown that insulin resistance may cause PCOS. Insulin resistance causes glucose to remain in the bloodstream, resulting in elevated levels of blood sugar. The body eventually becomes glucose intolerant, which can lead to PCOS. In fact, some doctors believe PCOS is an early form of diabetes. More and more doctors are treating PCOS by addressing insulin resistance.

A pilot study published by Fertility and Sterility (July 2007) examined a natural treatment for insulin resistance in women with PCOS – cinnamon. The study examined 15 women with PCOS who were given daily doses of oral cinnamon or a placebo for eight weeks. After eight weeks, the women who took cinnamon had a significant reduction in insulin resistance while the women who had the placebo experienced no change.

The scientists who conducted the pilot study would like to create a larger study to measure other factors such as the effect of cinnamon on the menstrual cycle. Until then, if you have PCOS and have tested positive for insulin resistance, you may want to consider drinking cinnamon tea or adding some extra cinnamon to your recipes.

Learn about our drug-free treatment for PCOS.

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