PCOS is a complex condition where patients are diagnosed if they have at least two of the following disorders: elevated androgen hormone levels, irregular or absent menstrual cycles, and a polycystic ovary (meaning there are cysts on at least one of your ovaries). Not only can the symptoms—which may include fatigue, acne, unwanted hair growth or thinning hair, changes in mood, pelvic pain, heavy bleeding, headaches, weight gain, and sleep issues—be difficult to manage, but people with PCOS are also at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, plus it can be more difficult to get pregnant.
- Hannah Muehl, RD, Hannah Muehl, RD, is a registered dietitian with a master's degree in nutrition. She is also a physician's assistant with a master's degree in physician assistant studies.
Hannah Muehl, RD, is a registered dietitian who happens to be someone with PCOS. Because of her training and job, she has the insider knowledge on what foods actively support hormone balance, and as someone with PCOS, she puts this knowledge into practice in her own life. Recently, Muehl let her TikTok followers come along with her to the farmers' market, seeing what she filled her shopping tote with. But considering that 60 seconds isn't exactly enough time to get into why the foods on her shopping list help with PCOS, she gets into more detail here.
@theconsciousnutritionistgrocery shopping as self care ✨ #pcosdietitian #pcosnutrition #pcosselfcare #healthyhormones #tiktokwellness♬ Hey Lover! - Wabie
5 foods for PCOS, according to an RD:
1. High-fiber fruits and veggies
While Muehl explains that all fruits and vegetables have health benefits, she says that ones that are especially high in fiber can be beneficial for people with PCOS. "Focusing on the highest-fiber fruits and vegetables improves insulin resistance in women with PCOS, which can assist in restoring ovulation," she explains, adding that fiber is also a key nutrient for truly feeling satiated from a meal.
"High fiber produce also assists in regular bowel movements, which can be incredibly helpful in clearing the hormonal acne that many women with PCOS fight against," Muehl adds. So what exact fruits and veggies are on her foods for PCOS list? "Fruits like blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, pears, and apples pack the strongest fiber punch. All veggies are great sources of fiber, but cruciferous veggies like broccoli, kale, and cabbage will add the most fiber to your plate," she says.
In the video, you'll see Muehl highlight canned tuna, a food she says she loves because it's high in omega-3 fatty acids. "Omega -3s can improve insulin sensitivity, which helps with blood sugar-related PCOS issues, which are a common cause of mood swings. It also decreases inflammatory cytokines, which can help with hormonal acne," Muehl says. She particularly loves the brand Safe Catch because they test all the tuna's mercury levels, ensuring everything that ends up canned is low in mercury. Not into tuna? Muehl says canned sardines are also high in omega-3s.
Chickpeas are another canned food Muehl says can be beneficial for people with PCOS because, like the fruits and veggies on her list, they're super high in heart-healthy fiber. "The fiber will slow the digestion and release of carbohydrate into the bloodstream," she says, adding that this means it won't spike blood sugar as drastically. "Chickpeas contain a starch called amylose, which digests very slowly. Slow digesting carbs can help with feelings of calm and fullness."
Watch the video below to learn more about the health benefits of chickpeas:
While not in the vid, Muehl says eggs are another great food for hormone balance because, like chickpeas, fish, and fresh produce, they also keep blood sugar levels steady. Ditto, she says for nuts and seeds. "The majority of the diet for a PCOS person should come from single-ingredient foods. For example, vegetables, nuts and seeds, eggs, and starches like chickpeas and squash," she says. "If you stick to 80 percent of your grocery cart of single-ingredient foods, you are likely ensuring that you are providing your gut flora with adequate variety and fiber."
Watch the video below to learn more about the health benefits of eggs:
5. Dark chocolate and tea
While and dark chocolate and tea are both high in antioxidants—great for everyone—Muehl says she highlights these items in her video to show the importance of self-care. "People with PCOS are often perfectionists, chronic dieters, workaholics, or chronically-stressed coffee addicts. Taking stress management seriously with PCOS can sometimes be more important than a specific workout or meal plan," she says. She likes enjoying this sweet snack at the end of the day while watching TV or curled up with a book.
What's great about the items on Muehl's list is that they are all pretty affordable and accessible; you don't have to break the bank to use foods to help manage your PCOS symptoms or find more hormonal balance. They're also foods everyone (whether you have PCOS or not) can benefit from, so you can use them to cook meals for everyone in your household, not just you. It's a shopping list worth saving on so many levels.
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