Plant-based diets are not only good for the environment, but your health as well, particularly when it comes to certain health disorders.
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a complex endocrine disorder that affects many women of reproductive age. It is characterized by hormonal imbalances, irregular menstrual cycles, and the growth of small cysts on the ovaries. The exact cause of PCOS is not fully understood, but it is believed to be influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. According to a systematic review by Maedica, one such lifestyle factor that has been shown to impact PCOS significantly is diet.
As outlined in TWF‘s article, What’s A Sustainable Diet?, these diets not only have a lower environmental impact but also encourage better health. This means they can positively influence PCOS. One such diet that falls under this category is the plant-based diet, which has shown promise in managing PCOS as it not only helps with weight management but can also influence hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and inflammation—all of which are key components of the disorder. All things considered, what exactly is a plant-based diet, and what are how it helps manage PCOS?
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is a dietary approach that focuses on consuming foods primarily derived from plants. The concept of this diet has gained widespread attention in recent years due to its potential health benefits and its alignment with ethical and environmental concerns. It centers around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds while minimizing or excluding the consumption of animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs. As such, plant-based diets can aid PCOS by managing several important factors.
How a plant-based diet helps with PCOS
Aids in weight management
First and foremost, consuming plant-based foods can aid in weight management, making it ideal as a PCOS diet to lose weight. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet is associated with lower body weight and a reduced risk of obesity. Since obesity exacerbates the symptoms of PCOS, maintaining a healthy weight is essential for managing the condition. Plant-based foods like chickpeas, avocados, and pears are typically lower in calories and saturated fats and higher in fiber, which can help individuals with PCOS feel satiated for longer periods. This leads to a reduction in overall calorie intake and better control over one’s weight.
Inflammation in the body is often elevated in women with PCOS. When it comes to fighting off this inflammation, many take up a DASH diet or a Mediterranean diet due to their emphasis on certain foods, including cherries, spinach, and chia seeds. As such, a plant-based diet in itself is an ideal choice, as it is full of foods rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help combat inflammation and promote overall health. Additionally, plant-based diets are low in inflammatory foods such as red meat, processed meats, and refined sugars, which can contribute to inflammation in the body.
Helps with insulin resistance
Plant-based food can positively impact insulin resistance, making it a great diet option for those with PCOS, as this is a common symptom of the condition. Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, leading to high levels of glucose in the blood. This can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes if not managed properly. Plant-based diet foods such as wheat bread, brown rice, starchy vegetables, and many others are rich in complex carbohydrates, which are digested more slowly and have a stabilizing effect on both blood sugar and insulin levels. These foods also support a healthy gut microbiome, which can help to improve PCOS symptoms.
Regulates hormonal balance
Another beneficial aspect of a plant-based diet for PCOS is its impact on hormone levels. With PCOS, hormonal imbalances are a common issue that can result in irregular periods, unwanted hair growth, and acne. Plant-based foods like cabbages, onions, and soybeans contain phytoestrogens, which are natural compounds that can help regulate estrogen levels in women with PCOS. Consuming a variety of foods can help support hormone balance. Additionally, the high fiber content in the plant-based diet can aid in the excretion of excess estrogen from the body, which can be beneficial for women with PCOS who are prone to estrogen dominance.