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Let's continue to build on the Blood Sugar - PCOS connection. This is such a big and important part of treating the disease, that I feel there is more information that can be squished into a single post.
So, building upon what we know about the different sugars, and more importantly that we are all aware of the significant importance of glucose control...let's discuss how we structure our meals.
The Benefits of Eating Smaller Meals with PCOS
As we talked about yesterday, by eating smaller meals we are limiting the amount of blood sugar at one time. By using the Glycemic Load as a TOOL, you can see that consuming larger portions increases the glucose stress on the body, even if the foods consumes are lower on the Glycemic Index scale. This alone is the best reason to stick to smaller more frequent meals when treating and managing PCOS with insulin resistance. But there are other reasons.
When we eat a meal, there is a combination of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and nutrients...right? If we eat large portions of food, some of the nutrients that are harder to break down and absorb are flushed through the system. The digestive tract works on the simplest first, meaning carbohydrates and sugars. The body can handle this for a while (like the pancreas handling high amounts of glucose), but eventually it becomes weak, fatigued, and shuts down. A common complaint associated with PCOS is digestive upset. Meaning, gas/bloating, irregular bowel movements (alternating constipation and loose stool), and Gallbladder Disease. These are signs that the digestive system is weak and unable to digest and absorb food properly. Because of this digestive weakness, carbohydrates are the most absorbed nutrition from your food, leaving all the good stuff to loosen your stools (especially hard to digest minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron...all important for proper reproduction).
By eating smaller meals, we limit the amount of stress on the digestive system. In smaller portions the digestive system is able to properly digest and absorb the food, get a break and be ready for the next meal. If you have a digestive system that is weak and inflamed from overuse, the smaller meals give the digestive system time to heal between each work load.
Food Cravings. Many of us have them. There is a correlation with poor diet and binge eating and food cravings. Yes, there is the emotional mental addiction to food, but there is something much deeper, and more dangerous, in my opinion. Many of the clients I see, especially with PCOS, seem to feel hungry all the time. They crave food. It is a vicious cycle they are stuck in. Their body is craving large amounts of food because the cells are literally starving from lack of vitamin and mineral nutrition, but the more they eat, the less of the nutrients they are absorbing. Eating smaller nutrient dense meals so that the digestive system is able to handle and adequately process each meal to extract the nutrients, feeds your cells more efficiently with less food overall. Once the cells begin to be nourished again, cravings for large quantities of food will diminish.
Balance Each Meal to Reduce Blood Sugar Spikes in PCOS
Now let's build on the smaller meals idea. How do we make these smaller meals nutrient dense and balanced? It starts with understanding how food is digested and how macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) play off each other.
By using the Glycemic Load Calculators, you can make the correlation that by adding fat or protein to a vegetables or fruit, you lower the overall Glycemic Load of that food. By adding fats and proteins, you slow the absorption of the sugars. When you eat a meal, the body produces bile from the gallbladder. This bile is meant to digest fats primarily. If there is no fat in the meal, the body re-absorbs the bile as Cholesterol. One of the main reasons for high cholesterol in the blood is NOT cholesterol in the diet, but too much carbohydrate, or too much carbohydrate not balanced with fat.
Most women with PCOS do best on a higher fat and protein diet. NOT AN ALL FAT PROTEIN DIET!!! But, a diet that is balanced with a smaller portion of carbohydrates and more fat.
Fat slows the digestion of carbohydrates. It reduces the overall rise in blood glucose, and prevents sharp drops (hypoglycemia), which is common in insulin resistance. Also, many of the vitamins needed to balance our hormones are fat soluble, meaning they cannot be absorbed without fat. These vitamins are found in plants as well as animal sources, which is why it is important to add a fat to plant sources which contain little to no natural fat.
Protein takes about 3-4 hours to digest. It helps prevent the sharp drops in blood sugar up to 4 hours after eating, it also keeps our muscles nourished.
So, when making your meals...keep in mind that you need fats and proteins to help balance out the carbohydrates in the fruits and vegetables. Make your plate 1/2 vegetables that are cooked or tossed with some level of fat, and the other half proteins and more fat. (Let's talk more tomorrow about fats, shall we...)
I lean towards a 20/30/50 diet....20% protein, 30% carbohydrate, 50% fat when dealing with PCOS.
When choosing vegetables and fruits, look for color. The brighter the color the more nutrition available. Colors are associated with different nutrients. I talked about this in one of my Lunchbox Series Posts a couple months back...click here to read. Vegetables and Fruits that are in the lower glycemic range will need less fat and protein for balance. Vegetables and Fruits that are high in fiber help to nourish the probiotics of the digestive system, clean the bowels, and regulate bowel movements.
A Reference of Substitutes for PCOS
Often when making recipes for a PCOS diet, we need to make substitutions. Many of the products we use on a daily basis are not okay on the PCOS diet. Dairy, Breads, Pasta, etc... so what can we do as a replacement for these foods?
DON'T EAT THIS ---- EAT THIS INSTEAD
Asian Noodles = Kelp Noodles
Oatmeal = Barley Porridge, Quinoa Porridge
Tortillas = Lettuce Wraps, Paleo Tortillas
Potatoes = Kohlrabi, Cauliflower
White Rice = Cauliflower Rice, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Wild Rice
Desserts = Apples with Cinnamon, Fresh Fruit
Half and Half = Coconut Cream
Milk = Homemade Almond Milk
Yogurt = Cultured Veggies, Coconut Yogurt, Almond Yogurt
Corn Flour = Almond Flour
Wheat Flour = Coconut Flour
Cream Cheese = Cashew Cream Cheese
Soy Sauce = Coconut Amino Acids
Brown Sugar = Coconut Sugar *Fructose, so limit
Coffee = Herbal Tea
Spaghetti Pasta = Spaghetti Squash, Zucchini Noodles
If you have a specific food you are having a hard time finding a substitute for, shoot me an email! I'd love to help you find something that will work.
Breakfast #5 Spinach and Egg Skillet
In a skillet add oil, and toss in Spinach. Let wilt slightly and crack into the center. Put a lid over skillet and let steam until the spinach is wilted and the egg is cooked. Sprinkle on bacon and eat.
Lunch #5 Warm Broccoli and Brussels Sprout Salad
Makes 2 servings
Cut broccoli into florets, and steam until tender crisp. Cook bacon and reserve grease. In a bowl mix Dijon and Vinegar until smooth, add 1 tbsp of reserved bacon grease and blend. Add in broccoli, brussels, apples and mix well. Top with almonds and crumbled bacon. Serve warm.
Better the next day: Make big meals and use the leftovers for future meals and snacks.
Dinner #5 Crockpot Cajun Red Beans with Roasted Okra and Onions
Crockpot Cajun Red Bean Soup
Makes 12 servings
In a crockpot, add dry beans and cover with water. Let soak overnight (should double in size). Drain and add back to pot. Add ham hock and all other ingredients. Add enough water to cover. Cook on high for 10 hours.
PCOS Nutrition Part 1: Basic Dietary Principles
PCOS Nutrition Part 2: Avoiding Dairy
PCOS Nutrition Part 3: Sugar
PCOS Nutrition Part 4: Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load
PCOS Nutrition Part 6: Understanding Hormones
PCOS Nutrition Part 7: Fat Soluble Vitamins
PCOS Nutrition Part 8: Increasing Dietary Fats
PCOS Nutrition Part 9: Top 10 Foods for PCOS
PCOS Nutrition Part 10: Tips for Implementing the PCOS Diet