Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition associated with hormonal imbalances that causes the ovaries to overproduce androgens (male sex hormone). Insulin resistance is also a part of PCOS. The body’s cells are less sensitive (resistant) to the effects of insulin which takes sugars from the blood into the cells for energy. Therefore the blood sugar levels stay high which further stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin. This high level of insulin, in turn, stimulates the ovaries to produce too much androgen hormone causing irregular periods and, often, obesity.
A low glycemic index (GI) diet is an effective way to help keep blood sugar levels balanced and keep insulin levels low.
Low GI diets improve the body’s ability to respond to insulin in women with PCOS. Also, when combined with weight loss, a low GI diet has been shown to improve ovarian function.
The glycemic index is a value assigned to foods (carbohydrates) based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause an increase in blood sugar levels. Foods low on the glycemic index (GI) scale tend to release sugars slowly and steadily. Foods high on the glycemic index release sugars more rapidly.
But the glycemic index tells only part of the story. A separate value, called glycemic load, also tells how high the blood sugar will go when the food is eaten. It provides a more complete picture of how much sugar and how quickly the sugar enters the bloodstream. The glycemic load is calculated by multiplying the grams of a carbohydrate in a serving by the glycemic index, then dividing by 100. A glycemic load of 10 or below is considered low; 20 or above is considered high. For example, watermelon, has a high GI (80), but a serving of watermelon has so little carbohydrate (6 grams) that its glycemic load is only 5.
High GI foods include: white rice, mashed potatoes, rice cakes, pasta, high fat foods, muffins and cakes (refined sugars).
Low GI foods include: lean meats, vegetables, whole grains and most fruits.
Low GI fruits include: most fruits except: bananas, breadfruit, dates, figs, pawpaws, papayas, raisins and sultanas.
Even swapping some high GI foods for lower GI options can help improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin, your health, and how you feel.