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Top 10 Reasons A Vegan Diet Why Helps With PCOS Management

Top 10 Reasons A Vegan Diet Why Helps With PCOS Management

PCOS/ PCOD has come into quite the limelight in today's times. With celebrities like Sara Ali Khan and Victoria Beckham being vocal about their struggles, more and more people are now comfortable talking about the disorder.

Some statistics show that one in 4 women of child- bearing age struggle with symptoms of PCOS. Now while this might sound alarming, PCOS is a lifestyle disease and can be managed with lifestyle changes alone.

As a matter of fact, women in urban population's are more likely to develop symptoms of PCOS than women living in rural population. Our current stressful lifestyle, erratic eating habits and exposure to chemicals which act as hormonal disrupters in the environment are all to blame.

But what are these lifestyle changes specifically that help dealing with PCOS? I have a detailed blog talking about the same here:

But besides lifestyle, does nutrition also play a role? More that you can imagine.

Hormone Health and PCOS.

PCOS management is about managing hormonal health. The food you eat can directly impact your sex hormone production and excretion.

If you have excess estrogen (female sex hormone) in the body, these lead to painful periods, excessive bleeding and even fibroids. Too much of testosterone (another sex hormone) could lead to facial hair, male patter baldness and even irregular periods.

What is the best diet for PCOS management?

There are a few school's of thought here. Lets explore a few ways one can manage PCOS with nutritional changes.

  • A low AGE diet.

AGE's are endotoxic compounds in foods that lead to inflammation and oxidation in the body. AGE receptors are concentrated in the ovaries and thus, women are affected by them more than men.

Women with PCOS also tend to have twice the amount of AGEs in their system when tested VS women who do not struggle from PCOS. Scientific studies strongly link foods high in AGEs with PCOS.

AGEs are produced in when animal meat or dairy is cooked. Ghee for instance, has high quantities of AGEs. Meat also when cooked is very high and must be avoided.

Thus, following a low AGE diet is optimal for PCOS management.

  • A low fat diet.

Fats, particularly saturated fats coming from oil's, dairy and eggs can also be a huge causative factor for PCOS.

Fats can be harmful for two reasons, firstly, they are high in calories. Fat's have twice as many calories when compared with proteins or carbs. Not only this, most often fat's such as oil's and eggs lack any fiber, thus making them dense in calories but not filling enough. This leaves you craving for more food and more weight gain.

Secondly, processed fats such as cottage cheese, hydrogenated oil's and ghee are harmful for the good flora of the gut. Being inflammatory, they give rise to bad gut bacterial colonies, the type that leads to hormonal imbalance, and destroy the gut gut bacterial colony, the type that maintain hormonal harmony.

  • A high- fiber diet.

Most of us associate fiber with a raw salad. But fiber is really the building block of plants. Just like the animal kingdom has a skeleton, plants have fiber. Legumes, fruits, grains, seeds, nuts etc anything in its whole state that once grew from the soil has fiber.

Our recommended daily intake of fiber is 25- 35 grams. But most of us get no more than 15- 20 grams per day. This could be a warning sign, especially given the nutritive benefits of fiber to our health.

For PCOS management specifically, fiber plays a crucial role in flushing out excess hormones from the body. Excess toxins and hormones int he body are sent to the liver for detoxification. The liver then sends these to the gut to be flushed out. But the gut can only flush them out by attaching them to fiber molecules coming from he food we eat.

Now if you do not consume enough fiber, the gut has no way of flushing them out, thus left with no choice but to recycle them back to your body.

Following a diet high in fiber alone can help manage most PCOS symptoms. This is also why it is one of the key lifestyle changes we make for all my clients following my program.

The above might seem like a lot of different types of diets, but what if there was one universal diet that covers all of the above. There is, it is called a whole- food plant- based diet.

Lets look at the top ten reasons why a whole- food plant- based diet might be the best approach for PCOS management.

Success stories and expert insights.

A few months of consciously eating and making sustainable lifestyle changes is really what is needed to start seeing an improvement in your symptoms. 

Here is one of my client, Bijal, sharing her experience on our PCOS program:

Here is her full story:

Experts indicate a variety of factors that are risky affairs associated with PCOS and the most crucial one out of this is inflammation which can contribute to type 2 diabetes, coronary diseases and even death.

What causes inflammation in the body is not just a high-fat diet but even a single unhealthy meal that can double inflammatory markers within six hours of consumption. Meat, dairy, eggs, refined flour, sugar etc are some foods to avoid. 

On the contrary, some plant- based foods can be beneficial. Let’s find out!

What to Eat on a Plant- Based Diet for PCOS Management.

A wholesome plant-based diet is actually easy to cook, economical and very tasty.

vegan recipes for pcos

Anti-inflammatory agents found in plants mitigate any risk of developing heart disease, type-2 diabetes and other complications in women with PCOS.

Further, studies indicate that almost 80% of women with PCOS gain weight and find it very difficult to lose it. Since plant forward diets are rich in fibre and low in saturated fats, they can help you reduce cholesterol levels and at the same time promotes the feeling of satiety which decreases your calorie intake. 

Let us now take a look at some of the foods that you can include in your daily cooking.

  • Vegetables - Cook them, boil them, roast them or have them raw. Everything works! Among this family, cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens are the most important once. Aim for 4- 5 cups of vegetables per day, with as much cruciferous and leafy greens as you can add!

  • Fruits - Fruits are more than natures very own candies. Not only do they curb sugar cravings, but also help reduce oxidation and inflammation in the body. They provide essential minerals and vitamins in your daily diet too! Besides this, they act as an appetite suppressor, making you feel less hungry. Aim to add one cup of fruits before every meal.
  • Legumes - Legumes are rich in soluble fibres which makes them a low-glycemic food that allows slower digestion in the body, promotes gut health and much better insulin regulation. Further, they are a plant-based source of protein and folate which can help with hormonal imbalances in women with PCOS.

  • Nuts and Seeds - These are an excellent source of healthy fats and Omega-3. Fats are an essential nutrient your body needs, provided they are the good kind, especially derived from nuts. Switching to plant-based fat sources such as nut butter, olive oil, etc. can take you a long way.
  • Whole grains - On contrary to eating refined grains, whole grains act as an anti-inflammatory in the body that can help you fight PCOS symptoms. They are rich in fibre which regulates your blood sugar and mitigates the chances of developing type-2 diabetes. Therefore, adding a little bit of barley, quinoa, brown rice, millet etc to your diet will prove to be extremely beneficial. 

Top ten reasons why a whole- food plant- based diet might be the best approach for PCOS management.

1) It is low in Energy Density.

Losing weight is really the first step to managing any chronic disease. Every extra fat cell in your body is not just a fat- cell, but also a hormone making factory. Every cell of fat is pumping more sex hormones into your system.

Thus, for hormonal balance, getting rid of these extra fat cells must be your primary focus.

Most people give up on losing weight because they cannot go on a diet plan. Diet's often mean restricting your portions and staying hungry for prolonged hours. This is not only physically hard but mentally challenging as well.

Now if there was a way you could eat a low calorie diet and still feel full and satisfied, wouldn't that be the most sustainable?

There is this concept of energy density, that basically tells that we humans do not recognise a calorie from protein or fat or carb while measuring levels of satiety. We tend to feel full based on the 'weight' of the food we are consuming.

For instance, a cup of fries is around 250 calories and so are about 4 apples. But even though they are the exact same calories, you will feel full and stop at 1 (maximum) of 2 apples, but you will not feel satisfied after a cup of fries. Fries are more dense in calories, but lighter in weight than the apple.

Plants like vegetables and fruits are heavier and thus low in energy dense. This fills you up faster without adding on excess calories. Thus, making weight loss effortless. A plant- based diet is the most sustainable when it comes to weight loss, thus, making it the most effective in managing PCOS.

2) It is naturally high in fibres.

Like I explained before, fiber is of importance when it comes to helping the body flush out excess hormones. Plant's make fiber! A plant- based diet is the most dense when it comes to fiber consumption.

There are various different kind of fibres. However, we mostly clarify fibres under two groups, soluble and insoluble. While soluble fiber is more gelatinous and helps with micronutrient absorption, insoluble fiber is the roughage you need to clean your digestive track. These two and many other kinds of fiber are essential for hormonal health.

As long as you eat adequate number of calories coming in from plants, you will get enough of different kinds of fiber.

Another interesting way fiber helps with PCOS management is through weight loss.

Now while fiber comes under the category of carbohydrates, it does not act sugar, another sub category of carbohydrate. Fiber is firstly only 2-3 calories for every gram, half of the calories when compared to sugar. Secondly, excess fiber is not converted to body fat, like sugar would. Excess fiber is really just flushed out of the body. Thus, you can eat to your heart's content and not worry about weight gain.

A fiber rich diet is once again sustainable and the most effective when it comes to weight loss.

3) It increases the production of SHBG levels in the body.

SHBG, or sex- hormone binding globulins are specific protein molecules that hold onto excess sex hormones in the body until we need them. They are the bodies natural defence against excess hormonal levels.

Women with PCOS have reduced activity of SHBG, thus, leading to the symptoms. Animal and dairy consumption reduces the activity of SHBG in the body. Excess body fat also reduces their levels.

But a few fantastic scientific studies have shown that by just dropping animal protein and staying on a low- fat plant- based diet can boost the production of SHBG levels as much as 19% in just a few months!

If you did not have to rely on a pill or any other medical approach, but use your bodies own defence to protect yourself, shouldn't you at least give it a try?

Unfortunately, there is no 'supplemental pill' for SHBG, you really can only eat right to get your levels up. A plant- based diet is once again the right approach for the same.

4) It is free of sex hormones like estrogen.

It is so ironic that soy has a bad rap for being high in 'oestrogen's', while really the culprit should be dairy products. Soy products like tofu and soy milk are high in phytoestrogens. These actually protect you against PCOS symptoms.

Research studies have strongly linked soy consumption to reduced menopausal symptoms and better hormonal health.

Dairy on the other hand is literally laden with growth hormones and estrogen. Cow's only produce milk once they conceive, just like humans do. And just like human's, the first year after conniving is a hormonal turmoil in the body, leading to the excess hormones from the animal to the milk.

Besides this, cattle are often pumped with excess growth and sex hormones to increase the production of milk, making the animal more profitable to the farmer. All of this excess milk also will make its way into the human body if you consume it.

A plant- based diet is free from dairy products and once again, the healthiest for PCOS management. Making small switches like almond milk for dairy milk and cashew curd for dairy curd's can go a very long way in healing your body.

5) Reduced production of Prostaglandins:

As women near the start for their period, the uterine winning thickens, triggering the release of a hormone called prostaglandin. The production of prostaglandin is directly proportional to how thick the uterine lining gets.

But why is this important? Well, turns out that the more the production of prostaglandin, the more painful menstrual cramps you have, the worse your period symptoms get.

But why does the uterine lining thicken more for some people vs others? Well turns out, your nutrition plays a huge part! Consumption of meat, dairy and eggs has directly been linked to elevated levels of prostaglandins.

Just a few weeks on a plant- based diet and you will notice your menstrual pain reduce. This is also my personal experience and the story of hundreds of my clients. Watch this:

6) Plant's are high in isoflavons.

Isoflavons, a specific type of flavonoids have a uniquely positive effect on PCOS symptom management.

Known for their anti- cancer, anti- inflammatory and anti- oxidant properties, isoflavons play a very important role in chronic disease management. Isoflavons have been shown in studies to prevent and even reverse cyst formation. They even have a positive effect in fibroid management.

Besides this, they help achieve hormonal synchrony in the body.

They are exclusively concentrated in pulses, particularly soy beans and lentils. Fruits, vegetables and nuts too contain small quantities of this magic anti- inflammatory molecules.

By eating plants, you inevitably are consuming isoflavon rich foods and thus helping your body heal from symptoms of PCOS.

7) It is naturally low in fat.

Saturated fats are almost exclusively found in animal. Even an egg, which is considered a health food is nearly 20% saturated fats and a whooping 162% of your required daily intake of cholesterol!

Saturated fats are converted to body fat, but worse than that, they lead to insulin resistance by clogging your cell walls.

Insulin sensitivity is basically your bodies ability to adequately breakdown glucose. Thus, a person struggling from insulin resistance can have trouble losing weight as the body cannot breakdown the food you eat properly. This leads to more calories being converted to body fat, even when you stay in a caloric deficit.

Plants (except nuts and seeds) by weight are nearly 50- 60% composed in fiber and resistance starches and have very little fat with almost no saturated fats. They also certainly have no cholesterol, since cholesterol is made by animals.

This is why, when on a plant- based diet, you do not have to think about the quantity of food you are eating or calculate macros/ micros. You really are eating to heal your body.

8) It is low in anti- biotic and growth hormones.

India alone consumes nearly 85 million tons of dairy per year! The number globally is expected to rise to 200 plus million tons in less than a decade from now. India is the highest consumer of dairy products to date.

Ever wondered where so many cows has suddenly appeared from though? Turns out there are not enough cows. Nearly 68% of the milk available in the country is adulterated with urea, paint and detergents (yes, you read that right!). Read this to know more:

Animals are often confined to very tiny spaces where they spend days standing in their own urine and dung. This leads to infections and repeated use of antibiotics, only to keep the animal alive till it is finally the right size to be slaughtered for maximum meat production.

Growth hormones are also pumped tot he animal to increase its muscle size in the minimum time possible. Imagine being on steroids. All of this so the herder can make the maximum profit of every single animal. Repeated pregnancies for increased milk production often keep the animals highly stressed and elevated in stress hormones. All of these make its way to your plate, making your symptoms worse.

Plant's on the other hand (even inorganic produce) don't have any growth hormones or anti- biotic. Making your meals not only nutrient dense, but safe to eat.

9) It is higher in anti- oxidants and anti- inflammatory agents.

PCOS is really about inflammation and oxidation management. If you can reduce the amount of free radicles floating through your blood stream and reduce the inflammation in your systems, your symptoms no longer appear.

Chronic inflammation is like a constant low- grade fever. It is your body fighting itself without there being no real reason to do so. The last thing your body focuses on while being inflamed is weight loss or healing of any kind. Watch this to understand more:

Plants and only plants are rich in anti- oxidants and anti- inflammatory agents. Animal protein is highly inflammatory and causes oxidation when consumed. Thus, the whey shakes or eggs you are eating in the name of health is actually making you sicker. Animal protein is also highly carcinogenic.

Another reason for you to try a plant- based approach if you have PCOS. If you are thinking that this is an impossible lifestyle change, think about it, is it easier to live with a disease forever or work on reversing it once and for all.

10) It is sustainable:

Anytime someone tell's you to 'eat like this only till you lose weight', run far far away from them. Especially when it comes to PCOS management, unless you have made a thorough lifestyle change in your habits, the disease will keep coming back.

Under eating, over training, measuring your food and eating etc is not sustainable. Going low- carb, stopping grains, ditching fruits is harmful to your gut and once again not sustainable. You want to follow a nutrition plan that becomes part of your daily lifestyle.

A plant- based diet is just that. You can eat what you want to eat and how much ever you want to eat. You will continue to still stay healthy and see results as long as you stick to eating plants.

Maybe give it a try! I know it can feel restrictive, but really, you are just opening up your options to eating so much more food. For instance, there are over 20 varieties for nut milk options. I am not even counting the millet based milk, grain based milk and even potato milk! Why live your entire life trying only one kind of milk when you can try one for every week of the year!

Lifestyle Changes to Support PCOS Management.

Long- term lifestyle changes is the only real cure to managing PCOS. You have to change the way you cook, shop, eat, sleep etc to really eradicate a lifestyle disease. 

Here are a few changes you can start incorporating. 

Early morning sunlight exposure:

Sunlight exposure is associated with a boost in mood. But more importantly, if PCOS is linked strongly to obesity and if weight loss is your goal, sunlight exposure can actually have a hormone suppressing effect to your body. 

Sunlight exposure triggers the production of Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone. The same, has been associated with a reduction in appetite. 

Maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm:

Your body has a natural wake- up and sleep cycle. This is close to the sun's natural rise and fall. However, with exposure to technology, artificial light and hyper- palatable foods, we no longer even identify with our bodies natural circadian rhythm.

This leads to hormonal imbalances. Aim to stop eating after the sun sets, sleep two to three hours after your last meal, and wake up before sunrise to reset your circadian clock. 

Tips for Successfully Following a Vegan Diet for PCOS Management.

Nutritional therapy is key to PCOS management. Therefore, we turn our focus on research that outlines the health outcomes in PCOS patients who follow a vegetarian or vegan dietary pattern.

Studies such as the 2017 review on nutrition for PCOS tell us that to lower the risk of developing chronic disease associated with PCOS and improving its symptoms, a well-balanced diet containing low amounts of saturated fats, high-fibre-rich foods and foods that include omega-3s; must be integrated. This ticks all the boxes when considering a vegan diet. 

Besides this, a vegan diet is naturally high in micronutrients and low in AGE's, all of which help with PCOS reversal. Here are a few nutrients to consider though.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that optimizes bone health, muscles and overall well-being.

There are no food sources for vitamin D. Sun- light is the only real source of this vitamin. Optimal sunlight exposure, or a good- quality vitamin- D supplement must be considered when switching to a plant- based (or really, any) diet. 

vitamin b12 on a vegan diet

Vitamin B12

The only real source of Vitamin B12 is the microbes that live in the soil. We are far from playing in the soil, gardening or even as little as walking barefoot anymore. Thus, most of us do not get enough B12 in our body. B12 deficiency, is once again a new generational problem rather than a vegan problem.

Thus, a good B12 supplement must be considered when transitioning to a plant- forward diet. 

Do reach out here if you have further questions and need help making the switch.

Looking for a PCOS Reversal through nutrition? Fill this form below to get in touch with me.

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I do free consultations every Tuesday's and Thursday's. Either way you will get some actionable tips to reach your fitness goals faster.

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About Roshni Sanghvi

Roshni Sanghvi is an Indian plant-based sports nutritionist and body transformation specialist. She is the first Indian to represent on a national bodybuilding stage being on a 100% plant-based diet. Roshni is a holistic nutritionist, graduated from the prestigious NutraPhoria college of nutrition in Canada.

She is also an ACE-certified personal trainer, certified PlantFed gut coach, certified Bodyshred, and Animal flow instructor with a specialisation in disease reversal through food and lifestyle modification.

Her approach is more focused on helping you in adopting a healthy lifestyle. With her result-oriented holistic methods, she has managed to transform and reverse lifestyle diseases such as PCOS, Thyroid, Diabetes etc for 12k+ clients worldwide.