7 Tips to Prevent PCOS Food Cravings

Food cravings are usually triggered by emotional cues or physiological reasons, but if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you may have more or stronger food cravings that people without this disorder. High insulin levels are the main reason for increased cravings for sweets in those with PCOS. The reason is simple: Insulin is a growth hormone and appetite stimulant. Having high levels of insulin makes you want to eat sweets. The more sweets you eat, the more you want them and the higher your insulin levels become. It’s a continuous cycle that can be difficult to break unless you learn how to break it.

Woman eating a cupcake
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Women with PCOS have a high rate of binge eating disorder. Those who are obese are especially prone to a high level of food cravings, as compared with women with PCOS who are lean or overweight.

Lifestyle treatment for those who are obese and have PCOS is a weight loss diet, which becomes even more of a challenge when you are prone to food cravings. Here are seven tips to prevent food cravings:

Don’t Skip Meals

When you’re hungry, you’re much more likely to want sugary foods. That’s because the longer you go without food, the lower your blood sugar gets. Sugary foods quickly enter the bloodstream to raise blood sugar levels, so your body and brain are telling you they are especially attractive. To best regulate your blood sugar, eat every three to five hours.

Avoid Sugary and Processed Foods

Processed or sugary foods (baked goods, candy, bagels, flavored beverages) quickly enter the bloodstream and raise blood sugar levels, leaving them to plummet soon after. That’s when cravings can arise. In contrast, whole grain foods such as quinoa, oats, and brown rice, take longer for the body to break down, resulting in a slower, more controlled blood sugar regulation.

Focus on Protein

If you’re constantly having food cravings, not having enough protein at your meals could be the problem. Protein foods don’t raise insulin levels to the degree that carbohydrate foods do. Having sufficient protein at meals can help stabilize blood sugar levels.

Try experimenting with your food choices to see which combination of foods satisfy you the most and help to minimize cravings. For example, in the morning, instead of your standard bowl of oatmeal or cereal, chose a higher protein meal such as eggs or a protein smoothie. If you need more guidance, consider a consultation with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Don’t Buy Tempting Foods

Do you find that, despite your best efforts, tempting foods make it home from the grocery store? If you know you can’t have tempting food at home because it’ll be gone soon after it enters your house, don’t buy it. When food shopping, avoid aisles where tempting food is and don’t food shop when you’re hungry. Having groceries delivered or ready for pick-up can also help to avoid tempting foods.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity is an effective way to manage stress and for some people, stress is a major contributing factor to food cravings. Doing activities that promote mindfulness like walking or yoga can help you to tune into your emotions and prevent cravings.

Ask If You’re Hungry

Before eating tempting foods, stop and ask yourself this one question: Am I hungry? If the answer is no, chances are you food craving is due to an emotional reason. Eating it will only temporarily calm, soothe, or distract you from what you’re really feeling. Instead, sit with your feelings, as uncomfortable as they may be, to see what’s really affecting you.

Take an Insulin-Sensitizer

If you’ve tried the tips above and still experience strong and frequent cravings it could be that you are insulin resistant. This means your body isn’t regulating your blood sugar as well as it should be. Talk to your doctor about taking an insulin-sensitizing medication such as metformin.

Also discuss with your doctor whether the dietary supplement inositol may be beneficial. In some studies, inositol has also been shown to lower insulin and improve glucose levels in women with PCOS and could be a good alternative to managing cravings for those who can’t tolerate the side effects of metformin.

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