7 Tips to Prevent PCOS Food Cravings

You can experience food cravings with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Almost all women diagnosed with PCOS have insulin resistance (a prediabetic condition) and high levels of insulin. Often the development of insulin resistance is accompanied by intense carbohydrate cravings, which may promote overeating.

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 includes 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

To best regulate your blood sugar with PCOS, eat every three to five hours. 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 and raise blood sugar levels—so when you're hungry, your body and brain will tell you that these foods are especially attractive.

Avoid Sugary and Processed Foods

Processed or sugary foods (baked goods, candy, bagels, flavored beverages) are quickly broken down in your gastrointestinal system and absorbed into the bloodstream. They rapidly 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 and absorb, resulting in a more gradual blood sugar regulation.

Focus on Protein

If you’re constantly having food cravings, not having enough protein at your meals could be one of the contributing causes. 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 satisfies you the most and helps 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, unhealthy 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 you avoid buying foods that will sabotage your dietary plans.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity is an effective way to manage stress. 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 foods that aren't good for your health goals, stop and ask yourself this one question: Am I hungry? If the answer is no, there's a chance that your food craving is due to an emotional reason. Eating 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 have undiagnosed diabetes. This means your body isn’t regulating your blood sugar as well as it should be. Talk to your healthcare provider about getting glucose levels tested and discuss whether taking an insulin-sensitizing medication such as metformin may be an option for you.

Also, discuss with your healthcare provider 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 it could help reduce your food cravings.

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