Is it just me, or are people talking about keto everywhere you turn? Everybody wants to know:
Is keto the best diet for PCOS?
As a PCOS health & wellness coach I have spent a long time not only researching PCOS, but adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle to manage my own PCOS symptoms. Since there are so many questions out there, I thought I would share my opinion on this hot issue.
Is keto the best diet for PCOS? My short answer is maybe.
Now let's get into the details. While the medical community does not know what causes PCOS, we do know that it is an endocrine disorder. We also know the endocrine system is easily impacted by a number of things, including what we eat. When we eat carbohydrates it kicks our system into high gear and throws off the endocrine system, which throws off our hormones, which results in most PCOS symptoms. Therefore, the fewer carbohydrates we eat, the less our endocrine system is disrupted, the fewer PCOS symptoms.
Now let's look at the keto diet. In summary, the ketogenic diet is "high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs. Your nutrient intake should be something around 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrate. Typically, anywhere between 20-30g of net carbs is recommended for everyday dieting." (Source) If you look at the nutrition label of a box of crackers you'll quickly learn those 20 grams of carbs are nothing. To sustain a keto diet you need to eat whole, nutrient dense foods.
I agree that eating a diet of whole, nutrient dense foods is the cornerstone of health, especially for PCOS. I also agree that adding healthy fat to your diet is key for weight loss. So, in many ways I support the foundations of a keto diet, however, I disagree with the structure of the diet.
Personally I feel like restricting carbs and tracking your macros is extremely difficult to maintain long term. I did some research and came across an interesting study facilitated by Duke University. A group of women were instructed to limit their carbohydrate intake to 20 grams or less per day for 24 weeks. The good news is the participants who completed the study saw great results. The bad news is less than 50% of the participants completed the study!
Keto is challenging diet to follow and can easily lead to an "all or nothing" mentality. It can also lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. I know many women have adopted a keto diet with great success and I'm so glad it worked for them. However, the high level of restriction and tracking make it nearly impossible for others. When people ask for my opinion I suggest a less intense approach that is sustainable. Since there is no "cure" for PCOS it is important to adopt healthy habits that are sustainable long term.
So what are healthy habits for PCOS?
+ A balanced diet the includes plenty of vegetables, protein, and healthy fat. Download your free PCOS Shopping List: What to Eat to Lose Weight & Feel Great
+ Reduce your sugar intake. Learn the connection between sugar & PCOS and how to kick your sugar habit
+ Learn how to take care of yourself & the 8 key steps to managing your symptoms
+ Find support! I encourage you to join the Mending Together Facebook group for daily PCOS conversation, recipe ideas, and education. We hang out on Facebook Live every Friday at noon. So grab a cup of coffee and join the conversation!
Emily Hawkes is a certified Health & Wellness coach specializing in women with PCOS. She lives in Southern California with her husband and son. When she's not working with clients one on one or blogging you can find her out for a walk or watching BBC nature documentaries.