If you’ve been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), maybe you’ve also been told that you should limit or cut our fruit because of its sugar content. Yes, fruit has sugar, but is that actually harmful for your PCOS?
Let’s dig deeper.
Sugar and PCOS
When we eat foods that contain carbohydrates, it gets converted into sugar in the body (also called glucose). This is used as fuel for the body, and raises blood sugar and insulin levels. Around 80% of people with PCOS have insulin resistance, and fruit contains sugar – which is why some are told to limit it if you have PCOS.
This advice is misguided for PCOS.. Fruit has plenty of health benefits, and there are plenty of ways to ensure that it does not spike blood sugar levels.
Health Benefits of Fruit
Fruit is a good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and different fruits contain different benefits. Consuming a variety of colors of fruits is beneficial because it provides different antioxidants. According to the NIH, an antioxidant is “a substance that protects cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals may play a part in cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other diseases of aging” (NCI Dictionary of Cancer terms). In other words – antioxidants may help prevent chronic diseases. A common example is Vitamin C!
Eating fiber-rich foods is beneficial for gut health as well.. For most, the greater the variety of fruits and vegetables that we consume, the better when it comes to healthy gut bacteria. Those with PCOS are less likely to have a diverse microbiome, so consuming different fruits can be one way to help this.
Here are just a few fruits and some of their benefits:
- Strawberries – Fiber, Vitamin C, and Manganese
- Pineapple – Fiber, Vitamin C, Manganese, Vitamin B1 and B6
- Oranges – Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, and Folate
- Grapes – Riboflavin or Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, and Potassium
Fruit, PCOS and Insulin
Controlling insulin levels is not just about carbohydrates or sugar. We need to zoom out and look at the big picture, as other nutrients play a role in balancing blood sugar and insulin levels. Eating enough fiber, fat, and protein helps balance these levels. Most fruits already contain fiber, so making sure that we consume fat and/or protein with fruit can help prevent spikes in blood sugar and insulin and helps us feel more satisfied.
Consuming enough micronutrients – AKA vitamins and minerals – also plays a role in blood sugar and insulin regulation. We can consume enough micronutrients by eating a wide variety of food.
Not to mention that food itself is one piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing blood sugar and insulin. We also need to zoom out and consider other aspects of our health. Moving our bodies, getting enough sleep, and managing stress are also important!
Should You Be Concerned About Fruit and PCOS?
Good news – you do NOT need to cut out fruit if you have PCOS! In fact, it is beneficial to add fruit to your diet, because you are adding fiber and other crucial nutrients. You can help manage insulin levels by incorporating enough fat, protein, and eating the whole fruit to get all of the fiber.