PCOS Diet: Are Oats Good for PCOS?
Don't you just love a warm bowl of oats for breakfast? Who doesn't right!
But did you know the type of oats you eat may be making your PCOS worse? If you are trying to reverse your PCOS, but also love a delicious bowl of oats, then there is something you need to know.
In this post, you will find out if oats should be part of your PCOS diet. You will also learn which type of oat is best for your PCOS.
So if you want to know how you can still enjoy that warm hearty bowl of oats then keep reading!
Benefits of Oats for PCOS
Not only do oats taste delicious; they also have a great nutrition profile for women with PCOS.
Oats are known for being a great source of fiber, especially beta-glucan. They also contain plenty of key vitamins and minerals for women with PCOS.
The Importance of Fiber for PCOS
What is Fiber?
Fiber is a form of carb all women need to include in their PCOS diet. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a liquid gel. This gel helps slow down digestion. Because of this, nutrient absorption also slows down. Soluble fiber also softens the stool to allow easy movement through the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract).
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not dissolve in water. It instead absorbs water which also allows the stool to remain in solid form and pass easily through the intestines. Because of this, insoluble fiber is often recommended to help with constipation.
How does fiber help PCOS?
Around 70% of women with PCOS also suffer from insulin resistance. This is a condition where the cells in the body have difficulty absorbing glucose in the blood and this leads to a build-up of sugar in the bloodstream.
As well as this a high proportion of women with PCOS, also suffer from high levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and low levels of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol. This combination of high bad cholesterol and low good cholesterol increases the risk of problems like heart disease.
Research has found oats can help lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels. This is because the soluble fiber found in oats slows down fat and sugar absorption.
Oats are a great breakfast option for women with PCOS because they can help lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels.
Half a cup of oats provides 8.2g of fiber. The recommended intake of fiber for women is at 25g.
A Source of Vitamin B
Oats are a great source of B vitamins. There are 8 B vitamins and each has a key role to play in the body. Women looking to reverse their PCOS need all B vitamins in their diet.
How exactly do B vitamins help PCOS?
Women with PCOS often produce low levels of progesterone. Low progesterone levels are caused because of a lack of ovulation. One way to increase progesterone levels is by taking B vitamins.
Reduces the risk of Depression and Anxiety
Yet another risk factor linked to PCOS is depression and anxiety. Vitamin B6 can boost the production of a chemical in the brain called serotonin. This chemical can improve mood and may also help with depression and anxiety.
Helps With Fatigue
A common symptom of PCOS is fatigue. Deficiency in vitamin B has been shown to increase this feeling of fatigue, therefore including vitamin B in your diet can help alleviate this and increase energy levels.
Lowers insulin levels
While the fiber content found in oats helps balance blood sugar levels and lower insulin levels, B vitamins can also help.
Researchers found B vitamins improved insulin resistance better than metformin, which is a popular treatment drug used to treat the condition. In addition to this, the study found B vitamins also increased pregnancy rates.
A Source of Selenium, Magnesium and Zinc
Selenium, magnesium and zinc are key minerals needed by the body, but women with PCOS are often deficient in them.
Selenium and PCOS
Selenium has been shown to help with various PCOS symptoms. A study found selenium reduced DHEA (a male hormone often high in women with PCOS), helped with excess hair growth and lowered inflammation in the body. Eating foods like oats, which contain this crucial mineral, can help balance hormones and reverse PCOS naturally.
Magnesium and PCOS
Women with PCOS tend to go through chronic long-term stress and this can cause the body to become deficient in magnesium. Taking in enough magnesium helps supports the adrenals which get tired when during periods of stress.
Zinc and PCOS
Lastly, oats are a source of zinc. One common symptom of PCOS is hair loss. Researchers found PCOS women suffering from hair loss had low levels of zinc. A deficiency causes the protein structure of the hair follicles to weaken and in the end fall out. To support the hair and reverse PCOS and its symptoms, zinc is a key mineral to include in a PCOS diet.
As you can see, oats are great for PCOS. However, unfortunately, not all oats are made equal. Some oats are more processed than others and because around 70% of women with PCOS also suffer from insulin resistance, care must be taken when choosing oats.
Which Type of Oat is Best for PCOS?
There is more than one type of oat. But which is best?
Before I tell you which one is best, let me begin by identifying the types.
- Steel Cut
As I mentioned above, the level of processing is what makes these oats different.
Steel cut oats are whole oat groats which have been cut into pieces. This type of oat has not gone through much processing and therefore has the longest cooking time out of the three.
Rolled oats are steamed to make it easy to mould before being rolled and flattened. They are then lightly toasted. This type of oat can absorb more liquid and cooks quicker than steel cut oats.
Instant oats cook a lot quicker out of the three. The reason why they have a quicker cooking time is because they are the most processed. Instant oats go through various stages. The first stage involves cooking them slightly. Then the oats are dried and finally, they are rolled a little thinner than rolled oats. Due to the level of processing the texture of the oat is lost.
In a Nutshell...
While all three oats are processed slightly different, they still share similar nutritional content.
When it comes to what is best for PCOS, choose either steel cut oats or rolled oats. Avoid instant oats.
Why Instant Oats are not the best For PCOS
Here's the deal.
Because instant oats have been processed to cook more quickly, they are, as a result, broken down and digested much quicker in the body. The faster a food is digested, the greater the impact on blood sugar levels.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a tool used to show the effect food, that contains carbs, will have on blood sugar levels. A low GI is 55 or less, medium is between 55-70 and high 70-100.
Instant oats have a high GI of 79, indicating a surge in blood sugar and in turn insulin levels. Rolled oats, on the other hand, have a low GI of 55, (with steel cut being similar) which means they will have less of an impact on blood sugar levels.
Women with PCOS need to manage their blood sugar levels in order to prevent insulin spikes. It is for this reason rolled or steel cut oats are better for women with PCOS.
Women with PCOS need to manage their blood sugar levels in order to prevent insulin spikes. It is for this reason rolled or steel cut oats are better than instant oats for women with PCOS.
But you can still enjoy Instant Oats if prepped properly…
Now, if you are someone who likes the taste and convenience of instant oats, simply combine it with some protein and a healthy source of fat.
For example, after cooking your instant oats add half-scoop of protein powder and top with some nuts or seeds.
The protein and fat help to manage the rise in blood sugar and in turn insulin.
Add a source of protein or fat to your instant oats. This will help manage the rise in blood sugar and insulin levels
How I Prep My Oats
The night before, I soak my oats in filtered water. I do this as it makes the oats easier to digest, so my body can better absorb the nutrients found in the grain.
I then cook my oats using filtered water or dairy-free milk like hazelnut, cashew or coconut. Once my oats are cooked at a consistency I like, I add some protein powder, frozen or fresh fruit such as strawberries or blueberries and some walnuts for some healthy fats.
You can also
- Throw in some seeds
- Sprinkle in some cocoa powder
- Add spices, such as; cinnamon or nutmeg
To sum up, oats are a great carb source for women PCOS. They contain lots of fiber which helps lower insulin levels and LDL cholesterol in the body. They also contain the B vitamins which can help boost progesterone levels and reduce the risk of depression. Oats are also a good source of selenium, magnesium and zinc all of which are crucial for balancing hormones and reversing PCOS naturally.
There are three types of oats, steel cut, rolled and instant. The major difference between them is how they are processed, with instant oats being the most processed meaning they are also broken down quicker in the body. As such they can cause a huge spike in blood sugar and insulin levels. Women with PCOS and insulin resistance must be cautious of this because they want to keep their blood sugar and insulin levels stable.
The impact instant oats have on insulin levels means steel-cut or rolled oats are a better option for women with PCOS. However, for those who prefer the convenience of instant oats, simply adding foods that contain protein and fat can help with the blood sugar and insulin spikes.
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Hey there! I am Despina Pavlou, founder of PCOS Oracle, certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist. I want to share with you the diet and lifestyle changes I made to naturally reverse my PCOS and achieve hormonal balance. I believe using my holistic approach you too can take back control from PCOS.
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I was wondering if I could have oat milk?
Yes, oat milk is a great dairy-free alternative.
Hey! You can go for 1/2 cup serving of rolled oats when dry, which is 1 cup when cooked. But I also recommend adjusting to find out your own carb tolerance. So experiment to see how you feel after eating a certain amount of oats/carbs and adjust to find your sweet spot.
Yes, almond milk is a good dairy-free milk option 🙂
Hey Camila! You can eat oats whenever you want. Most of the time, I eat them in the morning with a scoop of protein powder and they keep me full and satiated. But you can eat them as often and whenever you like. Just make sure you also add some protein and fats to your oats to ensure a balanced meal and to keep you full for longer.