Reprinted from author Susan B. Dopart, M.S., R.D., C.D.E.
You are diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and hear you have trouble metabolizing carbohydrates and need more protein. You’re vegetarian so you’re wondering how that’s even possible. Although you may like protein, your body is constantly asking for carbs. So what’s a girl to do in this carb friendly society? How can you incorporate protein into your vegetarian diet?
First let’s discuss the importance of protein. Most women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which is a result of higher levels of androgens in the body. Insulin resistance means although your body is asking and craving for carbs, once you ingest them, it increases those cravings rather than satisfying them. The amount of carbs per meal you are able to metabolize is variable depending on your level of insulin resistance. Eating more protein and healthy fats, with less emphasis on carbohydrates will assist with fewer cravings, improved energy and ultimately an easier time with weight management. If you are an ovo-lacto vegetarian, getting enough protein isn’t as big of a challenge as vegan diets.
Here are some easy protein ideas:
Greek Yogurt: Having a cup of plain Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup fruit and 2 to 3 tablespoons of sliced almonds packs almost 30 grams of protein for a healthy meal or snack.
Egg: Eggs contain the highest quality protein there is since the amino acid profile is impeccable. Concerned about cholesterol? New research shows cholesterol in eggs does not increase your cholesterol levels. The yolks contain choline, which actually lowers stress in the body, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin which help with healthy eyes, so eating a few eggs a day helps your health bank. Two eggs provide 15 grams of protein and are an easy protein source for any meal. Enjoy hard-boiled ones for a portable and healthy snack.
Cottage or Ricotta Cheese: Both cottage and ricotta cheese are easy vehicles for protein and can be dressed up with sweetness by adding fruit, nuts, and cinnamon, or savory when topped with tomato, cucumber and avocado. They both have approximately 28 grams of protein per cup.
Cheese: One of the most vilified foods around, cheese is a great source of protein and calcium. Cheeses that come from grass-fed or European cows contain higher levels of omega 3 fats, which are anti-inflammatory. A snack of 2 ounces of cheese packs 15 grams of protein to add to your protein bank account.
Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are versatile and provide 7 to 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons. Have as a snack with fruit, or add to salads, yogurt, and veggies to add extra protein, fiber, healthy fats, and nutrients. Current research shows that there is an inverse relationship between nuts and weight: those who consume nuts on a regular basis weigh less since they are more satisfied and have higher levels of fiber in their diets.
Nut butters: Don’t just settle for peanut butter. Now there’s almond, cashew, pecan, sunflower and a few others. They all have different tastes and provide flavor, and satisfaction as well as 7 to 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons. Stick to the natural for the healthiest fat and have with a square or two of dark chocolate for a treat.
Beans and Lentils: Beans and lentils have approximately 15 grams of protein per cup, along with almost half the recommended amount of fiber per day. Beans also contain approximately 40 grams of carbohydrates per cup so if you are watching your carbs this is something to take into account at a meal.
Protein Powder: If all else fails, having a smoothie can be a good option with protein powder. Looking at the integrity of the protein powder is essential: i.e. how many ingredients it contains, what is the source of the protein, etc. Ones with protein coming from whey, pea, and hemp that have minimal ingredients, and no sweeteners or extra fillers in them, are recommended.
Mix and match your protein sources to satisfy not only your taste buds, but quell hunger, help cravings, and assist with blood sugar balance. A little protein goes a long way towards helping your metabolism and insulin resistance besides assisting with mood, energy and sleep; key essentials to every woman with PCOS.
Tip of the Day
Calcium Quiz! Can you name a non-dairy source of calcium? Non-dairy calcium sources include calcium-fortified juices, canned fish and some leafy greens, just to name a few!