Healthy Fats for the PCOS Diet

PCOS Healthy fats

By Amy Medling, Founder of PCOS Diva

As a teen, I tried to avoid anything that sounded like it would make me fat. I confidently consumed foods that sounded “skinny” like fat-free SnackWell cookies and Diet Coke. They were fat (and practically calorie) free- how bad could they be? It turns out, pretty bad. It wasn’t fat that was the problem there, it was the lack of nutrients and sheer number of sweeteners and additives.

You Need Fat

In truth, fat is a biological necessity, and your body can’t live without it. Below are some of the known benefits of fats in our diet.

  • Cell Membrane Fluidity
    • Our body seeks homeostasis all the time, and that includes fatty acid balance. Saturated fats and unsaturated fats help promote optimal cell membrane fluidity where the former makes cell membranes less fluid and the latter, more fluid. Basically, healthy fats help your cells function.
  • Hormone production
    • Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are all steroid hormones. These hormones are responsible for muscle growth, bone health, reproductive health, and much more, and they all require fat (cholesterol) to be produced in significant amounts.
  • Vitamin absorption
    • Fat is required by the body to digest, absorb, and transport vitamins A, D, E, and K because of their fat-soluble nature. One study even concluded full-fat dressings improved carotenoid absorption (vitamin A) compared to salads with fat-free and fat-reduced dressings. *Note: Choose a dressing with healthy fat! Check out my Seasonal Menus or Jumpstart for recipes.
  • Increased consumption can lead to a leaner body
    • Healthy fats help you lose excess body fat by improving metabolism, balancing hormones, and eliminating constant cravings. Healthy fat intake also leads to greater gains from strength training.
  • Improved brain function
    • Your brain is mainly made of cholesterol and fat, most of which should be essential fatty acids, particularly DHA. Adequate healthy fat intake also helps prevent depression by maintaining serotonin levels, a hormone responsible for making you feel good.
  • Heart Health
    • People who say fat, especially saturated fat, is bad for your heart aren’t up to date with recent findings. A 2010 study made use of an astounding 347,747 subjects, 11,006 of which developed coronary heart disease or stroke. They concluded, “There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.”

Sources of Healthy Fats

  1. Avocado

As it turns out, avocados are not only good for dips and spreads (and my favorite, guacamole), but also for increasing your body’s good cholesterol levels while simultaneously lowering bad cholesterol. Its secret lies in avocados being rich in monounsaturated fat. They also have plenty of vitamin E which is powerful antioxidant.

  1. Extra Virgin Olive oil

My favorite dressing, olive oil, is able to reduce oxidative stress and help prevent heart disease.

  1. Grass-fed Butter

The omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids found in butter promote proper brain function while support healthy

skin.

  1. Virgin Coconut oil

The benefits of coconut oil are far too many to completely enumerate. Some of the benefits include improving good cholesterol levels, appetite suppression, and even brain health.

  1. Nuts and Seeds

Research indicates that regular consumption of nuts and seeds is associated with lower risks of heart disease particularly in women with Type 2 Diabetes.

  1. Fish Oil

When you think about omega-3 and omega-6, you probably mean fish oil (DHA & EPA). For women with POCS, fish oil can reduce testosterone and inflammation, improve insulin balance, hair and skin quality, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and manage mood and ovulation. It is difficult to consume enough safe fish to reap the benefits, and many women have a gene mutation which makes conversion into usable form inefficient, so many of us turn to 3rd party certified supplements. For more information about fish oil, read my article, The Fish Oil Fix.

Fats to Avoid

Despite fat’s bad press, the only fats you should be strictly avoiding are Omega 6 plant based oils (soy, safflower, cottonseed), those which are often GMO (rapeseed and canola), and hydrogenated fats. Hydrogenated fats are natural vegetable fats that have undergone hydrogenation to improve shelf life, cut manufacturing costs, and improve food palatability. It didn’t take long before scientists found out hydrogenated fat produces the dreaded trans-fat, a kind of fat that not only increases bad cholesterol, but also lowers good cholesterol. Trans-fat is linked to all sorts of diseases.

So, go ahead and mindfully consume healthy fats, especially in your salad dressings. Just avoid trans-fat and any “fat-free” processed foods.

 

 

Amy Medling is a certified health coach, who specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health and happiness.  

References:

  1. Yang X, Sheng W, Sun GY, Lee JC. Effects of fatty acid unsaturation numbers on membrane fluidity and α-secretase-dependent amyloid precursor protein processing. Neurochem Int. 2011;58(3):321-9.
  2. Kingsbury KJ, Paul S, Crossley A, Morgan DM. The fatty acid composition of human depot fat. Biochemical Journal. 1961;78(3):541-550.
  3. Volek JS, Kraemer WJ, Bush JA, Incledon T, Boetes M. Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol. 1997;82(1):49-54.
  4. Siri-tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(3):535-46.
  5. López ledesma R, Frati munari AC, Hernández domínguez BC, et al. Monounsaturated fatty acid (avocado) rich diet for mild hypercholesterolemia. Arch Med Res. 1996;27(4):519-23.
  6. Berrougui H, Ikhlef S, Khalil A. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Polyphenols Promote Cholesterol Efflux and Improve HDL Functionality. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2015;2015:208062. doi:10.1155/2015/208062.
  7. Fernando WM, Martins IJ, Goozee KG, Brennan CS, Jayasena V, Martins RN. The role of dietary coconut for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: potential mechanisms of action. Br J Nutr. 2015;114(1):1-14.
  8. Li TY, Brennan AM, Wedick NM, Mantzoros C, Rifai N, Hu FB. Regular Consumption of Nuts Is Associated with a Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Women with Type 2 Diabetes. The Journal of Nutrition. 2009;139(7):1333-1338. doi:10.3945/jn.108.103622.
  9. Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Dietary fat intake and the risk of coronary heart disease in women. N Engl J Med. 1997;337(21):1491-9.
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6 responses to “Healthy Fats for the PCOS Diet”

  1. I’m really happy to read this post. I have PCOS, and in addition to a strict training regime, I recently switched to a high fat diet (which means little carbs and a generous amount of protein). It has worked so very well for body fat percentage management.

  2. There is so much conflicting information out there about the types of fat we should be eating – I just read a whole article about the benefits of safflower. How do you decide which studies to trust and take seriously?

  3. But the big question is should we eat dairy fat?? -ghee and butter must still contain the growth factors (forget the name) from milk that we are all told to avoid for our acne -ghee less so as it’s protein has been removed. Some cheese is now being advocated?? -goat?, hard chedder, milk kefir??? It’s so hard to decide -exclusion diets are quite iffy!

    • From what I’ve researched a low carb, high good fat and dairy free diet is best for PCOS. I personally don’t agree with the idea that animal fats are healthy given how animals are farmed and what they’re injected with. I prefer to vegetable sources, less risky that way 🙂

      • I only ever eat organic grass fed dairy -and meat -would never touch the mainstream stuff! I think if your body is really out of whack hormonally (PCOS) you need to keep insulin levels as low as poss -ie eating only 2 or 3 times a day and as low carb as poss. A ketogenic diet seems a good way to go -hard to follow long term but you can cycle a few days a week with more good carbs. There’s still the issue of whether to eat ghee,butter etc though -I personally think cutting dairy for quite a long time is good for hormones/acne -maybe after skin has settled quite a lot you can reintroduce them?? Luckily coconut milk and yoghurt are pretty good replacements. -as long as the world can sustain all this coconut growing!! Fasting as long as poss in the morning helps most PCOS people with acne and loosing weight Doing a workout in the morning while still fasting seems really good for hormones/fat/inflammation

        • I was previously vegan and certainly couldn’t control my insulin levels/PCOS/weight on a diet nearly made up entirely of carbs, so I agree with you in saying that. I now eat low carb high (good) fat. To do this I had to include backyard free range chicken eggs and a small amount of free range organic poultry into my diet. It’s a huge adjustment but my body already feels better for it. I still haven’t introduced dairy, and probably won’t as I feel better without it (no acne or stomach bloating). I am hoping once my weight gets under control I can start cycling a few days like you suggested and funny enough I’ve just started this week with half an hour of fasted cardio in the morning and my energy levels have already increased! I am hoping my metabolism follows suit 🙂