PCOS Clean Eating 101
for Better Fertility
Clean Eating: Athletes are doing it, celebs are doing it, dogs are doing it, and the cavemen did it.
The term ”Clean Eating” is the biggest, latest and greatest buzzword in nutrition these days, but truth be told, the concept has been around since the beginning of time.
What is clean eating?
The basic premise of clean eating is consuming foods the way nature delivered them (or as close as possible). For me, it means foods that GREW, FLEW, SWAM, or RAN. It’s a lifestyle and nutrition philosophy, not a diet.
Clean eating is a very simple concept because it’s all about eating foods in their purest form. It’s about eating real food and avoiding Frankenstein-food— those “food products” that don’t resemble anything made in nature.
In the true sense of the words, clean eating is about eliminating all processed foods. Now, for most people, that’s highly impractical and undesirable. At Nourished to Healthy, we focus on eliminating the highly processed foods, while giving a stamp of approval to minimally processed ones.
“Every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body”
~ Bronnie Ware
Getting started with clean eating
If you’re new to clean eating, then start one meal at a time. Take breakfast, for example. What processed foods are you consuming at breakfast, and which can you easily eliminate or add?
Concentrate on eating as many whole foods as possible from all the colors of the rainbow. And don’t worry about missing out, or sacrificing good tasting foods – whole foods taste great and will give you a bigger explosion of flavor than processed foods.
It may take a while, but you can totally retrain your brain (and your taste buds) to appreciate all the flavors of real foods without the processed, artificial flavorings you may currently be eating.
Whole, unprocessed foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, farm-fresh eggs, nuts, legumes, etc. Minimally processed foods include frozen fruits and vegetables, unprocessed meats, poultry and fish, unrefined grains, and oils.
Aim to avoid processed foods that are heavily modified and contain a very long list of ingredients, many of which are unrecognizable in nature, cannot be pronounced without an advanced linguistics degree and will knock you out of a spelling bee.
These foods, which typically have little to no nutritional value, include sweets, snacks, frozen dinners, sugary drinks, and packaged meats such as sausage, hot dogs, etc.
Nobody expects you to eat everything raw and from your own backyard, but most of the items in your shopping cart should come from the perimeter of the grocery store. The produce section and the meat sections.
When you’re choosing processed foods, ask yourself these questions:
Are there more than five ingredients?
Do I recognize all the ingredients?
Does the product contain whole ingredients or processed ingredients
Does the product contain added sugar and artificial ingredients?
Are these ingredients necessary?
Is there a healthier version?
How many calories are in a serving size?
Is it really worth it?
Removing all processed foods is unnecessary, but we want you to make smarter and more educated choices by purchasing only minimally processed foods.
Here’s the list of ingredients in a Chicken Pasta Parmesan made by a popular weight-loss food delivery company:
WATER, COOKED CHICKEN (CHICKEN BREAST WITH RIB MEAT, WATER, RICE STARCH, SALT, ISOLATED SOY PROTEIN, SODIUM PHOSPHATE), ENRICHED PASTA (DURUM SEMOLINA, EGG WHITES, NIACIN, FERROUS SULFATE, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), CRUSHED TOMATOES, GREEN BELL PEPPERS, PARMESAN CHEESE (PASTEURIZED MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES), MODIFIED CORN STARCH, ROMANO CHEESE (PASTEURIZED MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES), TOMATO PASTE, KALE, AGAVE SYRUP, ISOLATED SOY PROTEIN, SUGAR, SEA SALT, ONION POWDER, GARLIC POWDER, SPICES, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA. CONTAINS EGG, MILK, SOY, AND WHEAT.
How many of those ingredients do you really recognize? If you made this dish at home, with minimally processed foods, you would have a lot fewer ingredients. Here’s how you can make it with fewer ingredients and a whole lot healthier.
1. Barilla Whole Grain Pasta: whole grain durum wheat flour. Want to make it even cleaner? Then use zucchini noodles otherwise known as zoodles.
2. Tomato Basil Sauce: Italian tomatoes, olive oil, fresh onions, fresh basil, salt, fresh garlic, black pepper, oregano.
3. Home-grilled chicken: chicken
4. Add some herbs, spices, and vegetables of your choice and you have a really healthy alternative to the highly processed “diet” food. Which would you rather eat?
What’s So Bad About Heavily Processed Foods?
The Standard American Diet (SAD), which is typically comprised of unhealthy fats, low fiber, highly processed foods, and low in plant-consumption, has been linked to the following diseases and conditions:
- Heart disease
Highly processed foods are stripped of the nutrients our bodies desperately need for optimal health, happiness, and hormone balance. Just say no!
Let’s reiterate that we don’t expect perfection at Nourished to Healthy. It’s all about making practical, achievable, and sustainable changes to your diet. Start by eliminating the worst offenders.
Avoid the worst of the worst
The first step is to eliminate the worst Fake-foods. Here are five foods that have been designated as cancer-causing (or at least contributing) foods:
1. The Dirty Dozen
Each year, the Environmental Working Group publishes a list of the twelve dirtiest fruits and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables on this list have been found to be contaminated with cancer-causing pesticides. And here’s the thing … washing doesn’t remove the pesticides.
Click to review the EWG’s Dirty Dozen. If you can’t find or afford to buy these fruits and veggies in the organic form, then do NOT eat them. Choose something else.
2. Soda Pop
Did you know that a 12 ounce can of Coke has 140 calories and 39g of sugar? This is more sugar than a Snicker’s bar which comes in at 250 calories and 27g of sugar. The sugar, food colorings, and artificial ingredients acidify the body and feed cancer. Certain ingredients, including the caramel color, have also been touted as cancer causers.
3. Artificial Sweeteners
Don’t be getting all smug if you’re a diet soda drinker like I was! Some artificial sugars have been linked to cancer and those little colored packets you see on restaurant tables have been linked to Type 2 Diabetes because they alter the composition of bacteria in our intestines and still have an insulin effect. That’s bad!
4. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Corn and soy are two of the most common genetically modified crops. Some reports have shown that 90% of corn and soy have been modified. That’s crazy! Long-term research is still needed to specifically identify the horrible side effects of GMOs in humans, but initial research on rats is not good. A 5-digit code beginning with an 8 means your fruits or vegetables have been genetically modified.
5. Microwave Popcorn
Besides being made of GMO corn, the chemical-laden bags have been linked to lung cancer in recent studies. If you love popcorn, try my favorites that are made with non-GMO corn: BoomChickaPop and SkinnyPop.
Eat unsaturated “good” fats daily
Healthy fats don’t make you fat. The fat-free products revolution of the 1980s really did a disservice to our health and weight.
Our bodies need monounsaturated fatty acids in order to produce healthy hormones, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Fats are also required for good fertility, energy, cell growth, temperature regulation, nutrient absorption, and to feel satiated. Some great sources are avocados, olives, nuts/seeds, and the oils extracted from these foods.
Our bodies also need polyunsaturated fatty acids for brain and heart health.
These fatty acids can be found in cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring. If possible, choose wild fish over farmed because the farmed fish may be treated with antibiotics. Non-fish eaters can get them from chia, flax, hemp, and walnuts.
Veggies – cooked or raw?
Some vegetables lose nutrients in cooking and other vegetables nutrients are increased in cooking. Here’s a simple guide of foods that are better for you, cooked or raw:
As a general rule, water-soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and the B vitamins, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are best eaten raw. Eat foods high vitamin C and B vitamins in their raw form as snacks or in a yummy salad. If you are cooking them steam them quickly or blanch them to preserve as much of their nutrients as possible.
Spinach is always a good idea
But there are no hard and fast rules: Raw spinach can contain three times the amount of vitamin C as cooked spinach..
Eating spinach cooked allows the pre-vitamin A, as well as some of the minerals like iron to be better absorbed.
One way to capture the nutrients of veggies you steam is to keep that liquid to use in your next smoothie, soup, or sauce to preserve those nutrients that are left after cooking. Just don’t overheat it or you may lose what you were aiming to keep.
Soaking nuts and seeds
Soaking nuts and seeds (for several hours at room temperature) allows some of the minerals to become more bioavailable from their chemical structure, so they’re more absorbable.
Foods to eat cooked
Tomatoes, carrots, sweet potato, and other orange and red “beta-carotene rich veggies make pre-Vitamin A and release it when cooked, making the vitamin more absorbable. Fun fact: One study found that absorption of beta-carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-fried carrots than in raw carrots!
Then consider eating your fat-soluble vitamin-rich produce with a side of healthy fats for even better absorption and nourishment.
Go Slow and Take Baby Steps!
We served you a rather big plate of clean eating in this blog and we know change can be overwhelming, so please start slow. Our clients have had great success by concentrating on one meal time each week. For instance, if breakfast is primarily processed foods, then work on making your breakfasts healthier.
When you have conquered that meal, go onto another one until you have really cleaned up most of your meals. And don’t forget to leave some room for those oh-so-tasty “Planned Indulgences” that we advocate.
The PCOS Detox
If you are looking to detox your PCOS hormones and boost your fertility, this is a fantastic way to start
Ashlene Korcek PA-C
Hi there! I’m Ashlene Korcek, the PCOS Mama and founder of Nourished to Healthy
I help women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome balance their hormones naturally so that they can take back control of their bodies, boost their fertility, and ultimately live free from the symptoms of PCOS. Like you, I have PCOS, I was diagnosed while struggling with infertility and was told I likely would never have children. Even as a board-certified Physician Assistant I felt lost about what to do and very alone! Fast forward 5 years and I have 3 healthy children, but I never want another woman to feel lost and alone the way I did!
You can break free from the downward spiral of PCOS and feel amazing in your own skin again!