I am very excited to hand over to my sister, Sophia, for this post who has devised a very strategic meal which is beneficial for women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects at least 1 in 5 women (if you want to read more about it scroll down to the end of the post). If you have not been diagnosed with this, don’t be deterred. This dish is wonderfully healthy and still manages to taste good!
Barely and Falafel Mediterranean vegetable salad with an avocado salsa
(Preparation time: 10 minutes, cooking time: 1.15 hours)
2 cans of chickpeas
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp fresh coriander (chopped)
1 tsp fresh parsley (chopped)
½ tsp baking powder
1 clove of garlic (finely chopped)
2 spring onions (finely chopped)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Barley & roasted vegetables
1 cups of barely
2 ½ cups water or vegetable stock (for extra flavour)
¼ pumpkin (chopped into small squares)
2 capsicums (thick slices)
1 bunch of asparagus (ends trimmed)
1 red onion
2 gloves garlic (crushed)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil to dress the vegetables
½ cucumber (finely chopped)
1 tbsp mint (finely chopped)
½ packet of slivered almonds
Squeeze of lemon
1 tbsp flaxeed oil or extra virgin olive oil (flaxseed oil is high in omega 3)
Preheat the oven to 200 °C. Using 1 cup of barley bring a pot of water 2 ½ cups (or with vegetable stock) to the boil and add your barley covering it with a lid and allowing it to simmer for 45 minutes. You can leave this on the stovetop whilst attending to the other elements. You’ll want to roast your pumpkin, leek, capsicum, onion and garlic dressed in extra virgin olive oil for 40 minutes, adding the zucchini in the last 10 minutes and then the asparagus in the last 5 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting you can prepare your falafels.
Place all falafel ingredients in the blender and slowly add the oil allowing the ingredients to break down. You don’t want it to be lumpy but try to achieve a soft consistency. Roll them up into balls to lay on a tray with baking paper. Put them in the oven within the last 20 minutes of the vegetables roasting to ensure everything comes out at once. When they come out they should be lightly browned and slightly soft but not so it all crumbles, if so put them back in the oven.
While everything else is cooking, the avocado salsa and the roasting of the slivered almonds is the final element. Mash up the avocado with a fork in a bowl, adding the chopped cucumber, oil, squeeze of lemon and mint. This should look like a guacamole. To be sprinkled on top of the main dish and salsa is the roasted slivered almonds. Pan fry them until they are lightly golden.
Assemble all together and enjoy!!
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal disorder which is caused by an insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that is released when we eat to stabilise our blood sugar levels (essentially managing the storage of energy from the foods that we eat). Food energy comes from carbohydrates such as starchy foods (bread, rice, pasta, potatoes) and then sucrose (your sugars). Each of these items are eventually broken down by the body into glucose, which is absorbed into the bloodstream and so limits its ability to efficiently stimulate your muscles and cells. People with insulin resistance cannot absorb the glucose into the blood stream, meaning that your body is not storing the energy which is then stored as fat, which unfortunately causes obesity and effects the balance of hormones.
With high levels of insulin that cannot be broken down, an enzyme is stimulated in the ovaries and the adrenal glands to produce testosterone, creating an imbalance. The effects of this leads to symptoms such as of excessive hair growth, facial hair, acne, cysts on the ovaries and loss of periods due to inactive ovaries. The more serious effects of insulin resistance are diabetes, heart disease, blood clots, strokes, infertility and cancer. However, and I stress this ‘however’, with a controlled diet and regular exercise it is possible to maintain a healthy weight, regulate menstrual cycles and in the long-term, conceive. The pill is also another choice, acting as a hormonal injection of estrogen to counter the higher levels of testosterone.
The dish I created ensures that all elements work together to form a meal that is low in carbohydrates, high in protein, high in fibre and low in GI. It is also vegan. Together these elements promote lower levels of insulin, which allows the body to break down the energy from foods more effectively. Proteins act as a stabilizer to carbohydrates (which are high GI), preventing your blood sugar levels from spiking and affecting the hormone balance.
Foods high in protein are:
. Wholegrain foods
. Brown rice
. Nuts (almonds)
. Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
. Soy products
Foods that are low GI are particularly important, where they naturally have low levels of glucose. They are:
. Wholegrain foods, i.e. whole meal flower and grains
Here are some specific ingredients of the dish above that are beneficial for those with PCOS.
Barely: Barley is high in fibre, which regulates the glucose going into the blood stream. It is the lowest in GI amongst grains and is a complex carb meaning that it has not been processed, allowing your body to break down the grain, whilst burning energy.
Falafel: Chickpeas are a great source of protein and these falafels are baked and not deep fried, making them healthy yet still tasting delicious when accompanied with the avocado salsa.
Avocado salsa: Avocados are good fats that are essential for the body and works as a healthy sauce.
Almonds: Great source of protein, filling and adds a crunchy element to the dish.
Flaxseed oil: High in omega 3, helps to lower cholesterol and prevents heart disease
Vegetables: The veggies chosen are naturally low in GI
To ensure that you maintain a healthy weight and stable hormones, exercising regularly will quicken your metabolism, allowing your body to break down the levels of glucose in your body.
Just adding a protein to a carbohydrate can make a huge difference to a PCOS diet.
The most important thing to remember when eating is to eat loads of protein rich foods, matched with complex carbs i.e. whole grain, brown rice and oats. Significantly reduce your intake of sugar, which means fruit too (maximum 2 portions a day), eat low GI with fresh and organic vegetables, due to chemicals holding high levels of hormones that can disrupt the natural hormonal balance.
Although this is an inconvenient disorder it can be controlled and non-restricting. Like everything you must take it with a grain of salt. Although eating white rice, starchy potatoes, lollies or chips with PCOS isn’t especially good, you still want to make sure you are enjoying your lifestyle by treating yourself occasionally.