Health Concerns for Hispanic Women with PCOS

As a Spanish speaking Registered Dietitian (RD), I have noticed many Hispanic women have the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but are more likely to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

Overall, Hispanic women have a higher prevalence of obesity. We tend to have higher body mass indexes (BMI) and higher diabetes rates. This high BMI also puts us at risk for stroke and hypertension (HTN). So what could be causing this higher incidence of BMI, Diabetes, stroke, and HTN? Could it be food? We know that the Hispanic diet is higher in carbohydrates, we eat rice and beans, tortillas, plantains, root veggies and so much more. But could our sedentary lifestyles also be a cause?

Metabolic Syndrome is characterized by high blood sugars, higher blood pressure readings, high triglycerides, low HDLs, and a waist circumference greater than 35 inches in women.

A study published in the Journal of Human Reproduction found that when compared to other women with PCOS at similar ages and weight, Hispanic women were found to have more central body fat, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and overall, increased risk for metabolic syndrome.

I have noticed that women come in to see me and have all the levels to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome but also have symptoms of PCOS. As a dietitian that can speak your language, it is very important to sit down and get to the root of the issue and to screen for PCOS.

In the nutrition assessment, I ask about all the symptoms and their history. I always ask are you experiencing any odd hair growth or balding. Do you have acne? Rapid or sudden weight changes? Irregular menstrual cycles? And I try to piece together a puzzle. If I suspect they do indeed have PCOS, I provide them with referrals, such as a visit with a reproductive endocrinologist and information on where to go next.

The Typical Hispanic Diet

Coming from a Dominican family I know firsthand how much carbohydrates a Hispanic can consume! The majority of the food we eat are carbohydrate ones. But I also believe our diets are not unhealthy, we just need to learn to tweak portions and combine foods better. I could never stop eating rice, and would never ask a patient to do so either. Our diets are full of fiber, we love to eat beans, and lots of fruits and veggies, especially our root veggies. We do tend to eat higher fat meats, but with a little tweaking we can change those habits too!

It is important to remember that in the United States our jobs are mostly sedentary, we drive everywhere and we just DO NOT move as much as we do back in our countries. And therefore, we cannot continue to eat like we still live back at home. This is where our sedentary lifestyle really puts us at risk for metabolic complications. We no longer need high carbohydrate and fat foods to give us energy for the day, we now need smaller portions and more movement.

Once we can get past that, we need to learn carbohydrate portions and how to add whole grains to our diets. It isn’t about not eating those specific carbohydrates we grew up with, but more about how much we should be eating. Corn tortillas ARE whole grain, root veggies are loaded with nutrients, and rice doesn’t always have to be white! I also like to introduce my family and clients to new grains, such as quinoa, barley, bran—grains that they might be familiar with but have never added to their diet.

Portion sizes for common Hispanic carbohydrate type foods:

  • 1 slice of bread (1 oz)
  • 1 (6 inch) tortilla
  • ½ cup of oatmeal
  • 1/3 cup of pasta or rice
  • ½ cup of black beans
  • ½ cup starchy vegetable (yucca, platano, malanga, yautia etc.)
  • 1 small piece of fresh fruit (4 oz)
  • ¼ of a large potato (3 oz)


To me as a Registered Dietitian, the most important thing is preserve OUR culture, to educate our people to have realistic food expectations and most of all, be healthier. And in doing so, we can help reduce our BMI, control blood sugars and manage PCOS or metabolic syndrome.


Sam S. Metabolic dysfunction in obese Hispanic women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Hum Reprod. 2015 Jun;30(6):1358-64.


Miguelina’s Arroz Con Gandules (Rice and Pigeon Peas)

hispanic rice pcos
















  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup white onion
  • ¼ cup celery
  • 1/3 cup cup cilantro
  • ¼ cup green bell pepper
  • ¼ cup of red pepper
  • ¼ cup yellow pepper
  • 1 small sweet pepper
  • ¼ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp salt


  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 (15 oz) can pigeon peas or gandules, drained
  • 2 cups of uncooked long grain rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 chicken bullion
  • 1 packet of Sazon


In a blender chop all the sofrito ingredients and blend until smooth, paste-like consistency.

  1. In a caldero (heavy pot with lid) add the oil, sofrito, and sazon packet. Simmer on medium low for a minute
  2. Stir in bullion cube and water until cube has dissolved
  3. Add gandules, let simmer for another minute to mix all the flavors
  4. Add rice, mix well (a popular test to assure you have enough water is to stand a wooden spoon in the middle of caldero; if it can stand on its own, there is enough water).
  5. Reduce heat to low and cover for 20 minutes. Do not lift lid, we want the rice to steam.
  6. After 20 minutes stir and add lid for another 5 minutes
  7. Serve and enjoy

 Another great source for holiday eating and recipes:

Dalina Soto is a registered dietitian in Philadelphia. She is the owner of Nutritiously Yours LLC, and soon be mother of two. “I know how hectic life can be. Managing a career and family, therefore my goal is to educate my clients on not being afraid of food but letting it nourish us. I am also working hard to educate the Hispanic community and bridge the gap between health care and Spanish speaking patients. I want to teach my community that we can still eat culturally appropriate foods and manage disease.”


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  • Health Concerns for Hispanic Women with PCOS – Healthie Blog

    April 3, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    […] Article reposted from PCOS Nutrition Center […]

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