Best Foods For PCOS: What To Eat And What To Avoid

Many women with PCOS find that regulating their diet and lifestyle choices helps them manage their symptoms and lower their risk of other medical issues. Let us look at the best foods for PCOS.

One of the most prevalent endocrine abnormalities in women is PCOS. Although there is no cure for PCOS, research shows that certain dietary and lifestyle modifications can help you manage it [1].

While PCOS is a complex condition to treat since hormones go into overdrive and bring about symptoms all over the body, there are dietary approaches that can help reduce some of the worst symptoms, and the majority of the meals recommended are plant-based.

So let us look at the list of foods to avoid with PCOS and the best foods to consume.

Understanding PCOS

Period irregularities or no menstruation are typical problems of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Multiple cysts in the ovaries are common in women with PCOS, which are characterized by an overproduction of androgens.

Around half of the women who suffer from the condition are overweight or obese [2]. PCOS patients are more likely to experience sleep apnea, joint pain, and difficulty conceiving due to the increased weight associated with the condition.

However, some women with this condition do not develop cysts, whereas others who may not have the condition do.

When a mature egg is released from an ovary, it is called ovulation. This happens so that male sperm can fertilize it. The egg is thrown out of the body if it is not fertilized during your period.

What are the best foods for PCOS?

Whole grains, fresh fruit, and plant-based proteins should be prioritized in a PCOS diet, whereas sugar, processed foods, and trans fat should be avoided. 

You may need to modify your macronutrient consumption (fat, protein, carbohydrates) or take supplements depending on your overall health needs.

List of fruits good for PCOS

Fresh produce is adaptable and nutrient-dense. Colorful berries are especially good for people with PCOS because they are high in antioxidants, which may help lower oxidative stress. They also aid in the management of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can harm your body if consumed in large quantities [3].

  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Pomegranates  
  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Grapes
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Kiwi
  • Bananas 

These are the fruits that can be included in a PCOS diet. Fruits and vegetables should make up around half of one’s plate at any given meal, as they contribute bulk nutrients to the meal.

List of vegetables good for PCOS

At least 1-2 servings of wholesome, nutritious green leafy vegetables should be included in your diet. These are not only nutrient-dense but also high in Vitamin Bs. Vitamin B is a vital nutrient that helps with fertility by regulating ovulation, insulin regulation, and overall blood flow [4].

As a result, a high vitamin B consumption can aid in the management of PCOS symptoms. It may also aid in the reduction of hair thinning and hirsutism (excess hair growth), two common PCOS and PCOD symptoms.

Here is a list of vegetables to pick from:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Green and Red peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Pumpkin

Leafy greens, colorful berries, and deep crimson pomegranates are all high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that help the body fight oxidative stress and inflammation.

List of best drinks for PCOS

One of the best ways to cure PCOS at home is to drink beverages with fibres, proteins, and organic herbs. Green tea, apple cider vinegar, a rich high protein drink, and a green leafy smoothie composed of spinach, kale, and green cabbage are all good sources of fiber, omega fatty acids, and vitamin B.

Here are some best drinks for PCOS that you can easily prepare at home:

  • Spearmint tea
  • Chamomile tea
  • Plum juice
  • Fenugreek/Methi water
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Shatavari
  • Ashwagandha with milk

All of these vitamin-rich juices aid in the treatment of PCOS in women. Consultation with a gynecologist is also strongly suggested.

List of lean plant-based proteins

Proteins can also help you feel satiated, promote healthy muscular growth, and lower blood sugar spikes—but not all proteins are created equal. When it comes to meat-based protein, choose chicken, fish, and other non-red meats. 

Because it supplies the same quantity of protein with fewer calories, lean protein is preferable to fatty meat. You can obtain enough protein without eating meat, as well.

The following are some excellent plant-based proteins:

  • Quinoa
  • Soybean
  • Tofu
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Hempseed 

These foods can aid with insulin balancing, easing some PCOS symptoms like irregular menstrual periods, and in some circumstances, assisting individuals who want to reduce weight.

List of healthy fats for PCOS

Fats are essential for a balanced diet. Fats aid in vitamin absorption because several vitamins are fat-soluble. They also aid in the prevention or reduction of blood sugar spikes, which are detrimental to PCOS patients. 

Healthy fats should be preferred over saturated or trans fats like hydrogenated oils, and they should be used in moderation, especially for those with PCOS who are at risk of heart disease. Some healthy fats include:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Flaxseed oil

PCOS food list to avoid

Except for zero/low-calorie sweeteners, which is advised to avoid because they have been shown to enhance sugar cravings and are connected to weight gain, people with PCOS shouldn’t feel compelled to fully exclude any one thing unless they are sensitive, intolerant, or allergic to it.

Foods that raise insulin levels or cause blood sugar to increase can have an impact on PCOS. While these foods are permitted, they should be consumed in moderation.

Processed foods

In the same manner, as simple carbs do, heavily processed foods can contribute to insulin resistance. They typically contain added sugar and salt, as well as a lack of fibre found in unprocessed foods. A whole apple, for example, is high in fibre and helps to lower blood sugar levels. Applesauce removes a lot of the fibre, allowing the body to absorb the sugar more quickly. Apple juice is processed further, resulting in a fast sugar spike.

Saturated and Trans fats

PCOS patients have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat should be used in moderation, and many health experts advise avoiding trans fats entirely. 

Processed foods contain these lipids, which can make even nutritious foods unhealthy. Poached eggs and steamed veggies, for example, are a healthier option than eggs and vegetables fried in butter.

Simple carbs / Refined sugars

High-glycemic-index baked products (such as most cookies, cakes, and pastries), soft drinks, many juices, white bread /rice/pasta, and similar items are readily absorbed into cells, causing extra insulin to flow. 

This results in a blood sugar increase and insulin resistance. To reduce sugar swings, eat these foods with or before a meal and combine them with healthy fats, proteins, and fibre.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Diet

The food that you eat has a big impact on PCOS. However, there is currently no typical PCOS diet [5].

There is, however, widespread agreement on which foods are helpful and appear to assist patients to manage their condition, as well as which foods to avoid.

The following are three diets that may assist women with PCOS in managing their symptoms:

DASH diet

The DASH diet, out of all the diets available, maybe the best for women with PCOS. Obese women with PCOS who followed the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) plan reduced belly fat and had significant improvements in insulin resistance and inflammatory markers, according to research [6].

One of the best aspects of the DASH diet, and a factor that contributed to its high ranking among health professionals, is how simple it is to follow. This diet has no tracking points, carbs, or calories to track. 

Simply reduce your intake of sugary, salty, and high saturated fat foods while increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. It can also be considered as the best diet for PCOS weight loss.

Low Glycemic Index diet

People who have PCOS should eat a lot of protein, but only lean protein sources. They should avoid meals that induce inflammation too. Anti-inflammatory foods to consider include fatty fish, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, berries, almonds, olive oil, and turmeric. Sugary foods and drinks should also be avoided. They should eat low-glycemic-index foods.

  • Wheat, barley, jowar, and kuttu are examples of whole grains. Instead of maida, these flours can be used to make parathas.
  • Chickpeas and kidney beans are two legumes that can help you control your blood sugar levels.
  • Green vegetables such as spinach, kale, cabbage, and methi greens can help maintain blood sugar levels while also supplying nutrients.
  • You could also consider root veggies such as carrots and radish. These foods are good for PCOS.

Although most fruits have a low GI, seasonal guavas, cherries, grapefruit, apples, and oranges should not be overlooked. A low GI diet can help to curb the symptoms of PCOS and hence can be considered as the best diet for PCOS [7].

Anti-inflammatory diet

Inflammation is linked to PCOS. Women with PCOS have greater levels of inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, and white blood cell count, than women of similar weight [8].

While food choices cannot eliminate inflammation in the body, they do have a role to play. Certain foods have been found to induce inflammation, while others have been shown to reduce inflammation.

Women with PCOS were given a Mediterranean-style anti-inflammatory diet to follow for three months in a research published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences [9]. For every gram of fat consumed, participants consumed 2 grams of protein and 3 grams of carbohydrate.

This diet emphasized on anti-inflammatory foods like fish, legumes, nuts, olive oil, herbs, spices, and green tea and was supposed to be low calorie, low fat, low saturated fat, low glycemic index, and moderate-to-high fiber.

The results showed that women dropped 7% of their body weight and that their cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammatory indicators all improved significantly. Following this diet, 63% of women were able to restore their menstrual cycle, and 12% were able to conceive [9].

Can PCOS go away with weight loss?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for PCOS, however, decreasing weight can assist to normalise hormone levels in overweight and obese women. Apart from that, treatment focuses on symptom management.

A variety of therapy alternatives are available to assist prevent any potential pitfalls. Healthy food and regular exercise improve the way your body uses insulin and, as a result, your hormone levels are better regulated.

Weight loss can assist with PCOS symptoms, but it won’t necessarily make them go away completely. PCOS weight loss diet and exercises specifically, can help to maintain a healthy lifestyle and control the hormonal imbalance.

PCOS Diet plan

High insulin levels wreak havoc on the body, causing excessive hair growth, weight gain, acne, fatty liver, and high cholesterol, as well as polycystic ovaries and an irregular menstrual cycle, as well as increased hunger and cravings.

Isn’t this something you’ve heard before? As a result, controlling blood insulin levels is essential in the treatment of PCOS. Refined carbohydrates cause insulin levels to rise, so they should be avoided. In addition, high-fat diets contribute to weight gain and high cholesterol.

Here is a diet plan that can help you effectively reduce the symptoms of PCOS.

Healthy Diet Plan for PCOS

Breakfast for PCOS 2 slices of brown bread + 1 slice of low-fat cheese + 2 egg boiled egg whites / 1 cup vegetable oats + ½ cup low-fat milk / 1 cup mixed vegetable poha
Lunch for PCOS 1 cup rice + chicken curry/ fish curry/ beans curry + cucumber salad/ 1 cup spinach + 2 chapatis + 1 glass buttermilk 
Evening snack for PCOS 1 fruit portion (Reduce your consumption of high-energy fruits like bananas, Jack fruit, Mango, and Chikku/ Sapota, for example.) / 1 cup light tea + 2 wheat rusks
Dinner for PCOS 1 vegetable wrap + ½ cup broccoli/ chicken soup/ 2 chapatis + mixed vegetable curry

Other ways to treat PCOS

PCOS, like many other conditions, responds well to healthy lifestyle changes. This includes physical activity and movement on a daily basis. 

Both can aid in the reduction of insulin resistance, especially when combined with a low-carbohydrate diet. Many experts think that 150 minutes of exercise each week is optimal [10].

Weight loss can also be promoted by regular exercise, a low-sugar diet, and a low-inflammatory diet. Weight loss may promote ovulation in women, thus women who are obese or overweight and wish to get pregnant should prioritize physician-approved exercise.

The signs and symptoms of PCOS can be stressful. Stress reduction practices that help you connect with your body and relax your mind can help. Yoga or fusion yoga to break the monotony, and meditation are two among them.

Some individuals with PCOS may benefit from supplements. Inositol, for example, can aid in insulin regulation, and B vitamins can aid in the fight against insulin resistance. Supplements should be taken with caution and discussed with your doctor [11, 12].

FAQs

How to get rid of PCOS?

One can not probably get rid of PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome as several factors including hormonal imbalances and genetics play a major role. However, one can control the symptoms by following a healthy lifestyle.

Is mango good for PCOS?

Any natural food in moderation may cause no harm to people with PCOS. However, if someone is not tolerable to certain fruits, they should ask a medical professional before incorporating it into their diet.

Are bananas good for PCOS?

Being high in potassium, bananas make it to the list of good foods for PCOS. However, since it is high in energy, eating bananas in excess can spike up sugar levels in people with PCOS. Any fruit in moderation is considered to be good for someone with PCOS. 

Wrapping up

Although there is currently no cure for PCOS, a person’s symptoms can be reduced and their quality of life can be improved by eating a healthy diet and becoming more physically active. We hope that you include the above mentioned best foods for PCOS in your diet.

PCOS can be managed by achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and eating healthy fats, lean proteins, and moderate amounts of low-GI carbohydrates. Consult your doctor if your symptoms persist. They can help you figure out what’s causing the problem and what steps to take next.

References

  1. Lim, Siew S et al. “Lifestyle changes in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews vol. 3,3 (2019), CD007506.
  2. Gambineri, A et al. “Obesity, and the polycystic ovary syndrome.” International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders : journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity vol. 26,7 (2002): 883-96.
  3. Amini, Leila et al. “Antioxidants and management of polycystic ovary syndrome in Iran: A systematic review of clinical trials.” Iranian journal of reproductive medicine vol. 13,1 (2015): 1-8.
  4. Günalan, Elif et al. “The effect of nutrient supplementation in the management of polycystic ovary syndrome-associated metabolic dysfunctions: A critical review.” Journal of the Turkish German Gynecological Association vol. 19,4 (2018): 220-232.
  5. Douglas, Crystal C et al. “Role of diet in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome.” Fertility and sterility vol. 85,3 (2006): 679-88. 
  6. Asemi, Z, and A Esmaillzadeh. “DASH diet, insulin resistance, and serum hs-CRP in polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled clinical trial.” Hormone and metabolic research = Hormon- und Stoffwechselforschung = Hormones et metabolisme vol. 47,3 (2015): 232-8.
  7. Sordia-Hernández, L H et al. “Effect of a low glycemic diet in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome and anovulation – a randomized controlled trial.” Clinical and experimental obstetrics & gynecology vol. 43,4 (2016): 555-559.
  8. “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome”, Office On Women’s Health, (2021). 
  9. Salama, Amany Alsayed et al. “Anti-Inflammatory Dietary Combo in Overweight and Obese Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.” North American journal of medical sciences vol. 7,7 (2015): 310-6.
  10.  “How much physical activity do adults need?”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2021).
  11. Unfer, Vittorio et al. “Myo-inositol effects in women with PCOS: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Endocrine connections vol. 6,8 (2017): 647-658.
  12. Kaya, Cemil et al. “Obesity and insulin resistance associated with lower plasma vitamin B12 in PCOS.” Reproductive biomedicine online vol. 19,5 (2009): 721-6.
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