PCOS Diet: Eat These Foods to Manage Your Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Photo by Ivan Samkov:

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is a common female hormonal condition that is characterized by metabolic, reproductive, and hyperandrogenic features. According to the data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, one out of ten women experiences this problem at her childbearing age. PCOS is a leading health concern among women not only because it can lead to infertility but also because it can result in several serious health issues, such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and endometrial cancer. 

The Northern Finland Birth Cohort (NFBC) provided some significant data in 1966 to reflect that there is a strong relationship between BMI and PCOS and it has been found that 38 to 88% of women with PCOS are obese or overweight. Again a 2019 research study found that even though PCOS is a genetic condition, it gets worsened by obesity. Clearly, there is a relation between your eating habit and PCOS. So, can an appropriate diet help you to manage PCOS? Please continue to read this article to know how diet affects PCOS and what should be your ideal diet for PCOS. 

Signs and Symptoms of PCOS:

  • Irregular periods or no menstruation
  • Acne-prone skin
  • Fertility issues
  • Hair loss
  • Unwanted hair growth on body or face
  • Weight gain
  • Frequent mood changes
  • Change in skin pigment 

If you find such symptoms, consult your doctor. After conducting tests, if your doctor diagnoses that you have PCOS, go through the medication that your doctor will provide. You should also follow an appropriate PCOS diet plan.

How Does Your Diet Affect PCOS?

There is a strong connection between PCOS and an increased level of insulin. Insulin hormone releases from the pancreas and has a significant role to transfer glucose into energy. Therefore, if your body does not produce enough inulin or you have an insulin resistance issue, then the sugar levels in your blood will increase. 

Once you have insulin resistance, your body will tend to release more insulin so that the sugar level in your blood remains normal. Conversely, a high release of insulin can result in more production of androgens, such as testosterone from your ovaries.

The reason behind insulin resistance is a higher body mass index or BMI. Therefore, if you have PCOS, you are likely to have insulin resistance and it would be difficult for you to lose weight. If your diet includes high carbohydrates including sugar and starch foods, this will cause insulin resistance and as a result, you will find it difficult to manage your weight as well as PCOS. 

What Should Be Your PCOS Diet Plan?

According to some research, your eating habit has a substantial impact on your PCOS. There are certain foods that can definitely help you manage PCOS. You should also avoid certain foods. So, let’s understand the fundamentals of the PCOS diet.

The Fundamentals of a PCOS Diet:

1. A Low GI Diet with High Fiber and Low Carbohydrate Foods: 

The foods that have a low glycemic index (GI) get digested slowly in our bodies and do not result in a high release of insulin, whereas food like carbohydrates can increase the insulin level. Therefore, you should eat foods with low GI, such as 

  • Whole grains, 
  • Nuts (especially almonds), 
  • Legumes, 
  • Seeds, 
  • Starchy vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts),
  • Greens including arugula and red leaf lettuce
  • Lentils and beans,
  • Green and red peppers
  • Berries,
  • Pumpkin,
  • Sweet potatoes,
  • Winter squash,
  • Fruits, and 
  • Low-carbohydrate foods

High fiber foods slow down the process of digestion and reduce the blood sugar level, therefore, these foods help you to fight against insulin resistance. When you have PCOS, you are more likely to have type 2 diabetes. High fiber and low carbohydrate foods can help to stabilize your blood sugar levels. 

2. An Anti-Inflammatory Diet: 

Foods that help to minimize inflammation are essential to managing PCOS, such as

  • Fatty fish, such as sardines and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acid
  • Tomatoes,
  • Spinach,
  • Olive oil,
  • Walnuts and almonds,
  • Fruits, such as strawberries and blueberries

3. Protein Diet:

Even though protein in your diet will not provide fiber, some lean protein sources, such as fish, chicken, and tofu are essential nutritious foods for people with PCOS.

4. The DASH Diet: 

People with a high risk of heart disease are often advised by doctors for the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet. A DASH diet is also useful to manage PCOS symptoms. This diet includes

  • Fish,
  • Poultry,
  • Vegetables,
  • Whole grains,
  • Fruits, and 
  • Low-fat dairy products 

5. Include Foods That are High in Vitamins and Minerals:

According to many studies, if you want to minimize the symptoms of PCOS and improve insulin resistance, you must consume foods that are high in vitamin B, vitamin D, magnesium, iodine, and selenium. The sources of vitamins and minerals are-

Vitamin B 8Eggplant, Tuna, Strawberries, Almonds, Oranges, Corn, Beans
Vitamin DFortified Milk, Eggs, Mushrooms, Salmon
MagnesiumDark Chocolate, Seeds, Nuts, Avocados, Bananas, Whole Grains
SeleniumFortified Whole Grains, Tuna, Turkey, Salmon, Eggs, Spinach, Cottage Cheese
IodineHimalayan Salt, Eggs, Yogurt, Turkey Breast, Salmon

Which Foods Should You Exclude from Your PCOS Diet?

Refined Carbohydrates:

You should avoid or limit your intake of refined carbohydrates as these foods can result in inflammation and worsen insulin resistance. These foods include-

  • White bread
  • Breakfast pastries
  • Muffins
  • Sugar desserts
  • Foods with white flour

Sugary Drinks and Snacks:

As sugar is a carbohydrate, your PCOS diet should exclude foods and drinks with sugar including high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and dextrose. You should avoid the consumption of soda and juice.

Inflammatory Foods:

You should also avoid the consumption of inflammation-causing foods, such as red and processed meats, fries, and margarine.

Other Lifestyle Changes: 

To improve PCOS symptoms, you should also go through some lifestyle changes. The change in your lifestyle should include daily physical movement and exercise. You should exercise at least two and half hours every week to minimize insulin resistance. A low-inflammation diet and low sugar intake along with daily activity can significantly help you to lose weight. With weight loss, many women experience that there is an improvement in ovulation. 

As a woman with PCOS may experience stress, it is important to maintain the peace and calmness of mind through using stress reduction techniques, such as meditation and yoga. However, it is always better to consult a doctor and take suggestions from a healthcare professional when you are diagnosed with PCOS.

Things to Know About PCOS:

PCOS can significantly result in female infertility: 

As PCOS causes hormonal imbalance in 70-80% of women, this creates major issues in women’s pregnancy and increases the risk of miscarriage.

The causes of PCOS are unknown:

PCOS can be occurred due to genetic factors and environmental influences. However, certain lifestyles including excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking can increase the risk of developing PCOS.

There is a strong relation between PCOS and obesity:

PCOS causes insulin insensitivity and restricts your body from converting sugar into energy. For this reason, you will tend to gain weight. Therefore, you should engage in more physical activity and aim to lose weight to improve PCOS symptoms.

You may be diagnosed with PCOS without the presence of cysts on your ovaries: 

Whether your PCOS is diagnosed with or without cysts on ovaries, your doctor can provide you with the best suggestions.

The Concluding Statement:

When you are experiencing the symptoms of PCOS, it is definitely frustrating for you. However, following a PCOS diet plan and making certain lifestyle changes can help you to minimize the symptoms and improve your mood.

Remember, an ideal diet for PCOS is about adding PCOS-friendly foods to your diet and avoiding or limiting certain foods that increase the symptoms of PCOS. For instance, if you regularly eat white toast or margarine in your breakfast try to replace these foods with high-fiber whole-grain bread, avocado, and olive oil without affecting the nutritious benefits.

Above all, if you are experiencing the symptoms of PCOS, immediately consult a doctor. A doctor can test your physical conditions as well as recommend you the most appropriate steps that you need to take. 

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