Nourishing Your Body: The Best PCOS Diet

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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder characterized by symptoms such as cysts, abnormal hair growth, inflammation, irregular periods, and more.

It affects numerous women worldwide and can be managed through dietary changes that support overall health and alleviate symptoms. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PCOS affects 6% to 12% of US women of reproductive age.

A well-balanced diet can produce positive outcomes, including weight loss, reduced insulin levels, improved hormonal balance, and decreased PCOS-related symptoms

In this article, we will explore the PCOS diet, highlighting foods to avoid and the best options to include for optimal health.

Best Foods for PCOS

To support your health and manage PCOS, incorporate the following nutrient-dense foods into your diet:

Omega-3-rich fish

Omega-3-rich fish refers to types of fish that are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids. 

They have numerous benefits, such as reducing inflammation, promoting heart health, supporting brain function, and improving overall well-being.

Opt for omega-3-rich fish such as:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Trout 
  • Herring
The fatty acids include EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), which are essential for maintaining good health.

Healthy fats

Healthy fat foodsSource: Rimma_Bondarenko_from getty images
Healthy fat foods

Healthy fats help promote hormone balance, reduce inflammation, and support overall health. 

Here are some healthy fat foods that you can incorporate into your PCOS-friendly diet:

  • Avocados have monounsaturated fats, which can help improve insulin sensitivity
  • Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are excellent sources of healthy fats, antioxidants, and fiber
  • Extra virgin olive oil is common in the Mediterranean diet and contains monounsaturated fats
  • Coconut oil has medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that can provide a quick source of energy
  • Natural nut butter, like almond butter or peanut butter, offers healthy fats, protein, and fiber
  • Besides flaxseeds and chia seeds, other seeds, such as sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, are rich in healthy fats 

It’s always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian so they can recommend a personalized diet based on your specific needs and goals.

Plant-based proteins

Plant-based proteins can be an excellent choice for individuals managing PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). 

They offer various benefits, including being lower in saturated fat, higher in fiber, and often rich in other beneficial nutrients. 

Here are some plant-based protein sources that can be incorporated into a PCOS-friendly diet:

  • Legumes like beans, lentils, chickpeas
  • Made from soybeans, tofu, and tempeh are versatile plant-based protein options 
  • Quinoa is a pseudo-grain that is considered a complete protein
  • Seitan, or wheat gluten, is a protein-rich food commonly used as a meat substitute
  • Edamame, or young soybeans
  • Plant-based protein powders, such as pea protein, rice protein, or hemp protein

Non-starchy vegetables

Non-starchy vegetablesSource: thawatpong_from getty images
Non-starchy vegetables

Incorporating non-starchy vegetables into your PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) diet can be highly beneficial for managing symptoms and promoting overall health. 

Non-starchy vegetables have low calories and carbohydrates while packed with essential nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants. 

Here are some examples of non-starchy vegetables that you can include in your PCOS diet:

  • Leafy greens like spinach, kale, swiss chard, arugula, and collard greens 
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and bok choy
  • Colorful bell peppers (red, yellow, green, or orange) are low in calories and high in antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber
  • Cucumbers have high water content and are very hydrating
  • Asparagus is a nutrient-dense vegetable meaning it is low in calories and high in fiber
  • Green beans are low in calories and carbohydrates while providing fiber, vitamins, and minerals

Remember to include a variety of non-starchy vegetables in your diet to benefit from their various nutrients. 

Doing so can support your PCOS management efforts and improve your overall well-being.

Whole grains

Whole grain foodsSource: bigc_studio
Whole grain foods

Whole grains are unrefined grains that retain the bran, germ, and endosperm. This makes them higher in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than refined grains. 

They can regulate blood sugar levels, promote satiety, support weight management, and improve insulin sensitivity. 

Here are some examples of whole grains that you can include in your PCOS diet:

  • Quinoa is a versatile pseudo-grain that is considered a complete protein
  • Brown rice is a nutritious whole grain that is high in fiber, B vitamins, and minerals
  • Oats contain soluble fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar levels
  • Choose whole wheat bread, pasta, and tortillas instead of refined white versions 
  • Barley is a nutritious grain giving high fiber
  • Buckwheat is not a type of wheat and is gluten-free 
  • Millet is a gluten-free grain rich in fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants

Whole fruits

Whole fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, making them excellent choices for a balanced and nutritious diet. 

They regulate blood sugar levels, support weight management, reduce inflammation, and provide essential nutrients.

Here are some examples of whole fruits that you can include in your PCOS diet:

  • Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries
  • Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes
  • Apples contain fiber and various vitamins and antioxidants
  • Stone fruits include peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries
  • Pears are high in fiber and provide essential nutrients such as vitamin C and potassium
  • Grapes are rich in antioxidants
  • Pineapple is a tropical fruit containing bromelain, an enzyme known for its anti-inflammatory properties
If you have kidney issues, limiting your intake of stone fruits such as peaches, plums, and cherries is advisable due to their higher content of oxalates, which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones. If you have any concerns or specific medical conditions, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

When incorporating whole fruits into your PCOS diet, focus on variety and moderation. 

Aim for 2-3 servings of fruits daily, spread throughout your meals and snacks. 

Hydration and low-sugar beverages

Proper hydration and choosing low-sugar beverages are important factors when managing PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)

Additionally, opting for low-sugar beverages can help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent unnecessary spikes that can worsen PCOS symptoms. 

Here are some tips on hydration and selecting suitable beverages for PCOS:

  • Water is the best and most natural option for staying hydrated
  • Herbal teas, like chamomile, peppermint, ginger, or green tea
  • Infusing water with fruits, vegetables, or herbs can add flavor without adding sugar
  • Opt for unsweetened varieties if you enjoy iced tea
  • Sparkling water 
  • Coconut water can help replenish fluids and provide essential nutrients
  • Prepare your smoothies using whole fruits, vegetables, and unsweetened dairy or non-dairy milk

Remember that hydration is not limited to beverages alone. 

Consuming water-rich foods like cucumbers, watermelon, and leafy greens can also contribute to your overall hydration. 

Foods to avoid with PCOS

Avoiding foods contributing to inflammation and aggravating symptoms is crucial to managing PCOS effectively. 

These include:

Fried and processed foods

Foods like French fries, potato chips, fried chicken, and processed snacks (cakes, cookies, and pies) can intensify inflammation and lead to weight gain.

Saturated fats

Butter, margarine, red meat (such as hamburgers and steaks), processed luncheon meats, and hot dogs should be limited. 

As they are associated with inflammation.

Refined carbohydrates

Foods prepared with refined flour, like white bread, rolls, pizza crust, pasta, and white rice, can cause blood sugar spikes and should be replaced with whole-grain alternatives.

Sugary beverages and alcoholic drinks

Sodas, teas, sports drinks, and alcoholic beverages are high in sugar, can disrupt blood sugar levels, and contribute to weight gain.

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Balanced diet

While popular diets claim to alleviate PCOS symptoms, it is important to approach dietary changes cautiously. 

Eliminating entire food groups, such as carbohydrates, is impractical for long-term weight control and may lead to nutrient deficiencies. 

Instead, focus on balanced meals and snacks, including low-glycemic carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Consistency in blood sugar levels is vital for managing PCOS, so consider smaller, frequent meals spaced out every four hours. 


A well-planned PCOS diet can make a significant difference in managing symptoms and promoting overall health. 

Avoiding foods contributing to inflammation and insulin resistance is crucial for women with PCOS

By incorporating nutrient-rich options, they can experience weight loss, improved hormonal balance, and reduced related symptoms.

Remember to consult a doctor or a registered dietitian before making any changes to your diet.

They can provide personalized guidance and support to help you create a PCOS-friendly diet that suits your needs. 

With dedication and a nourishing diet, you can take positive steps towards managing PCOS and enhancing your well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is papaya good for PCOS?

Papaya can benefit women with PCOS as it is a low-glycemic fruit that provides essential vitamins and minerals. However, individual responses may vary, so it’s recommended to consume papaya in moderation and listen to your body’s response.

What not to eat when you have PCOS?

When you have PCOS, limiting or avoiding foods contributing to insulin resistance and inflammation is advisable. This includes processed and sugary foods, refined carbohydrates, fried foods, and excessive consumption of saturated fats.

Which fruit is best for PCOD?

The best fruits for women with PCOS include low-glycemic options like berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries), cherries, and apples. These fruits provide essential nutrients and are less likely to cause rapid blood sugar spikes.

How can I lose weight with PCOS naturally?

To lose weight with PCOS naturally, focus on a balanced diet of healthy fats, lean proteins, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Incorporate regular exercise, manage stress levels, and prioritize sleep. Seek guidance from a doctor or registered dietitian specializing in PCOS for personalized recommendations.

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