Updated: Jan 14
Whether you are newly diagnosed with PCOS or have had it for many years, this PCOS diet is for you! I want to start by saying I am not a fan of the word "diet" but the technical definition of diet is "the types of foods a person typically eats" which is what I am going to talk about.
What does a PCOS diet help with?
The goal of the foods recommended in my PCOS diet is to provide the body with all the essential nutrients needed for proper hormone production, blood sugar management, and anti-inflammatory benefits. As a whole this diet will keep inflammation down in the body so that it does not contribute to worsening of hormone imbalance, weight gain, and other symptoms.
Are there foods I need to avoid?
I recommend everyone limit their daily sugar intake. An adult woman should not consume more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. Other foods vary depending on the symptoms and imbalances that you are dealing with.
Some common foods that can worsen PCOS symptoms include dairy, soy, gluten, and corn. If high cortisol levels are an issue, both alcohol and caffeine should be avoided. These can disrupt energy, sleep, mood, anxiety, and depression.
How harmful is sugar?
High sugar consumption over an extended period of time can disrupt your hormone balance. Hormones are chemical messengers involved in every function of your body, especially metabolism and weight gain. When you eat sugar it increases your blood glucose (sugar) level.
When your blood sugar level increases it signals the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. Insulin is a key to the cells. It opens the cell’s door so that glucose can go in and be used for energy.
Sugar and Weight Gain
When you eat a larger than normal amount of sugar, your blood sugar levels spike and lead to a higher level of insulin. High insulin levels signal the body to store energy as fat, leading to weight gain especially around the midsection (3).
Insulin also affects the hormone leptin, which is our natural appetite suppressant telling our brain we are full and should stop eating. Imbalanced insulin levels, along with high consumption of added sugars can lead to leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is when our brain no longer hears the “full/satiety” cues and we start eating larger quantities.
What foods should I eat more of?
The foods that you'll find in the PCOS diet guidelines below are whole food, low-sugar items. In my practice, I have found women respond best to a diet that is high fiber and healthy fats. This can be a little tricky combination since fiber is found in carbohydrate foods. So to avoid a high carbohydrate diet I highly encourage you to keep track of your daily food intake using an app or online food tracker.
The most popular free food tracking site and app is My Fitness Pal. Aim for at least 30 grams of fiber daily. Continue reading below for what foods I recommend for a PCOS Diet.
Is there anything else I can do to help manage PCOS?
One of the most important things to keep in mind when managing PCOS is that your body is constantly communicating with you. Do you know what YOUR body is saying? Do you know what YOUR body needs?
These questions are tough to answer, but using a cycle tracking app like CLUE can make it easier. Working alongside a health professional that is knowledgeable on hormones, nutrition, and stress will give you the answers and guidance you need.
So now that you have an overall understanding of what foods we want to limit, what foods we want to eat more of, and what else you can be doing to learn your body...let's dive into the PCOS diet specifics!
A Whole Food, Low Sugar Diet
A healthy, low-sugar diet will help to provide essential nutrients for hormone balance as well as control blood sugar and weight. A diet high in fiber, healthy fats, and quality protein will help to keep you satisfied and full.
We want to increase fiber because it will help to pull out excess hormones, toxins, and hormones from the body. We want to increase healthy fats because they slow down the release of glucose into the body, leaving you full longer and decreasing cravings.
Work on increasing fiber in your diet. I want this to be from whole foods and not a supplement. Your goal of 30 grams per day. You want to slowly increase fiber, about 5 grams every few days, to prevent constipation or digestive issues.
Dietary fiber can be found in all plants, but some of the foods with the highest fiber content include:
Quality Protein Foods
Eating high quality protein with carbohydrates for snacks and meals will help to balance blood sugar and keep you full. For animal proteins make sure to choose organic, grass-fed.
Plant-based proteins are also a great option. If you have trouble with digestion of plant-based proteins you may need to incorporate a gut-healing protocol and support digestion through dietary and supplemental remedies. Reach out to me to learn more about these protocols.
If you are having trouble getting enough protein in your day, you can add a clean ingredient protein powder. Here is a favorite of mine.
Nuts and Seeds, Raw or Sprouted are Best
Beans and Legumes, Sprouted are Best
Gluten-Free Whole Grains like Rice, Quinoa, and Millet
Healthy, Low-Inflammatory Fats
Fats that are anti-inflammatory are the ones that contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. These are fatty fish like salmon and tuna, as well as some plants like chia and flaxseed. However, plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids are not well converted in the body so they do not match up to the quality of fish oil.
A list of healthy fats, include:
Chia and Flax Seeds
How to add flavor to meals without extra calories.
Use plenty of spices and herbs in your cooking. Spices and herbs not only help to increase flavor in your cooking, but they are what I like to call, medicinal foods. They have long been studied and used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.
These medicinal foods can support and promote healthy metabolism, detox, hormone production, digestion, and more. Here are the most widely studied and proven foods as medicine.
Are natural, zero-calorie sweeteners okay to have?
Finally an option that is not too good to be true! Both stevia and monk fruit are popular plants that have been dried and ground to be used as a sweetener with no calories. You can find stevia and monk fruit in powdered or liquid forms. For stevia make sure to purchase raw, organic green leaf stevia to avoid conventional brands that chemically process and bleach their products.
Looking for guidance, support, and a fun learning community?
Liz Riesen, Registered Dietitian
specializes in digestive and hormone imbalances. Often these conditions coexist and share common disruptive symptoms including mood changes, bloating, pain, irregular cycles, inflammation, and more. Liz is trained in identifying and healing food sensitivities, as well as balancing hormones naturally through nutrition and lifestyle.