Did you know that a well-tailored PCOS diet can assist in effectively managing your polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) symptoms?1 PCOS is a common hormonal condition that affects many women, often leading to irregular periods, acne, weight gain, and fertility issues. It affects about 6 to 10% of women of childbearing age.1, 2
While PCOS may seem intimidating, there is hope. And one of the best ways to manage its symptoms is a well-balanced, nutritious PCOS diet. 2 In this PCOS diet guide, we will delve into the importance of nutrition and how it can help you tackle PCOS symptoms head-on. Let us now understand how the right food choices can make a significant difference in your life if you have PCOS.
But before that, let's briefly explore a bit more about what PCOS is.
PCOS is characterised by hormonal imbalances, particularly elevated levels of androgens (male hormones), insulin resistance, and the presence of multiple small cysts on the ovaries. These factors can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including: 3
Now, let’s find out what exactly a PCOS diet is.
While PCOS is a complex condition with no known cure, managing its symptoms is entirely possible. Nutrition plays a crucial role in this process. A PCOS diet is a well-balanced healthy eating plan that supports individuals dealing with hormonal imbalances disorder. This diet can help address insulin resistance, regulate hormone levels, and promote overall health. A good PCOS diet includes consuming non-starchy fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats. 1, 2
First, a PCOS diet can help make it easier for your body to use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use sugar for energy. When your cells don't respond to insulin properly, it's called insulin resistance, which can lead to higher blood sugar levels.4
Second, a PCOS diet can help you lose weight. Weight gain is a common symptom of PCOS, and it can worsen insulin resistance. By improving insulin sensitivity and promoting weight loss, a PCOS diet can lead to a reduction in PCOS symptoms.4
Having recognized the importance of diet in PCOS symptom management, let's delve into beneficial foods for individuals with PCOS.
Whole grains are a great way to boost your health. They're packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fibre helps you feel full and satisfied, so you're less likely to overeat. Whole grains can also help improve your heart health, control blood sugar levels due to their low glycemic index, and promote weight loss. Some good examples of whole grains include oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread.5, 6
Low glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a particular food raises your blood sugar levels. Foods with a low glycemic index are slowly digested and absorbed, which helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable.7
Some good sources of protein include chicken, fish, tofu, beans, lentils, and eggs.5 Women with PCOS may benefit from eating more protein as it helps reduce androgen levels. Androgens are male hormones that can cause weight gain, excess hair growth, acne, and irregular periods.8, 9
They are not only low in calories and fat but also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The antioxidants help improve insulin sensitivity and other hormonal and metabolic problems in women with PCOS. Some of the go-to options are berries, dark leafy greens, and citrus fruits. 5, 10, 11
Eating healthy fats can balance hormones and reduce chronic low-grade inflammation in the body caused due to PCOS. Healthy fats are found in foods like olive oil, salmon, almonds, walnuts, avocados, and peanut butter. 12, 13
To learn how to handle PCOS with the right diet, it's crucial to know which foods you should stay away from. Let's take a closer look at foods to avoid if you have PCOS.
People with PCOS need to pay close attention to their diet. There are certain foods that you should be cautious about or limit. Processed foods are often high in unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt, and low in essential nutrients. Excess sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance (a condition where the body's cells do not respond normally to insulin), and elevated blood sugar levels. Consuming unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, can increase your risk of heart disease. Alcohol can also contribute to weight gain and insulin resistance. 14, 15, 16, 17
Remember that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to managing PCOS through diet. It's essential to work closely with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian who specialises in PCOS. They can help you create a personalised nutrition plan that aligns with your specific needs and goals.
That said, here are some other lifestyle changes you could consider to manage your PCOS symptoms.
Dealing with PCOS can be challenging, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you manage your symptoms and live a happy and healthy life. Check out these tips that can really make a difference:
Focus on unprocessed foods that are rich in nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Sugary drinks and processed foods can contribute to weight gain and other health problems, so it is best to avoid them. 5, 18
Regular physical activity, such as strength training and aerobic exercises, can help women with PCOS improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and lose weight. Even a small amount of weight loss (5% of your body weight) can make a big difference and improve PCOS symptoms. 19, 20, 21, 22
Make sure to schedule regular checkups and talk to your doctor about your PCOS symptoms. This is important for monitoring your symptoms and managing your condition.
People with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can manage their condition through positive lifestyle changes, such as adopting a healthy PCOS diet, regular exercise, and stress management. PCOS can also make it difficult to conceive because of irregular ovulation. Therefore, people with PCOS need to monitor their fertility hormone levels.25
If you are planning to get pregnant, tracking these hormones can help you better understand your reproductive health and plan for a healthy pregnancy. LifeCell's OvaScore is a convenient self-collection female fertility hormone test that measures 9 fertility hormones associated with female reproductive health. The test provides insights into your Ovarian Reserve, Ovulation, Thyroid, PCOS, Early Menopause, as well as the potential outcomes of Egg Freezing and IVF & much more.
Taking charge of your reproductive health? Consider getting an OvaScore today!
The best diet for PCOS is one that includes less sugar and processed carbohydrates and more proteins, veggies, and whole grains.5
Yes, women with PCOS can get pregnant, but it may be more challenging than for women without PCOS. Various strategies, including lifestyle changes, medication, and fertility treatments can be beneficial in this regard.26
Yes, PCOS can affect quality of life. It can cause infertility, weight gain, acne, hair growth, irregular periods, and mood swings. However, with proper management women with PCOS can improve their quality of life and manage these symptoms. 7, 27