There’s no shortage of fad diets nowadays. Most are designed to be short-term to help people shed a few extra pounds quickly. But if you’re one of the millions of women affected by PCOS, then you need a PCOS diet that will help treat or manage your symptoms. In this article, I’ll show you the do’s and don’ts of a PCOS-friendly diet, so your PCOS symptoms never get to rear its ugly head again!
But first, what exactly is a PCOS diet?
Technically, any diet that helps reduce PCOS symptoms can be called a PCOS diet. But there’s actually no specific PCOS diet plan per se. Many women swear by an anti-inflammatory diet. Others say a low carb diet – and even the ultra-low-carb keto diet – worked wonders for them. Still, others say a low glycemic diet is the best for PCOS. While there is evidence that both low carb (1) and low glycemic diets (2) do work for PCOS, we will focus on the anti-inflammatory diet in this article.
So, how can an anti-inflammatory diet help PCOS?
The majority of women who have been diagnosed with PCOS also have low-grade chronic inflammation. This is evidenced by increased levels of inflammation markers in the body such as C-reactive protein, white blood cells, and interleukin-18, to name a few (3). It would, therefore, follow that eating food that fights inflammation will help address this systemic inflammation, right? Well, let’s find out.
According to this study of 100 PCOS patients, the answer is a resounding YES! After 12 weeks of following a Mediterranean style anti-inflammatory diet, all the women who finished the program (75 women remained at the end) had these amazing results:
- 63% of the women regained their periods and 2 even managed to conceive
- Significant mean weight loss of 7.9% or 6.3kg
- Decrease in BMI by 7.1%
- Waist circumference went down by 6.6%
- Reduction in body fat by 9.2%
- Decrease in visceral fat by 21.7%
All the inflammation, hormonal and metabolic markers went down across the board as well. Here are some of them:
- Total cholesterol levels went down with good cholesterol (HDL) going up and bad cholesterol (LDL) going down
- A significant reduction in triglycerides level
- Fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin levels went down drastically
- Huge decrease in mean C-reactive protein levels
- Lowered testosterone levels
What this means is that by following an anti-inflammatory diet, in this case, a Mediterranean style one, you too can experience all these amazing results and finally get your PCOS symptoms under control!
The PCOS Diet Food List
Most diets can be pretty restrictive, but for PCOS, you’ve got a ton of food options to choose from. And best of all, you won’t even need to worry about counting calories as an anti-inflammatory diet focuses on macronutrient balance. Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow:
- 40-50% carbs
- 20-30% protein
- 30% healthy fats
That being said, a proper anti-inflammatory diet should revolve around plant-based foods. That’s where you’re supposed to get most of your calories from. It means you should be eating lots of veggies and fruits, whole grains, nuts, and beans every day. So, here are the major food groups that will help you fight chronic inflammation and eventually ease your PCOS symptoms!
Choose green leafy veggies such as spinach, kale, cabbage, collard, lettuce, and spring greens. Of course, broccoli and cauliflower are not to be left out – these two are well-known for their anti-inflammatory properties!
Fruits come in all colours, sizes, and flavours. But many fruits aren’t just rich in fibre and antioxidants, they’re also powerful anti-inflammatories! Next time you go out to buy fruits, grab some pineapples, avocados, pomegranates, mangoes, olives, berries, grapes, guava, and cherries.
You want to eat complex carbs in an anti-inflammatory diet, not simple carbs that are usually found in processed foods. As such, you should eat high-fibre grains like whole-wheat bread and pasta, oats, buckwheat, and brown rice. These will help you feel full for hours and keep your insulin levels down, too.
Beans and legumes
This particular food group is rich in protein and fibre, plus they’re also loaded with anti-inflammatory compounds, which is perfect for the PCOS diet. Lentils, chickpeas, and several types of beans like red beans, black beans, kidney beans, mung beans, and pinto beans should be added to your daily diet.
Choose plant-based fats over other types of fats like butter. This includes eating more avocados, seeds, and nuts like walnuts, almonds, and cashews. Omega-3 from fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines would also be ideal, but if it’s not readily available to you, a high-quality Omega-3 fish oil supplement is a good alternative. For cooking, use healthy oils like olive oil, avocado oil, and grapeseed oil over butter and coconut oil.
Spices like garlic, ginger, and turmeric are powerful anti-inflammatories that have been used since ancient times to help treat various inflammations in the body. They not only make our food taste better, but you can even make a smoothie out of various spices!
Probiotic-rich fermented foods
Fermented foods are naturally rich in probiotics which are live cultures of ‘good’ bacteria. Examples of fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Eating any of these helps restore balance in our gut which, in turn, supports a healthy immune system. If you’re not a fan of fermented foods, but want to take advantage of all the amazing benefits of probiotics, check out our probiotics supplements for adults, women, and kids!
Most of us probably drink warm bone broth whenever we get sick. It’s delicious, it’s comforting, and best of all, it really does help us feel better. Bone broth – whether it’s made from chicken, pork, or beef bones – is rich in collagen, amino acids, and various trace minerals. It helps fight inflammation and boosts immunity, which is great for women with PCOS.
What foods are bad for the PCOS diet?
Anything that causes inflammation is off the menu. This includes processed foods that are rich in sugar and (simple) carbohydrates. Junk food, soda, anything made with high-fructose corn syrup is a no-no. You can drink alcohol but keep it in moderation. Excessive drinking can cause your symptoms to flare up.
While meat is perfectly fine to eat on a PCOS diet, it should take a backseat to plant-based foods. Avoid processed meats like bacon, sausages, and hotdogs. Red meat is fine, just limit it to a few times a week.
Artificial trans-fat should also be avoided like the plague. Read food labels carefully. Anything that lists ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’ should be thrown in the bin – or at least returned to the proper shelf in the supermarket!
The PCOS diet isn’t just a diet, it’s a lifestyle
Proper nutrition is vital for your health. And with PCOS, it’s very important to stick to a diet that helps manage your blood sugar levels for the long-term. Whether you follow a non-inflammatory diet like the Mediterranean diet or a low carb diet, you’ll need all the help you can get especially in the beginning. This is why we’ve prepared several recipes that can help you transition to an anti-inflammatory PCOS diet – one meal at a time.
And here’s the perfect addition to your anti-inflammatory diet – our Max Strength Berberine supplement. Berberine helps fight chronic inflammation and maintains healthy blood sugar levels, too. It’s so effective that it’s nicknamed the “natural Metformin alternative”!
Eating healthy and living an active lifestyle can help reverse PCOS symptoms (4). But we know long-term commitment is easier said than done. To succeed, you will need to make an active effort every single day to not go back to your old eating habits. Otherwise, your symptoms are going to stage a comeback.
(1) Mavropoulos, John C et al. “The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome: a pilot study.” Nutrition & metabolism vol. 2 35. 16 Dec. 2005, doi:10.1186/1743-7075-2-35
(2) Marsh, Kate A et al. “Effect of a low glycemic index compared with a conventional healthy diet on polycystic ovary syndrome.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 92,1 (2010): 83-92. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29261
(3) Duleba, Antoni J, and Anuja Dokras. “Is PCOS an inflammatory process?.” Fertility and sterility vol. 97,1 (2012): 7-12. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.11.023
(4) Shetty D, Chandrasekaran B, Singh AW, Oliverraj J. Exercise in polycystic ovarian syndrome: An evidence-based review. Saudi J Sports Med 2017;17:123-8