PCOS Diet: What Are the Best Foods to Eat and Avoid?

PCOS Diet: What Are the Best Foods to Eat and Avoid?

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Women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have a higher amount of testosterone in these women than in the others who do not have the condition. As a result, higher testosterone levels in women will inhibit proper ovulation and can cause them to have irregular cycles or even amenorrhea in very extreme cases. Claim Your 20 Free Pregnancy Tests – Click Here

Aside from anovulation or irregular ovulation, women with PCOS suffer from weight gain and obesity, acne, thinning hair and even facial hair. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. Women who have mild PCOS may ovulate 6 times a year instead of 12, and may not be all that overweight, if at all and may have no facial hair either. Those who have a severe case of the syndrome will rarely ovulate if at all and will likely have the worst of all of the symptoms of PCOS described above.

Women with mild PCOS may indicate normal hormonal levels through blood work, but having irregular cycles many times of the year is enough to send a red flag that something is not right even if there are no other symptoms involved.


Getting Pregnant with PCOS

PCOS is extremely frustrating for women who have it regardless of the severity of it. It can be a self-esteem killer and cause women to feel not feminine enough, especially if they are suffering from infertility due to the condition. Unfortunately, many women with PCOS have a difficult time conceiving and even staying pregnant due to severe hormonal imbalances.

PCOS and Getting Pregnant

However, there is good news because there are many treatments for women who have PCOS in order to help trigger ovulation and to help them carry a successful pregnancy to term.

There are fertility medications around such as Clomid to help women with PCOS and other conditions ovulate and conceive. And more importantly, women who have PCOS can help improve their own symptoms and help their own chances of ovulating on their own with the aid of any fertility drugs by sticking to a healthy diet.


Diet and PCOS

Diet is incredibly important for women who have PCOS because many of these women are also naturally insulin resistant. That means they have higher levels of insulin in the blood even if they are not diabetic. However, high insulin levels will also inhibit ovulation and the key is for them to consume foods that will not only help lower insulin levels but help regulate hormones and help increase their chances of ovulating on their own if they are wanting to conceive in the nearer future.

Not to mention, even though many women who have this condition do struggle to lose weight more than others who don’t, simply eating the right foods will still be helpful and will still result in weight loss to the point of getting to an acceptable weight, even if they are unable to get to their ideal weight.

Diet and PCOS

And because, after eating, insulin levels automatically go up, the key is to help the levels go back down. Therefore, eating the right foods will help that happen. Carbohydrates will most definitely cause a spike in insulin levels, but the trick is to eat the right type of carbohydrates that will not cause this to happen and help keep the insulin levels down.


What Carbs NOT To Eat

The type of carbohydrates for women with PCOS to avoid, or to strictly limit, are foods that are made from refined carbohydrates and sugars, as these are notorious for keeping the insulin levels up. These foods include:

     • Candies
     • Cookies
     • Cakes
     • Pastries
     • White bread
     • White crackers
     • White pasta
     • White rice
     • White potatoes
     • Potato chips
     • Sugary cereals
     • Fruit juices with added sugar
     • Soda
     • Fast food

These foods are the culprit for causing insulin levels to spike very high and cause them to stay high because these foods are not at all filling, and will cause hunger to strike again quickly.

Therefore, these foods offer little to no nutritional value (other than potatoes but because it is quite starchy, this type needs to be limited) and only provide empty calories which never get burned off. That is because hunger happens right away and more food is eaten which keeps the insulin levels high even longer.

herefore, these calories that have been consumed that do not offer any value become unused and this is how weight gain happens. For women with PCOS, these foods are truly poisonous because it is harmful to their health, and for their fertility.

There is nothing wrong with treating oneself to any of these foods once a week as long as the tight limit is kept. If it is limited, then no harm will be done as long as healthy foods are eaten right away.


What Carbs TO Eat

Now that the topic of carbohydrates is being discussed, the other type of carbohydrates are not only fine for women with PCOS to consume, but are encouraged. These carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates.

This will not cause insulin levels to spike because it will provide the energy that is needed for proper functioning, and as a result, these types of carbohydrates will keep you full for a while.

These foods include:

     • Whole grain bread
     • Whole grain crackers
     • Whole grain pasta
     • Whole grain cereal
     • Sweet potatoes
     • Fruits
     • Vegetables
     • Beans and legumes

The added bonus of these foods is that along with them providing the type of carbohydrates needed to function and that don’t cause insulin levels to spike, these foods have fiber, which is what helps keep you full for a while. Fiber cannot be digested so it is passed right through you but for a while, it expands in your stomach which helps keep you full for long periods of time.

Therefore, if you are a woman who has PCOS, be sure to choose foods that are made of complex carbohydrates which are low in sugar and high in fiber. That is an easy switch to make if you have been eating refined carbohydrates most of the time.

That being said, if you want to have a pasta dinner, you can still have it! Just be sure to have whole grain noodles instead of white noodles, and there you go. That alone will make a world of a difference for you.


What Proteins TO Eat

However, there are other foods for women with PCOS to stick with that will help reduce the symptoms of their condition as well significantly. Proteins are crucial for muscle strength and the functioning of the reproductive system, and healthy fats are absolutely crucial for keeping the hormones properly balanced and functional.

Protein rich foods

Proteins can come from lean meat as well as plants. The best protein-filled foods to eat are:

     • Poultry- especially if the meat is white which is the least fatty part
     • Pork- only if it is lean
     • Beef- only if it is lean because the fatty beef will increase cholesterol levels which can
         disrupt your hormone levels and it is bad for your heart health.
     • Nuts
     • Beans (which also have complex carbohydrates so this is an excellent food source)
     • Seeds
     • Fish
     • Eggs
     • Tofu
     • Peanut butter or other nut butter spreads
     • Meat substitutes if vegan or vegetarian
     • Hummus

These protein-based foods are incredibly important to be part of the diet to help regulate hormones.


What Healthy Fats TO Eat

Also, healthy fats are incredibly important to keep the hormonal levels in check, and you need healthy fats for proper brain function, so never let fats scare you. Healthy fats come from sources like:

     • Olive oil
     • Canola oil
     • Avocado
     • Fatty fish like salmon
     • Nuts
     • Seeds

If you are afraid that eating fats and any kind of carbohydrates will cause weight gain, there is no need to worry. It won’t.

In fact, if you eat these foods in moderation and if you are purposely cutting calories due to wanting to lose weight, you will. You need complex carbohydrates to function properly, and you need these healthy fats as well. Especially if you are concerned about not ovulating.

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Healthy fats will be helpful for regulating your hormonal levels and will help you ovulate. If you are also concerned about your insulin levels increasing due to eating even the good carbohydrates, it won’t. You will be kept full due to the fiber content and you will be able to use the energy from the carbs efficiently.


Meal Ideas for PCOS

There are also tips on how to make the most of eating these meals effectively as well. For instance, if you want rice, then that is fine. Be sure to eat brown rice or whole grain rice instead of the white type. And you will want to mix a protein in the rice like some beans, pieces of chicken, and you will want to add some vegetables.

Why not add a quarter of an avocado as well to the rice, so you can have yourself a very healthy meal that has a good mix of complex carbs, the protein you need as well as healthy fats. This dish is not high in calories and will keep you full for a while, and provide you the energy you need to function. Your insulin levels will not spike either.

Another great meal is a piece of salmon, with some brown rice on the side, vegetables, and some fruit for dessert. You will get the protein, fats and complex carbs you need. It is important to mix these together so you can get the full benefit.


Why the Keto Diet Doesn’t Work

There are many women who have PCOS that swear by the keto diet which is a high-protein and high-fat diet, but you are only allowed to have very little carbs in a day, regardless if complex or refined. This kind of diet is actually quite dangerous for many reasons. You are also missing out on extremely important vitamins like B vitamins and Vitamin C.

Firstly, you absolutely need carbs for the energy it provides you to function. If there is no energy found in the blood glucose, then your body will use energy from muscles which can become very dangerous as it will harm your kidneys if you do this for the long term.

Therefore, yes you may lose weight from the keto diet but you also lose muscle mass too which is the last thing you want. You will not function properly.


Avoid Fatty, Junk Foods

Women with PCOS must not be fearful of all carbs because complex carbs are not only fine but are essential. And as far as fats go, only go for the healthy fats.

Fats in margarine, butter, mayonnaise, fatty dressings and sauces and red meat are not going to be helpful. Especially when it comes to trans fats which is from fast food, cakes, cookies, potato chips and candies must also be tightly limited.

fatty junk foods may affect fertility

Not only do these foods contain high amounts of refined carbs which are bad for your insulin levels, but they are filled with trans fats which are also very bad for your health and do not help your body in any way and will cause weight gain if consumed in large amounts.

Therefore, women with PCOS should avoid these types of junk food if possible, however- if they put a tight limit on it such as eating it once a week only- that will be fine as well as it would not be enough to have any kind of impact.


Avoid Low-Fat Snacks

Another tip to be mindful about is when you are looking for snacks, stay away from foods that are supposedly low-fat. That is deceptive and low-fat foods are high in refined sugar.


Be Mindful of Fruit Choices

You also want to be careful with the types of fruits and vegetables to consume as well. Some fruits and vegetables will raise your blood sugar fast, and others won’t. The types of fruits that will raise your sugar levels quickly are dried fruits and tropical fruit. The vegetables that will have the same effect are corn, peas, potatoes, and squash. You still can have these types of fruits and vegetables, however, eat them in moderation and with other foods to lower the blood sugar spike.


Bottom Line

Last but not least, it is very important for women with PCOS to find time to exercise such as taking a half hour walk, 5 times a week. While sticking to this kind of diet which will help reduce PCOS symptoms, reduce weight, and increase their fertility. The food that is eaten matters!

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Monica Scott, BS, RN
Monica Scott, BS, RN | ConceiveEasy
Ms. Scott joined ConceiveEasy after working in prenatal obstetrical care for two years in a private practice before being promoted to Director of Nursing. She has a strong interest in women's health with an emphasis on promoting fertility awareness.