Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition earmarked by irregular periods or even no menstruation at all. Affecting 1 in 10 women, PCOS is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood, which means many women continue to suffer unknowingly.
The unfortunate part is that, in addition to making you experience menstruation and infertility issues, this condition makes 40-80% of women overweight or obese.
That’s why it is important to watch what you eat to reduce the severity of the symptoms. In this guide, we will discuss, in greater detail, the PCOS diet, including foods to eat and those to avoid as well as lifestyle changes you need to make.
But before then, let’s discuss what PCOS is in greater detail and the impact of PCOS diet treatment.
What Is PCOS?
This is a condition where women experience an imbalance of reproductive hormones. In most cases, their ovaries produce an excessive amount of testosterone, a male hormone, in place of estrogen.
As a result, the body is unable to go through the regular ovulation cycle, and thus the eggs are not properly released each month, making them cluster around the ovaries, thereby forming cysts. This explains why women with PCOS often tend to experience infertility issues.
The low production of estrogen throws off the whole metabolic system, and this affects how insulin and good bacteria in the gut work.
For you to be diagnosed with PCOS, you have to show these three symptoms;
- High levels of androgen or testosterone. This causes excessive growth of body hair
- Painful or irregular menstrual cycles
- Tiny cysts that will often show up in ultrasound scan
How Changes to Your Diet Can Help Improve PCOS Symptoms
While nutrition may not offer a complete solution to your PCOS condition, studies have shown that if women struggling with PCOS symptoms shed excess weight, then the symptoms will be less severe.
Diet and nutrition can help you manage your weight considerably, and therefore you need to pay attention to what you eat.
In most cases, a low-carb, high-protein diet will be ideal for many women with PCOS who want to lose excess weight.
In addition to eating foods that promote weight loss, you also need to be aware of the nutrients in them, as some are known to interfere more with your hormones than others.
That’s why it is important to know foods to eat and those to avoid so that you can have an easier time formulating what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
And this is what we are about to discuss.
Foods to Include In Your PCOS Diet Treatment Plan
Here are some of the foods you should increase so as to effectively manage PCOS symptoms and maintain a healthy weight.
Green Leafy Vegetables
No matter the diet you are following, adding green leafy vegetables to your daily diet will go a long way in helping you with weight loss and nutrition.
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale supply the body with Vitamin B, which lacks in many women with PCOS.
A deficiency in vitamin B is linked to many PCOS symptoms, including;
- Insulin resistance
- Hirsutism or excessive hair growth
- Infertility issues
- Irregular periods
Therefore, make it a habit to include plenty of green leafy vegetables in your daily diet to boost the levels of vitamin B and for weight loss too.
Eat Lean Meat
Eating leaner meat, as opposed to that with more saturated fats such as red meats, may help with weight loss.
Lean meat may be pricier, but the extra cost is well worth your health, especially for PCOS suffers who often find it difficult to lose weight due to hormonal imbalance.
Some examples of foods high in lean meat include fish (salmon, tuna, cod, shrimp), lean poultry (turkey and skinless chicken), and plant protein sources such as peas, tofu, tempeh, and beans.
Foods Rich In Antioxidant
There are plenty of foods that are rich in antioxidants, but some do have more antioxidants than others. Some of the antioxidant-rich foods include blueberries, dark chocolate, Goji Berries, and pecans. While these foods are important for anyone, if you have PCOS, they become even more significant.
Women suffering from PCOS have shown to have high oxidative stress levels, and this can be negated by eating foods with high levels of antioxidants.
NOTE– When choosing antioxidant foods, make sure to have a look at their glycaemic Index, as some foods can cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
Some of the antioxidant-rich foods for the PCOS diet include fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, vegetables such as kale, spinach, and artichokes, unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado, nut butter, and whole grains such as whole wheat, whole oats, brown rice, and quinoa.
This is another food group you should add to your PCOS diet for weight loss. Not only does a high-fiber diet lower insulin levels and help to make you feel fuller during the day and thus reduce your food intake, but it also helps improve your gut health.
Some of the foods with high-fiber content to add to your PCOS diet include seeds such as sunflower, chia, and flax seeds, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils, berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and whole grains such as brown rice, whole oats, bulgur, and quinoa.
Yes, you are trying to lose weight, but healthy fat is not the enemy. There are plenty of healthy fats you can add to your PCOS diet, including avocados and oily fish.
Healthy fats are a good source of essential fatty acids, which helps in the maintenance of cell walls. This helps to maintain a proper balance of hormones and control your weight.
Another great benefit of adding healthy fat to your diet is that fatty acids play a crucial role when it comes to improving fertility.
Omega 3, one of the fatty acids found in flax seeds and oily fish, helps to regulate hormones, increase blood flow to the uterus, reduce body’s sensitivity to prolactin (a hormone that suppresses ovulation), reregulate your menstrual cycle, and increase egg white cervical mucus that helps sperm to reach the egg.
All these benefits improve your chances of getting pregnant. Not to mention that essential fatty acids play other major roles in the body, including supporting a healthy nervous system and improving the circulatory system.
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods increase the chances of gaining weight, getting inflammations, and spiking blood sugar.
Such foods include;
Refined Carbs and processed foods
Women with PCOS often find it difficult to process carbohydrates due to high levels of insulin, which is why it is important to avoid refined carbs. By limiting the intake of carbohydrates, especially refined carbs, you can lose weight fast and thus decrease androgen levels which is linked to acne, anovulation, excessive hair growth, irregular menstrual cycle, etc. Therefore, avoid pizza dough, white bread, white rice, regular pasta, etc.
Along with refined carbs, you should also limit the intake of processed foods as they may contain a lot of harmful chemicals that may not only interfere with weight loss but also destroy good bacteria in your gut. Therefore, avoid cakes, candy, cookies, sweetened cereals, ice creases with sugar substitutes, yogurts with added sugar, etc.
Smoothies and juice are healthy options when prepared at home, but pre-bottled ones may contain a lot of processed sugar that may spike your blood sugar levels.
Therefore, it is best to steer clear of sweetened beverages such as fruit juices, cold-pressed juices, soda, bottled smoothies- instead, opt for those with natural sugars from fruits.
It is true that PCOS doesn’t make women gluten intolerant, but many women with this condition are advised to cut gluten from their diet. Why? Gluten often leads to inflammation, and this can lead to insulin resistance, thereby increasing your risk of developing diabetes.
High levels of inflammation have also been shown to increase androgen production, which causes irregular menstruation and weight gain (common symptoms of PCOS).
We discussed earlier that healthy fats are beneficial to your body and improve PCOS symptoms. On the other hand, ‘bad fats’ can make your PCOS symptoms worse and lead to weight gain.
Foods with saturated or hydrogenated fats should be avoided. These include dairy products such as cheese, fatty red meat, and cream, as well as fried or processed foods.
Unhealthy fats increase estrogen production, which makes your PCOS symptoms worsen.
We have already mentioned that women with PCOS tend to have more estrogen levels than normal (estrogen dominance). Soy products increase estrogen levels, which is beneficial for anyone with low estrogen but can be detrimental for women with estrogen-dominant conditions (PCOS suffers).
While the impact of soy on estrogen levels is still up for debate, it is advisable that you consider cutting down on soy products if you have PCOS condition.
Now that we have discussed a lot about PCOS diet, let’s get to the practical bit of it.
3-Day Sample PCOS Diet Plan
The best way to tackle PCOS symptoms is by eating right and hydrating well. As we discussed, make sure to eat whole foods, plenty of vegetables and fruits, increase fiber intake, and avoid processed foods.
To help you implement a PCOS diet, here is a sample meal plan you can follow;
Breakfast– Omelet with two eggs, onions, mushrooms, spinach, ½ banana, salsa, and red peppers
Lunch– Take Bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato sandwich on gluten-free bread, and an apple
Dinner– Chicken stir-fry with broccoli, mushrooms, and carrots, 1 cup of brown rice
Snacks– hummus and carrot sticks
Breakfast– Muesli with plain yogurt and one tablespoon of raw honey, and a ½ cup of pineapple
Lunch– Take two slices of gluten-free pizza and grilled chicken plus veggies
Dinner– shrimp fried rice with brown rice and veggies
Snacks– Blueberry smoothie
Breakfast– 2 scrambled eggs and ½ cup of grapefruit
Lunch- Turkey burger, cucumber, and tomato salad, ½ gluten-free bun, and an orange
Dinner– Grilled steak with grilled garlic-marinated mushrooms, onions, peppers, and baked potato with butter
Snacks– Yogurt parfait, berries, slivered almonds, and honey
Check out more recipes online on PCOS Diet Plans.
The bottom Line
It is normal to feel frustrated at times trying to control PCOS condition. However, by taking proactive steps such as eating right, you can improve your symptoms.
We have discussed the good and bad foods you should eat and avoid.
If you were used to eating foods that we have discussed in the list of foods to avoid, then you can look for a beneficial counterpart.
For instance, margarine and white toast can be substituted with high-fiber gluten-free bread and avocado or olive oil.
To summarize this guide, here are the PCOS diet treatment rules you should follow;
- Avoid processed and refined foods such as pasta, white flour, bread, and sugar. Instead, opt for gluten-free grains such as millet, amaranth, quinoa, and brown rice. If you are to eat packaged foods, eat those with five or fewer all-natural ingredients. A long list of ingredients shows that a product is overly processed
- Hydrate more. Drink at least two liters of water per day. You can flavor with cut-up fresh cucumber, citrus, berries, or mint
- Eat more foods that are high in fiber to slow down digestion. This will help combat insulin resistance
- Avoid foods and drinks with refined sugars, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, and high saturated fats
- Eat small portions frequently. To avoid spikes in blood sugar, avoid eating large portions of meals in one sitting. Instead, eat smaller portions frequently
- Combine complex carbs and lean protein at every meal
- Limit alcohol intake. A glass of wine is fine and beneficial, but if you exceed a glass, the benefits are reversed
We do hope this guide has taught you a thing or two about PCOS and how to use diet to suppress the symptoms.
As with all diet plans. If you also want to lose weight make sure that you are in a caloric deficit. Know your calorie intake by checking out your daily needs here with our macro calculator.
NOTE- It takes time to beat PCOS symptoms with a PCOS-friendly healthy diet plan, and thus you should not put too much pressure on yourself- this is a long-term project. Start today, and with time you will notice great changes in how you feel.