“Eat Healthy and Exercise” is one of the most common advise that you may have come across when looking for natural solutions for PCOS. You may already be eating healthyish, yet that mystery of PCOS Diet is not resolved!
Is there any specific diet for PCOS? Do you need to eat more proteins, or more fats, or more vegetables, or perhaps change your diet altogether?
Let me first answer that for you.
There is no such thing as PCOS Diet! Yet, you do need to eat in a way that supports the natural functions of your body.
You need to eat real foods in the right proportion, at the right time, and in the right quantity.
There is no need of fancy supplements, super foods, God given miracles…but only NATURAL and WHOLESOME FOOD that truly nourishes your body and mind. This is the PCOS Diet that will bring your body back to balance and help you to heal PCOS for good.
So if you would like to know about the natural and wholesome foods that you should include in your diet, please read on. You will find answers to most of your questions here. And if anything is not addressed yet, please leave your question in comment, I’ll get back. Cheers to your health!
Best diet for PCOS: What you came here for!
Before we dive in, you should know about this fact that has been researched in multiple studies:
A modest amount of weight loss (5-10% of your existing body weight) can significantly improve the symptoms of PCOS and restore ovulation.
This is highly promising! It has been proven by many women, who have adopted diet and lifestyle changes to finally treat their PCOS Symptoms to lead a normal life!
If you are currently struggling with PCOS, it may feel daunting in the beginning to make all the changes. But it can be done by simply making a choice to “NOT HAVE PCOS ANYMORE”.
So, do make that choice and a promise to yourself of implementing the suggestions in your life at your own pace. Don’t just read it like another blog posts, because it isn’t!
This is your ultimate guide to reverse PCOS with your diet and foods. Let’s go!!
Improving Your Diet is the Best way to Reverse PCOS Symptoms
When it comes to natural treatment options for PCOS, then your diet should be your first handle. This is because, PCOS is not a disease. It is a cluster of symptoms, which arise due to metabolic and hormonal imbalance in the body.
And you know what? To address anything related to metabolism and hormones, diet and lifestyle are the most helpful options, which also give long term success!
Now, let’s try to understand what really happens in PCOS. Where do metabolic and hormonal health issues come into picture?
You may feel like a bit of health detective here. And that’s alright! This is because, you can truly resolve your PCOS Symptoms by taking your health matters in your own hands.
And what else could be better way than educating yourself on PCOS? Our promise in this posts is to help you with all your queries when it comes to Foods and Diet for PCOS. Let’s get started!
Your Hormones, Metabolism, and PCOS Connection!
In his book “The PCOS Plan” Dr. Jason Fung clearly described the connection between Insulin Resistance, Diabetes, Obesity, and PCOS.
Insulin is the primary hormone that guides our metabolism and blood sugar levels. Insulin converts excess sugar in the blood into the storage format in the body, so that it can be used as a fuel later on. When we eat, insulin is secreted as appropriate for the composition of the diet.
But, when we indulge in faulty lifestyle and diet for too long, then we get prone to improper functioning of insulin and hence metabolic dysfunction. This is known as insulin resistance.
Insulin Resistance is the primary cause of PCOS
Poor Metabolism: Insulin resistance also disturbs the metabolism of our body. It leads to excessive weight gain, which is also hard to lose. Weight gain is one classic symptom of PCOS, and more than 70% the women with PCOS experience obesity.
Hormone Imbalance: Insulin also affects our sex hormone balance such as that of Estrogen and Progesterone. This in turn has detrimental effect on a woman’s reproductive function, menstruation, and fertility.
High Androgens: Other hormones that are involved are Androgens, the so called “male hormones”, like Testosterone for example. High Insulin levels in the body which result from Insulin resistance lead to high Androgens, which give classic PCOS symptoms of:
- Anovulation (inability to produce eggs);
- Weight gain (obesity)
- Cysts on the ovary;
- Terrible acne on the face, chest, back, etc.
- Hair loss and male pattern hair growth
- Long terms complications like heart problems, Metabolic Dysfunction, and Type II Diabetes.
The higher the androgen levels are, the worse the symptoms of PCOS.
Now that you have understood the root cause of PCOS symptoms, let’s move on to our goal here – PCOS Diet and Foods to balance hormone imbalance in PCOS. If you want to learn more about PCOS, you can check out the full guide to PCOS.
Your Diet can help to fight Insulin Resistance and PCOS
To get rid of a problem, it is necessary to identify the root cause and address it there. In the case of PCOS, we need to break the cycle of insulin resistance, which leads to poor metabolism, hormone imbalance, and hyperandrogenism (high Androgens).
Now, here is the key!
Since the levels of Insulin depend somewhat on what we eat, then we can regulate what we eat to keep these Insulin levels in check. When this is achieved, then your Metabolism and Androgens will realize that the party is over! Thus, the vicious cycle of PCOS is broken.
1. Eat Complex Carbohydrates to support your Metabolism and Gut Health
The glycemic index is a measure of how rapidly blood sugar levels rise after taking a meal. If you take food with high GI, the blood sugar levels rise rapidly. Consequently, there is a corresponding increase in the levels of insulin in the blood.
High levels of insulin in the blood sets up a chain of reactions that aggravate the poly cystic ovarian syndrome.
Low Glycemic Index foods are also referred to as slow carbs. Why is that?
Well! The glycemic index is a metric that shows how fast a carbohydrate food is processed. The lower the GI score, the slower it is processed.
Now you ask, how does that help me achieve my PCOS diet plan to lose weight? This is it. If the carb is to be processed faster, you would need more insulin in your bloodstream at any one time to handle all the sugar. If it had low GI, however, then the sugar only has to be handled a little at a time.
Also, you want to eat low carb food from whole food sources.
You’ll have less insulin in your blood at any one time if you take foods with a low GI index, truly. There’s a bonus, however: you’ll have some moderate amount of sugar in your body system for longer. This helps to reduce sugar cravings.
The right carbs to fit into your PCOS meal plan
- Whole grains such as Bulgur, Rye, Quinoa, Brown Rice, Whole Oats, and Millets
- Legumes such as Beans and Lentils for proteins
- Vegetables with variety of colours to give you fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
Embrace the habit of taking less processed carbohydrates. Skip that candy bar; the icing on the cake looks good but isn’t that good when it gets inside of your body.
Should I adopt the ketogenic diet as my PCOS diet?
Keto diet has become very popular these days. But, before we dive into this question; let’s first try to understand what is a Keto Diet.
What is a a Keto Diet?
In a ketogenic diet plan, you consume none or very small amounts of carbohydrates. Majority of your food includes healthy fats and proteins.
How does Keto Diet work?
Normally, your body uses carbohydrates as the primary source of energy. When there is little of this, the body is deprived of its primary energy source.
And when your body doesn’t get it preferred source of fuel, (which is carbohydrates), it begins to convert fat cells into energy. Thus, fat is burned an you lose weight quickly. Simple enough?
But here’s the glitch!
There are serious long term health side effects involving premature aging, degeneration of body tissues, and serious carbohydrate cravings that one comes to face with; when you go on keto diet for long term.
Check out the video below to know more about Keto Diet and two other popular weight loss diets.
Keto Diet for PCOS is a quick fix that can backfire and make your symptoms worse!
One reason why keto diet isn’t is that your body does need the sugar. A PCOS diet plan should be something that you can sustain in the long-term, but this ketogenic diet can’t be done forever. It wouldn’t be advisable to keep on it for the long-term.
Another reason why the ketogenic diet is not the best diet for PCOS is that when there is little sugar in the blood, your sugar cravings go sky high. So high it becomes very difficult to not bow to it.
2. Unprocessed Natural Foods to get the Nutrients and Life Force (that will lift your energy and mood)
Eating natural, wholesome, and unprocessed foods is an important part if you’ll maintain the best diet for PCOS.Why is that?
This is because, plants manufacture their food directly from the sunlight. They retain high levels of energy or “Prana – Life giving force” or “Qi” from the Sun.
If an animal, say a rabbit, eats this plant, some of that energy is lost. If another animal eats the rabbit, it gets even less of the energy. By the time it gets to humans, there’s little of the energy left. That’s why we consume more food to get adequate amount of energy.
At each stage of processing and transfer of energy, a good part of the stored energy is lost. By the time it gets to the final level of consumption, there is very little of it left.
Eating processed foods is like eating food that has been stripped of its energy. A good part of the nutritive value is lost. Unprocessed food still have a relatively higher percentage of the energy and nutritional value left.
Furthermore, processed foods would have had some additions to them along the way. While some are beneficial, not all of them are very healthy.
However, taking plants directly gives us a shot at getting a better proportion of the energy. So we can eat less for more.
Also, plant based foods are rich in antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties. They help to mitigate symptoms like fatigue, which present in cases of PCOS.
Eating fibre is helpful
Foods containing high amounts of fibre keep you full for longer without loading you up with calories.
You feel satiated
Fruits and vegetables usually contain a lot of fibre, which is not digested quickly. As a result, they remain in the stomach for much longer. This helps to keep you satiated and reduces your food cravings.
As such, you feel hungry less often. With less food, there’s less calories. Additionally, fibres are themselves are low in calories. So, they take up space that would have been occupied by calorie dense foods.
Essentially, high-fibre foods help to reduce the risk of being overweight or obese, or to manage it if you already are.
Whenever you eat, insulin is released by Pancreas to prevent your blood sugar from raging high. When you eat more vegetables and fruits, then you naturally reduce your food intake.
Eating less means that less food needs processing in the body. Therefore, less insulin is produced. This helps to balance your insulin level in the body.
Some vegetables that promote Ovulation and help balance the Hormones
- Brussels sprouts
- Leafy greens, including red leaf lettuce and arugula
- Green and red peppers
- Beans and lentils
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
These vegetables are also high in fibre, Vitamins, and Minerals that women with PCOS lack in their diet.
Are all fruits okay for PCOS?
Fruit juices are not fruits. The whole idea is to avoid processed foods as much as possible. So, away from the fruit juices.
On the other hand, fruits themselves are an excellent choice. Some of them do contain fibres also. Watch out for excessively sweet fruits, however. They contain high amounts of fructose, which is like another way of saying sugar.
Apples, plums, berries, grapes, etc, are great. As a bonus, some of them have anti-inflammatory properties that help to relieve symptoms.
PS: This is not an order to go fully vegetarian. Some nutrients are best availed from animals. With the delicate balance your hormones are in, you don’t want to leave anything to chance.
3. Healthy Fats are vital to Balance your Hormones, Mood, and Weight
But I’m trying to lose weight, why should I take more fats?
Well, first you should understand that fats are not as bad as many people take them to be. A mosquito is an insect that carries malaria, a bee is an insect that produces honey. See?
What you just have to ensure is that you take the right kind of fats.
Avoid saturated fats, such as those that are found in overly processed meat, red meat, donuts, frozen pizzas, French fries, fast foods like hamburgers, etc. These are detrimental to someone on a PCOS diet plan to lose weight.
Embrace healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, are a good kind of fats.
Omega 3 – Healthy fats that Balance your Hormones and Promote Ovulation
- Pure oils such as Extra virgin Olive Oil, Ghee, Coconut Oil, Sesame Oil, and Mustard Oil
What about vegetable oils?
Vegetable oils are not exactly vegetables. They contain significantly high amount of unhealthy fats. Yes, that’s how unhealthy they can be, especially for someone trying to fight PCOS with diet.
Noteworthy, these oils are processed. Whereas, the goal here is to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Additives that are put in during the many stages of processing are not all healthy either.
Sticking with oil can lead to obesity, and also an increased risk of heart diseases. Rather, take healthy fats instead, the ones with the good guys-omega-3.
4. Support your Gut-Health and Mood with Probiotics
You have been taught that micro-organisms cause diseases. That’s true, but not all of them!
There are some microbes in the body system that are essential to keeping us healthy. The mouth has its flora, the gut also has its flora, as well as other places in the body. These communities of microbes carry out activities that profit the body of the human in which they are hosted.
However, poor dietary choices can hamper their functioning. If they are disturbed or destroyed, they can no longer profit us as they are supposed to. Truly, science proves that women with PCOS have less diversity in the community of micro-organisms that are living in their gut.
Have we talked enough about sugar yet? Here’s one more. Sugar messes with this balance of microorganisms in the gut.
If you are to help these tiny little creatures to help you, then you have to eat what suits them.
Help those microorganisms with fermented foods that suit a PCOS diet plan
- Coconut yogurt
These all help the natural community of microbes in the gut to thrive.
Some other foods would be Prebiotics that act as the food for your gut flora. Learn more about Prebiotic foods here.
Proteins in your diet promote satiety levels. You feel less hungry and less often. This supports weight loss, reduces food cravings, prevents binge eating, and of course the after guilt factor!
Proteins not only help to build body tissues, they are also the building blocks for several hormones and your bones. Hence, having sufficient proteins in your diet is important to increase the strength and elevate your energy levels.
Where can you find proteins? You can readily find them in dairy, fish, meat, and eggs. Again, you want to avoid the overly processed ones.
For plant based sources of proteins, some of the best options are beans, lentils, sprouted grains and legumes, some green leafy vegetables, broccoli, nuts, and seeds too.
Which Milk is Best for PCOS? Can you drink milk in PCOS Diet?
Milk is a complete food that provides with ample nutrition in the form of healthy fats, proteins, carbohydrates, Vitamins, and Minerals. However, when it comes to PCOS, you should limit your consumption of dense foods and instead focus on toning yet nutrient dense foods that can support your recovery from PCOS.
Avoid all form of heavily processed, UHT, and flavored milk and dairy options. If you can digest milk (without any digestive problems), then prefer whole and fresh milk in limited quantity.
If you are adopting a PCOS treatment diet, then you need all the help you can get. Here are a few extra tips for reading this far.
1. PCOS Diet starts with Awareness – Mind what you put inside your mouth
Of course, isn’t that what we’ve been saying all along? Ever heard the statement, “you are what you eat?”
Well, the tip is this: when you purchase food items, read the labels where available. Take note of what is in it and the percentage/weight present. This helps you keep track of how much of what you are about to take.
Stimulants? Alcohols? You shouldn’t be thinking too much about that. Caffeine shouldn’t be anywhere near the top of your list. That’s if it’s even there at all.
Sugar, sugar, sugar. Sugar everywhere. Be wary of sugar. Avoid it.
2. Stay regular with your Meals – Do not Linger to Binge Later On!
Eat timely meals. In fact fix your meal times and stick to it as you would for any other important task. This helps your body system a lot! Eating at set times gives your body a clock to work with – your hunger levels will be balanced and your satiation level will improve.
Don’t go for too many hours without eating! This helps to reduce the urge to snack or to indulge in binge eating. This also helps to keep blood sugar levels stable.
This is specially true for the window in between your lunch and dinner. If you know that you are running a little late at work on any specific day, then grab a healthy snack such as a fruit or some nuts. This will help you to carry on till you reach home and provide with enough energy to be able to prepare a meal rather than binging on whatever comes in your way!
3. Design a PCOS Diet that works best for you and stick to it
The nature of your work doesn’t allow much time to keep track of what you eat? Well, remember this is for the best. Health comes first. But that said, work out a way to ensure you still eat healthily. Contact a specialist dietitian for a PCOS diet chart if you have to.
You might have financial restrictions, that’s all right. You can still eat healthy without going way over budget. Work with recipes available for you. Buy straight from local farms. That’s even best because that’s the surest way to get natural unprocessed food.
Note which nutrients give you adverse reactions, and which ones relieve your PCOS symptoms.
In the end, each person is unique.
4. Community and support
Like breaking an addiction, stopping old habits to be faithful to your PCOS meal plan can be difficult.
It can be made easier when you have people who are sharing the same struggles to relate with.
Find PCOS diet support groups in your local area. Together, you can work towards overcoming this Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
5. Back up the Oomph of PCOS Foods with Exercise
Eating the right foods and diet without any form of exercise will only take you that far! Physical activity is another handle that you should include in your daily routine. It will further promote weight loss, tone up, and strengthen your body.
It has been proven time and again that changing lifestyle habits can go a long way in managing PCOS.
No! You don’t have to become an Olympic weight lifter. Rather, you just need to exercise regularly and be faithful to it. Even a modest exercise such as thirty minutes of morning walk daily can do wonders.
6. Ayurvedic Diet Tips to treat PCOS
In Ayurveda, PCOS is considered a case of Kapha Dosha Imbalance. An increased Kapha Dosha leads to various symptoms and complications of PCOS such as excessive weight, vaginal discharge, mucus, lethargy, and depression.
Therefore, to manage PCOS, the efforts are concentrated on dietary and lifestyle tips to pacify the Kapha dosha. Some tips are as follows:
- Drink a glass of warm water on an empty stomach in the morning, mixed with lemon juice or honey.
- Breakfast should be light, with generous amounts of vegetables and fresh fruits. Take breakfast before 8am.
- The heaviest meal of the day should be lunch, and even that should not be too heavy. Take this before 2pm. Don’t eat lunch late. The agni (digestive fire) peaks out at midday and begins to drop. Consequently, the lunch will not be digested well if taken late. This leads to a build up of ama, and it will further complicate issues.
- Dinner should be the lightest. Your dinner should be freshly cooked, taken before 8pm.
7. PCOS Diet – Foods to Remove to Stop the Cycle!
Having considered what to eat to mitigate PCOS, let us now consider what to not eat in case of PCOS. Again, the diet is focused on keeping insulin levels low, and weight management.
- Reduce your consumption of processed carbohydrates like pasteries, white bread, etc.
- Take less carbohydrates. Generally, women who take less carbohydrates have a better chance at ovulation.
- Avoid consuming too much of red meat as in steaks, pork, hamburger, etc.
- Do not take food containing too much sugar. Check the label for labels like high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose. These are sugars, and you should be wary of them.
- Pasta noodles that have semolina or durum are high in sugar, and should be avoided.
- Avoid solid fats. They are add to break down. Solid fats can be found in margarine, lard, etc. On a whole, mind the fat you take. With fats, the two Q’s are important, I.e. quality and quantity both.
These lists are far from exhaustive, but it should give you a good idea of what to embrace and what to shun.
Before you go!
To adopt the best diet for PCOS is to adopt the best for you. You will also enjoy all the benefits of eating healthy.
You will finally be relieved of that acne ruining your face.
The hirsutism excessive hair growth in inappropriate places will stop, and your hair will stop falling out.
Bye-bye to obesity and abnormal weight gain.
Your periods will become more regular and less painful.
You will finally be able to hold your own baby in your own hands.
So, when are you getting started?