What a PCOS-Friendly Diet Looks Like

Choosing a diet full of whole foods can help manage PCOS symptoms

Close-up of hand reaching for fresh vegetables
heatherwalker / Getty Images

If you've been diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), it's likely your doctor has prescribed lifestyle changes like diet and exercise as part of your treatment plan. A healthy diet full of whole foods can help improve your health as well as help you lose weight—as many women with PCOS experience weight gain, which can be difficult to lose. 

What are Whole Foods?

Whole foods are unprocessed and unrefined foods that are also free from additives or other artificial substances.

Examples of whole foods include fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and lentils, whole grains, fish, and unsaturated fats.

A study published in Hormone and Metabolic Research showed that those with PCOS who followed the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan lost abdominal fat and had significant improvements in their insulin resistance and inflammation markers. The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and is low in saturated fats and cholesterol, refined grains, sodium, and sweets.

Health Benefits Of Whole Foods

Since they are less processed, whole foods are more likely to contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber which can help:

  • Improve skin
  • Strengthen hair
  • Improve mood
  • Keep immune system healthy
  • Improve fertility
  • Aid in weight loss
  • Support a healthy pregnancy
  • Maintain healthy blood pressure
  • Reduce risk for diabetes
  • Prevent cancer
  • Extend your life

    Fruits

    While fruits are carbohydrates, most fruits have a relatively low glycemic index. You should aim to have at least 2 servings of fruit each day. To incorporate more fruit into your diet, keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table or counter, refrigerate cut-up fruit to store for later, or buy frozen fruit to blend in smoothies.

    Enjoy fruit for snacks or add them to your meals. You can mix blueberries with oatmeal or add grapes or apples to a salad.

    Vegetables

    You should aim to eat at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day. To include more vegetables in your diet, make half of your plate veggies at most meals, stock up on frozen vegetables, and buy vegetables that are easy to prepare. Vary your veggie choices to keep your meals interesting. Enjoy vegetables for snacks or add them to meals. You can mix your favorite vegetables into omelets or frittatas, toss a handful of leafy greens into a smoothie, or add them to stir-fry’s or soups.

    Beans and Legumes

    For optimal health, have a few servings (1/2 cup each) of beans and legumes like lentils each week. You can purchase canned, dried, or ready to eat varieties of beans. To add these to your meals, top a salad with chickpeas, add black beans or white kidney beans to soups, or prepare main dishes that are meatless such as taco salads, bean burgers, or falafels.

    Whole Grains

    Whole grains are “slow carbs” that have a low glycemic index and won’t spike your glucose and insulin levels. Examples include brown or wild rice, rolled oats, bulgur, quinoa, and buckwheat. To incorporate more of these foods, substitute whole grain products for refined ones, try quinoa or rolled oats for a hot breakfast; add whole grains such as farro, quinoa, or bulgur to soups; or use rolled oats as breading for baked chicken or fish.

    Healthy Fats

    Healthy fats include olive oil and olives, nuts and nut butter, avocados, seeds, eggs, and fish. To incorporate more of these healthy fats in your diet, use olive oil for cooking or as a base for homemade dressings; eat nuts for snacks or toss into a stir-fry; dip fruit in nut butters; add avocado to eggs; sandwiches, and salads; and eat omega-3 rich fish like salmon, tuna, trout twice a week or more.

    Sources

    • Asemi Z, Esmaillzadeh A.DASH Diet, Insulin Resistance, and Serum hs-CRP in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Horm Metab Res. 2014.
    • Amany Alsayed Salama, Ezzat Khamis Amine, Hesham Abd Elfattah Salem, and Nesrin Kamal Abd El Fattah. Anti-Inflammatory Dietary Combo in Overweight and Obese Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. N Am J Med Sci. 2015 Jul; 7(7): 310–316.

      Continue Reading