PCOS Food Guide:
What to Eat and What to Avoid
According to EndocrineWeb, one in 10 women suffer from PCOS. While very common, PCOS can cause various serious health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If you suffer from PCOS, incorporating a healthy diet into your routine can alleviate your symptoms while reducing the long-term effects of the condition.
Not sure what foods to eat and which ones you should avoid? No problem. Our PCOS food guide will outline the best foods to eat if you have PCOS.
Foods to Eat if You Have PCOS
If you have PCOS, maintaining a healthy weight can help you manage your symptoms. Being at a healthy weight will help your body better process glucose.
Additionally, those with PCOS can sometimes have low-grade inflammation in their gut lining. Eating better might improve their gut health and reduce their PCOS symptoms.
According to Very Well Health, protein works to facilitate metabolism and digestion in your body. It also helps your body synthesize various hormones, like insulin, estrogen, and testosterone. These hormones are commonly affected by PCOS.
Lean protein might help you lose weight while keeping you feeling fuller longer. Avoid eating meats with high amounts of saturated fats, like cured and red meats.
A high protein and low carb diet can provide you with many benefits, including:
- Boost in metabolism
- Improved control over blood sugar
- Appetite control
How much protein you consume each day depends upon your age. Typically, women over the age of 19 need 46 grams of protein per day.Examples of Lean Protein
Lean protein can be found in both plant and animal sources. Some popular types of lean protein include:
- Greek yogurt
- Pumpkin seeds
- Lean sirloin
- Cottage cheese
- Chicken breast (no skin)
Protein shakes, and powders can also help boost your daily protein intake. However, they shouldn't be used instead of real food.
A high-fiber diet can help those with PCOS in various ways. Fiber can improve your gut's bacteria while reducing inflammation. Foods that contain a high amount of fiber also have prebiotics. Prebiotics work to improve the microbiome of your gut.
As fiber passes through your digestive tract, it provides your body with many health benefits, such as:
- Lowering the blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure
- Decreasing your insulin resistance
- Curb your carb cravings
Fiber is naturally found in many foods. It can sometimes get added to other foods to increase its fiber content. There are two different types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber affects how the food you eat travels through your digestive tract. Soluble fiber slows your digestion.Examples of High-Fiber Foods
The average woman should eat around 21 to 29 grams of fiber daily. Some examples of high-fiber foods are:
- Black beans
- Whole eats
If you're looking for anti-inflammatory foods for PCOS, look for ones rich in antioxidants. Women who have PCOS often have a high level of oxidative stress. According to Healthline, oxidative stress is when your body has an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals.
If your body has too many free radicals, it'll start damaging your body's proteins, DNA, and fatty tissues. Those items make up a large portion of your body. If they're damaged, you might encounter other health conditions over time.
Antioxidants help balance your body's free radicals. You can prevent oxidative stress by incorporating foods high in antioxidants into your diet.Examples of Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Consuming at least five servings of vegetables and fruits is the best way to give your body everything it needs to produce more antioxidants. You can also find antioxidants in other food sources besides fruits and veggies.
Try adding some of the following foods to your diet:
- Citrus fruits
- Dark leafy greens
- Vitamin E
- Nuts and fish
- Green tea
You shouldn't cut all fatty foods from your diet. Healthy fats can help you feel full after eating your meal. Although the foods might be high in calories, they can help reduce your hunger while expanding your stomach's volume.
When looking for foods to eat if you have PCOS, you'll want to avoid trans and saturated fats. Those types of fats can result in high cholesterol and blood pressure.
Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in a woman's pregnancy and fertility. It can help do the following:
- Regulate your hormones
- Increase the blood flow to your uterus
- Regulate your period
- Reduce how sensitive you are to prolactin, a hormone that suppresses ovulation
Healthy fats are often found in different oils that you use for cooking and baking. According to Medical News Today, you can also find healthy fats in the following types of foods:
- Chia seeds
- Dark chocolate
- Fatty fish
- Olive oil
Whole grains work to reduce blood sugar spikes and manage your insulin levels. Whole-grain foods include a variety of nutrients, such as protein, fiber, and antioxidants.
It also makes your body have less time to break down whole grains. Since they don't absorb as quickly into the bloodstream, your body doesn't need as much insulin to process them. Grains also contain a high amount of complex carbohydrates.Examples of Whole Grains
You can find whole grains anti-inflammatory foods for PCOS, such as:
- Whole wheat
- Brown rice
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a source of healthy fats. Many seeds and nuts also include high amounts of protein and other nutrients, such as:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamins and minerals
Seeds also don't contain a lot of carbs. You don't have to worry about spiking insulin levels when you eat them.Examples of Nuts and Seeds
Seeds are a great option for those with tree nut allergies to consume. Consider adding the following nutritious nuts and seeds to your diet:
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Pine nuts
- Sesame seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
Foods to Avoid if You Have PCOS
In addition to knowing what foods to avoid if you have PCOS, there are other lifestyle changes you should incorporate to manage your symptoms. Avoid doing the following activities when you have PCOS:
- Not maintaining your new, healthy diet
- Sleeping irregularly
- Stressful activities
- Drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse
As we mentioned, PCOS and nutrition are closely tied together. Certain foods can trigger your body's inflammatory process. That could result in increased blood levels and irregular hormone levels. Let's talk about some of the top foods you should avoid if you have PCOS.
Refined carbohydrates are grains that have gotten stripped of all nutrients, fiber, and bran. Essentially, they've lost all their nutritional value.
Your body can digest refined carbs very quickly. They have a high glycemic index that results in unhealthy spikes in your blood sugar levels. They can also cause your mood and energy to fluctuate and make you gain weight.
When you eat simple or refined carbs, your bloodstream gets flooded with a lot of sugar. That triggers a large amount of insulin to get rid of the sugar in your bloodstream. You can feel hungry after eating a meal and sometimes crave sugary carbs.
Women that have PCOS have a higher chance of developing diabetes. Consuming refined carbs can make it more difficult to manage your PCOS symptoms and increase your risk of diabetes.Examples of Carbohydrates to Avoid
Occasionally, overindulging in refined carbs won't dramatically affect your health. However, refined carbs shouldn't be a part of your normal diet.
Some refined carbs that you should avoid include:
- White bread and tortillas
- Breakfast cereals
- Pastries and waffles
- Chips and crackers
Many processed foods contain refined flour. As we discussed, refined carbs are terrible for those with PCOS. You should also avoid eating processed meats since they're considered unhealthy.Examples of Processed Foods to Avoid
Like refined carbs, some processed foods here and there won't make a big difference to your overall health. Eating processed foods should be a rare occurrence and done in moderation.
You should avoid eating these types of processed foods:
- Lunch meats
- Hot dogs
While healthy fats can play a positive role in managing your PCOS symptoms, high-fat foods can have the opposite effect. Foods that have hydrogenated and saturated fats in them can have an effect on how your body processes glucose.
Unhealthy fats can also increase how much estrogen you produce. High levels of estrogen can have a negative effect on your PCOS symptoms.Examples of High-Fat Foods to Avoid
While some of these high-fat foods might be our favorites, you should try to avoid eating them regularly. They include:
- Fried foods
- Fast food
- Cream cheese
Use This PCOS Friendly Food List to Help Plan Your Meals
Our PCOS friendly food list should give you a jumping-off point on what foods to eat and avoid to manage your symptoms. Make sure you eat at the same time each day, so your blood sugar doesn't crash. You also don't want to overindulge in any unhealthy food cravings.
Breakfast is the most important meal that kickstarts your entire day. Some breakfast ideas you can try out include:
- Oatmeal topped with chia seeds, berries, and peanut butter
- Whole wheat toast with an egg and avocado
- Plain Greek yogurt with chia or hemp seeds, berries, and a dash of cinnamon
- Smoothie made from almond milk, protein powder, Greek yogurt, spinach, nut butter, and cinnamon
- Eggs made with spinach and tomatoes, topped with sliced avocados
It's always good practice to make your meals ahead of time, especially if you don't work at home. You don't want to get caught up in your workday and grab something unhealthy if you don't have a lot of time.
Check out our favorite lunch ideas for those with PCOS:
- Steak or chicken stir-fry bowl made with priced cauliflower, brown rice, and avocado
- Lettuce tacos made with tempeh and sauteed veggies
- Bento box with hardboiled eggs, rice cake topped with avocado, and sliced veggies
Ready to close out your day with a filling meal? Explore our dinner ideas:
- Chicken pizza made with naan bread, pesto, and parmesan cheese
- Edamame salad that includes mixed greens, sweet potatoes, edamame, and a light dressing
- Baked salmon with roasted veggies and cooked quinoa
You can pair any of these meals with sliced veggies or a small tossed salad.
Don't let your healthy diet get derailed by the midafternoon munchies. When exploring healthy snacks, choose options that are high in fiber. It's good practice to pair a carb with healthy fat and protein.
You should treat yourself now and then as well. Completely eliminating one of your favorite foods will result in you craving it and potentially overindulging.
Some snacks you can munch on include:
- Sliced veggies dipped in hummus
- Apple with a small serving of nut butter
- Greek yogurt mixed with berries and flaxseeds
- Pita cut into slices with guacamole
- Pumpkin seeds and an orange
- Sliced cucumbers paired with smoked salmon and cream cheese
- Banana dipped in Greek yogurt and chocolate chips
- Rice cakes topped with cinnamon, nut butter, and/or fresh fruit
When first starting with a new eating plan, remember to be kind to yourself. The goal isn't to deprive yourself of food. You're just identifying the trigger foods for PCOS and swapping them out for more healthy options.
Explore Our Comprehensive PCOS Food Guide
Many people might not realize that PCOS and nutrition go hand in hand. We hope that our PCOS food guide helps you establish and maintain a healthy diet to manage your symptoms.
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