PCOS Diet

Learn how you can lose weight, gain energy, and improve your quality of life through dietary improvements. Small changes can make a big difference in living with PCOS.

If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, an improved diet can help relieve your symptoms:

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, PCOS, is a condition that adversely affects a woman’s reproductive hormones.

Each case of PCOS is different and its causes are not fully understood.

Signs and Symptoms of PCOS

  • Irregular or missed periods
  • Fertility struggles
  • Unwanted hair growth on face and body
  • Hair loss
  • Oily, Acne-prone skin
  • Changes in skin pigment
  • Frequent mood changes
  • Pelvic pain
  • Weight gain, specifically around the midsection

Your doctor will administer tests to determine if you have PCOS.  If you are diagnosed with the condition, work with your doctor and a nutritionist for PCOS to make lifestyle changes to continue to live a normal life.

Learn more about PCOS Symptoms here.

 


PCOS: Why your diet matters

If you are looking for the quick and dirty on a PCOS diet, here are the key facts Nutritionists for PCOS want you to know

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PCOS is a condition that causes a hormonal imbalance in women of reproductive age. Each woman's PCOS symptoms are unique. Many studies have explored the link between blood sugar, insulin, and PCOS. Here's what science has taught us:

Facts to Remember about PCOS

  • PCOS is the leading cause of female infertility
    PCOS is the number one health condition women face today, with more then 1 in 5 suffering from its symptoms. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the prevalence of infertility in women with PCOS is between 70-80%. PCOS causes hormone levels to become irregular, which makes it hard for women to become pregnant. PCOS can also increase the risk of miscarriage. Read more about PCOS and fertility on our resource page.

  • There are NO known causes of PCOS
    Research suggests that PCOS may be caused from both genetic components and environmental influence. PCOS is believed to be caused from one or more gene mutations and is hereditary. Environmental influences such as having a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption may put you at higher risk of developing PCOS.

  • PCOS can be diagnosed without the presence of cysts on ovaries
    Doctors will perform a series of blood tests, ultrasounds, and a symptom analysis to diagnose PCOS. Although PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, many professionals are working to change the terminology. Women can be diagnosed with or without the presence of cysts on ovaries. Due to the complexity and unknown cause of PCOS, Doctors will diagnose a patient if they present a combination of one or more symptoms commonly associated with the condition.

  • Obesity is correlated with PCOS
    In addition to hormone imbalance, women with PCOS experience insulin insensitivity. Insulin moves sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into cells for energy. Women with insulin insensitivity due to PCOS are not able to convert sugar to energy, resulting in higher levels of insulin in the bloodstream. Higher levels of insulin cause an increase in androgen production and an increase in appetite. These factors can be correlated (but not a cause) of weight gain.  However, it is very realistic to lose weight if you have PCOS.  Our RDs also have specific exercise recommendations for women who want to become more physically active.

Check out the 5 Things Every Woman with PCOS Should Know

 


 

Who Can Help Me with a PCOS Diet?

Team up with your Primary Care Physician, OB/GYN, Endocrinologist and Nutritionist for PCOS!

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Start with your Primary Care Physicianand OB/GYN. Be prepared to discuss your signs and symptoms, as well as your family's reproductive medical history.If they believe that your condition may be PCOS, ask them to refer you to an endocrinologist.  Endocrinologists specialize in hormone-related disorders.

Your Primary Care Physician, OB/GYN and Endocrinologist will conduct a symptom assessment and review your blood work to check hormone levels and make a diagnosis. Your OB/GYN may also perform an ultrasound on your ovaries to detect cysts or follicles symptomatic of PCOS.

If it turns out that you do have PCOS, consider working with a nutritionist for PCOS to build an eating routine that will alleviate symptoms. Whether it be for increasing your energy, losing weight, or infertility linked to PCOS, a dietitian is a valuable part of your care team.

To learn more about our approach to helping you manage your PCOS click here

 


Improve your PCOS symptoms and take action — today!

Take your reading on the go and download the PDF, included with your downloadable guide is a 7-day meal plan complete with easy-to-follow recipes and shopping lists.

Download the Guide!

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What is a PCOS Diet?

Working with a dietitian for PCOS to promote healthy eating habits can alleviate your PCOS symptoms.

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Research suggests lifestyle change to be the FIRST line of treatment for women dealing with PCOS. Women who achieve weight loss of as little as 5-10% of their body weight experience a significant improvement in ovulation rates. Before speaking with our PCOS dietitians to build a PCOS Diet, discuss your specific diagnosis and treatment plan with your doctor in detail. Bring all of this information to our PCOS dietitians so that we can build a PCOS Diet tailored specifically to you. We may also incorporate PCOS supplements into your plan.  Our recommendations will vary depending on the presence and severity of your specific symptoms.

The Basics of a PCOS Diet

  • Choose High Quality, High Fiber Carbohydrates
    Women with PCOS are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than women who do not have PCOS. Similar to a diabetic diet, it is important for women with PCOS to consume high quality, high fiber carbohydrates. This will aid in stabilizing your blood sugar levels.

Click HERE to learn more about high quality carbohydrates, and how to use the Glycemic Index to choose carbohydrates that will help stabilize your blood sugar.

  • Eat a Balanced Diet
    Consuming a well balanced PCOS Diet will help to keep your body in a neutral, homeostatic state. A balanced PCOS Diet allows insulin to function properly by bringing glucose to your cells for energy. This process results in less insulin in your bloodstream, ultimately decreasing androgen production and alleviating your PCOS symptoms.

  • Follow a Consistent Routine and Regular Meal Times
    Do not skip meals. Skipping meals can crash your blood sugar levels, leading to food cravings and overindulgence. Keeping a routine will allow your blood sugar levels to stabilize. Stable blood sugar aids in the proper androgen production in your body. Proper androgen production = less severe PCOS symptoms. Some doctors recommend eating smaller, more frequent meals to better regulate blood sugar and establish better habits.

  • Choose Nutrient Rich Food, High in Vitamins and Minerals
    Studies show consuming foods high in Vitamin D, Vitamin B, Iodine, Selenium, and Magnesium will greatly aid in improving insulin resistance, and decrease the severity of symptoms associated with PCOS.

Vitamins and Minerals Important for PCOS Symptom Relief and Food Sources

Vitamin D

salmon, eggs, mushrooms, fortified milk 

Vitamin B8

tuna, almonds, eggplant, strawberries, corn, oranges, beans

Iodine

eggs, turkey breast, himalayan salt, salmon, yogurt

Selenium

tuna, salmon, pork, fortified whole grains, turkey, eggs, cottage cheese, spinach

Magnesium

avocados, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, whole grains, bananas

 


Frequently Asked PCOS Diet Questions

Many people try fad diets as a way to alleviate their PCOS symptoms. But should they?

Should I follow a dairy-free, gluten-free, or soy-free PCOS diet? 

People who suffer from inflammation caused by lactose, gluten, or soy will find advantages to following dairy-free, gluten-free, or soy-free PCOS diets. However, in regards to a PCOS diet, no scientific data currently exists to support restricting or avoiding entire food groups or specific items to improve symptoms.

We know that to improve PCOS symptoms, it helps to lose 5-10% of your body weight and and exercise regularly. Your dietitian will be able to work with you to determine a specific PCOS diet to optimize your health.

Read more about following a dairy-free diet for PCOS

Should I try a vegan diet for PCOS?

Vegan diets consist of eating grains, vegetables, and fruits. If following a vegan diet for PCOS symptom management is an option for you, it is imperative to include high quality carbohydrates that do not exceed 45% of your daily food intake.

Because vegan diets consist of vitamin- and mineral-rich whole foods, it can be tremendously useful in alleviating PCOS symptoms. Research has shown that following a proper vegan diet can improve ovulation, regulate menstruation, and reduce risk for future conditions associated with PCOS, such as type 2 diabetes. Speak with our dietitians and nutritionists to ensure you are eating a nutritionally sound vegan diet to reduce weight and manage PCOS symptoms.

Read more about following a vegan diet for PCOS

Should I try a Keto Diet for PCOS?

The Ketogenic Diet, (Keto) is a special high-fat, low carbohydrate diet designed to control seizures in individuals diagnosed with epilepsy. In recent pop culture, the Keto diet is viewed as a quick weight loss solution. Because the Keto diet is an extremely strict, nutritionally unbalanced diet, we do not recommended it for PCOS management. In order to create a lifetime of nutritionally sound habits, follow the advice of your dietitian to manage you PCOS. Avoid the Keto diet.

Read more about following a Keto diet for PCOS

What about Intermittent Fasting?

We do not recommend Intermittent Fasting for long term PCOS symptom relief. If you have PCOS, it is very important to consume multiple small meals throughout the day. This approach will allow your insulin levels to self-regulate and remain balanced. If you are intermittent fasting, your large meals cause Hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin in blood). Hyperinsulinemia increases androgen production, increasing the clinical effects of PCOS!

Read more about intermittent fasting and PCOS

We Hear a Host of other PCOS Questions.  Here are other Common PCOS FAQs

  • What Causes PCOS?
  • What are common signs and symptoms of PCOS?
  • What are health risks for women with PCOS?
  • What effect can weight loss have on PCOS Symptoms?
  • What is insulin resistance?
  • What foods should I avoid with PCOS?
  • What should I eat with PCOS?
Read all the answers to these PCOS FAQs in our full write up!


So, what should I eat for my PCOS Diet?

Maintaining a balanced diet and healthy weight are key in managing PCOS symptoms. Consuming a diet rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals will aid in healing your body from the inside out. Anti-inflammatory foods can also make a big difference. The following food choices will help keep blood sugar levels stable while helping to achieve a healthy weight to manage complications associated with PCOS.

Learn more about which foods to eat with PCOS and PCOS friendly recipes

To achieve weight loss and improve PCOS symptoms, speak with our nutritionist for PCOS about proper portions, and portion sizes. This ensures that you are getting the right amount of nutrients you need to manage your PCOS.

Food Group Examples

Lean Protein

Eating meat low in fat will aid in weight loss and keep you feeling full longer.


  • Fish: salmon, tuna, shrimp, cod
  • Poultry: skinless chicken and turkey breast
  • Plant-based proteins: beans, tofu, tempeh

Complex Carbohydrates

Eating carbohydrates that are high in fiber will work to lower insulin levels and lower inflammation in the body.


  • Whole Grains: quinoa, oats, brown rice
  • Legumes: beans, peas, lentils
  • Potatoes: white, sweet

Antioxidant Rich Fruits and Veggies

Antioxidants will work to decrease inflammation in the body, boost immunity, and help to prevent obesity.

Heart Healthy Fats

Fat is a biological necessity and will increase hormone production, aid in vitamin absorption, and improve heart health and brain function.


  • Olive oil
  • Nuts: walnuts, almonds, cashews
  • Seeds: chia, flax, and sunflower
  • Avocado

 

OK, got it! What foods should I avoid for my PCOS Diet?

Let your intuition guide you. A PCOS Diet emphasizes eating whole, unprocessed healthy food to enable vitamin absorption, nutrient intake, and weight loss. It is important to stay away from refined sugars, white flour, and excessive sugary beverages. These products increase blood insulin, which results in greater androgen production... ultimately worsening PCOS symptoms.

For an even more detailed look at foods to avoid with PCOS, click here

Steer clear of:

  • Sweetened juice, fruit in heavy syrup, & sweetened applesauce
  • Processed foods!
  • Refined grains made with white flour (pasta, white bread, white rice, bagels)
  • High sugar cereals and protein bars
  • Soda and Juice
  • Cookies, cake, and candy
  • Potato chips and pretzels
  • Some research suggests caffeine can make PCOS symptoms worse!

 


Lose weight, gain energy, and improve your quality of life.

Go beyond what you're learning in this guide, included with the downloadable PDF is a 7-day meal plan complete with easy-to-follow recipes and shopping lists.

Download the Guide!

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"I have PCOS and I just can't lose weight!"

- A PCOS Diet can help you slim down

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Yes, weight loss is possible with the right PCOS Diet

Weight loss can be difficult for women with PCOS, but it is achievable. It is important to remember that weight loss with PCOS will be gradual and slow due to the hormonal imbalances, inflammation, and blood sugar issues associated with PCOS. To reach your weight loss goals, work with your doctor to incorporate medications that will work to improve insulin sensitivity. Weight loss will be possible when you combine a healthy diet, regular exercise, and proper medication. Remember, weight loss may be slow, but once you lose ~5-10% of your body weight, your PCOS symptoms will be largely controlled.

Read more about PCOS and weight loss

Should I still need to follow a PCOS Diet if I am not overweight?

Not all women with PCOS are overweight or obese. About half of all PCOS cases are women who fall within the normal weight range. Women diagnosed with PCOS will have ovaries that are oversensitive to the effects of insulin, resulting in excessive androgen production. Even if you are not overweight, by eating a well-balanced diet, you can decrease the effects of insulin on your ovaries.

In addition, even women who are considered a normal weight are at an equal chance of developing risk factors associated with PCOS, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, infertility, and type 2 diabetes. It is important to consume a high-quality diet to support blood sugar control and hormone balance. In addition, establishing a regular exercise routine to maintain a healthy weight to prevent these conditions is important.

Can Exercise Help My PCOS?

Exercise can help you lose weight AND relieve other PCOS symptoms such as insulin resistance and hormone imbalances.

The best types of exercise for PCOS are:

  • Strength Training
  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
  • Yoga
Read more about why we recommend these types of workouts in our full write up on PCOS and Exercise

What about a Fertility PCOS Diet?

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Controlling PCOS symptoms and hormone levels is your best strategy for improving fertility for PCOS. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to diet, fertility, and PCOS. Work with your PCOS nutritionist to create a balanced, high quality, whole food, high fiber PCOS Diet that meets your needs.

Various studies have shown that improving your diet can improve your likelihood of becoming pregnant. Preconception counseling and reducing tobacco and alcohol consumption can also be effective.

Achieving weight loss will increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Studies suggest that women with PCOS are able to become pregnant once their PCOS is well managed. In addition to helping to manage PCOS symptoms, weight loss can help facilitate pregnancy, decrease maternal risk once pregnant, and lower miscarriage prevalence.

Read more about PCOS and fertility

PCOS and Fatigue

If you have PCOS and feel chronically fatigued (a.k.a. overtired), you may be surprised to know that PCOS and fatigue are actually related.  While fatigue symptoms may occur for anyone, PCOS has three specific linkages to your chronic fatigue:

  • Iron Deficiency
  • Vitamin B12 Deficiency
  • Insulin Resistance

Each of these fatigue causes affects your body slightly differently and has a unique remedy.  Given these fatigue causes, your nutritionist may incorporate supplements into your PCOS Diet.

Read our full write up on PCOS and Fatigue to learn actionable improvements

PCOS and Hair Loss

Have you noticed thinning hair, or that you might actually be losing your hair?  You're not alone.  40-70% of women with PCOS experience hair loss.  High testosterone (the "male" hormone) is a contributor to hair loss for women with PCOS.

Common ways to treat hair loss include:

  • Supplements to replace micronutrients
  • Increase Vitamin D
  • Talk to your doctor about medication

For specific recommendations and ideas, read our full write up on PCOS and Hair Loss

PCOS and Your Immune System

PCOS has similarities with various autoimmune conditions. Although PCOS is not currently considered an autoimmune disease, emerging research shows that it has a greater impact on your immune system than was previously thought. Interestingly, research also shows that women with PCOS are also significantly more likely to develop an accompanying autoimmune condition.

PCOS may affect your immune system in various ways:

  • Inflammation
  • Sex hormone balance
  • Vitamin D Levels

We detail the impacts on each of these factors on your immune system in our blog.  We also include healthy foods to improve your immune system if you have PCOS.

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Our PCOS Nutritionists Listen

Your symptoms are unique to you. Your nutritionist tracks your food with you and makes specific recommendations to help you feel better.

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A Plan Built Just for You

Based upon your daily routine, we will build a custom plan to help alleviate your PCOS symptoms.

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Continuous Improvement

Success does not happen overnight. If something isn't working quite right, we make changes right away.

Questions? Contact us!

Our dietitians and nutritionists build custom plans tailored to help you manage your PCOS and reach a variety of goals. Our expertise includes: Managing blood sugar, insulin levels, and weight loss for PCOS

"We have helped hundreds of women manage their PCOS to meet a variety of goals. Whether its weight loss or just feeling better, we know how hard it can be to take the first step.
We hope you will allow us to help you tackle your health issues head-on."
Britney Kennedy Founder
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