PCOS Diet: Dietary Decisions And Management!

Written by Dr. Amber Jones

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. But, research shows that insulin resistance and inflammation may contribute to its development. 

While there is no cure for PCOS, making smart dietary choices can help manage symptoms like irregular periods, excess hair growth, acne, and fertility issues. But, to do that, one should know important information like:

Consuming the right nutrients through diet is one of the most effective ways to find PCOS symptom relief. So, one should look into a PCOS Diet: Food choices for managing symptoms, right?

The key is choosing foods that help maintain healthy blood sugar and insulin levels. So, understanding “How does diet affect PCOS?” is an important part of managing PCOS.

How does diet affect PCOS?

Diet Affect PCOS

Research indicates that weight loss through diet and lifestyle changes has major benefits for those with PCOS. Carrying excess weight worsens the hormone imbalances and metabolic issues underlying PCOS. Losing just 5% of your body weight can lead to restored ovulation and fertility for some women.

Meanwhile, further weight loss continues to reduce PCOS symptoms. Additionally, specific dietary components directly impact PCOS by influencing inflammation, insulin, testosterone, and other hormonal pathways. Refined carbohydrates and sugars promote fat storage and fuel inflammation. 

In contrast, fiber slows digestion, preventing blood sugar spikes. Healthy fats supply the building blocks for important hormones. Lean proteins and colorful produce provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Understanding these connections allows you to strategically manage PCOS through food choices.

What to eat if you have PCOS?

An anti-inflammatory, low glycemic diet focused on nutritious whole foods is the best strategy for managing PCOS. Key foods to emphasize include:

  • Lean proteins: Beans, lentils, fish, skinless poultry, eggs, and soy foods supply proteins and minerals that help stabilize blood sugar. Grass-fed meats provide iron, zinc, and protein in smaller servings.
  • High-fiber whole grains: Quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, farro, and whole grain bread or pasta keep digestion regular and prevent insulin spikes.
  • Bright vegetables: Spinach, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, and other non-starchy veggies provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for hormone health.
  • Healthy fats: Avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish supply essential fatty acids that regulate inflammation and reproductive health.

Foods to avoid if you have PCOS

Just as important as what to eat is knowing what foods to limit or avoid when living with PCOS. These nutrient-poor choices can exacerbate weight gain, inflammation, and metabolic issues:

  • Refined grains: White rice, bread, cereals, crackers, and baked goods quickly raise blood sugar and promote fat storage.
  • Added sugars: Sodas, candies, syrups, desserts, and many processed foods contain sugar and corn syrup that strain insulin regulation.
  • Unhealthy fats: Trans and saturated fats found in fried foods, margarine, processed meats, and full-fat dairy products fuel harmful inflammation.
  • Diet drinks: Artificial sweeteners confuse appetite signals and may increase sugar cravings and fat storage.
  • Alcohol: Higher intakes overstress the liver, impact hormonal balance, and may hinder weight loss.

How to Lose Weight With PCOS?

Losing just 10% of excess body weight can dramatically improve PCOS symptoms. To spur weight loss with PCOS:

➡️ Up protein 

Replace refined grains with bean or lentil pasta, add nuts to salads, and eat eggs for breakfast. The extra protein increases satiety, prevents blood sugar crashes, and supports lean muscle mass.

Increase fiber - Focus on high-fiber whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Fiber dampens appetite and slows nutrient absorption for steady energy.

➡️ Healthy fats

Cook with olive or avocado oil, snack on nuts, and add seeds, avocado, or fatty fish to meals. Healthy fats increase satiety between meals.

➡️ Portion control 

Measure portion sizes to avoid overeating nutrient-dense foods. Use smaller plates, eat slowly, and check fullness signals halfway through meals.

➡️ Exercise

Pairing a plant-based PCOS diet with regular exercise provides major benefits for weight loss, hormone balance, ovulation, and more. Start slowly and work towards 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. Walking, strength training, and HIIT workouts are great options.


Choosing a PCOS diet: food choices for managing symptoms, is a viable method. Making sustainable long-term dietary changes is challenging, but incredibly worthwhile for managing PCOS. There is no “perfect” diet for every woman with PCOS.

Finding the eating pattern that makes you feel best involves some trial and error. Focus on crowding out overly processed foods with balanced whole-food meals and snacks. Lean proteins, fiber-rich produce, whole grains, and healthy fats should take center stage at meals. Limit, but not necessarily ban, treats like desserts and fried foods by enjoying them in moderation.

Consider working with a registered dietitian who specializes in PCOS for personalized nutrition advice. With consistency over time, an anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic diet provides significant symptom improvements for many living with PCOS.

What changes will you start with – adding more veggies, having eggs instead of cereal, trying quinoa, or experimenting with new seasonings? Small steps that become habits pave the way for long-term success. How will you craft a realistic PCOS diet plan with foods you enjoy?


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Amber Jones is a sought-after dietitian nutritionist with expertise in public and community health. She holds a Masters in Public Health from Yale University and completed her dietetic internship with the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center

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