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PCOS and Diet

  • Category: Education
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  • Written By: Atlanta Center for Reproductive Medicine

What is the Best Diet Plan for PCOS?

Many women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) struggle to maintain a normal body weight. My patients often ask about the ideal PCOS diet plan.

The fact is, weight loss is beneficial to women with PCOS and elevated body weight, regardless of the specific type of diet that they follow. Even modest weight reduction (~ 10% body weight) can demonstrate improvements in cardiovascular profiles, insulin sensitivity and ovulation.

It is unclear if any particular diet makes it easier for PCOS patients to lose weight. I always say that the best diet is the one that you can stick with for the rest of your life. All of our metabolisms steadily decline after our teenage years and we must all eat less and exercise more just to maintain our current weight.

There are some considerations that are important for PCOS patients because PCOS, especially when coupled with obesity, is associated with inflammation in the body. Inflammation keeps the cycle of PCOS going. Inflammation can worsen cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance, and make it harder for women with PCOS to lose weight and to ovulate. Certain foods and nutrients may reduce or increase this inflammation. PCOS patients may wish to incorporate less inflammatory foods and nutrients.

Best Foods for PCOS & Foods to Avoid


  • Protein: Inflammation may be reduced and the chances of ovulation may be increased by trying to replace animal fats with fish or vegetable sources. Salmon contains protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Folic Acid and B12: Women with higher levels of these micronutrients have higher rates of live birth after IVF. Folic acid is known to prevent neural tube (spinal cord) defects in babies and is routinely recommended when trying to conceive. Folic acid (400mcg-1mg) is a routine ingredient in prenatal vitamins. Green leafy vegetables (spinach, bok choy, parsley, romaine lettuce) are good sources of dietary folate. B12 can be found in eggs, cheese and milk products.


  • Carbohydrates: Quantity and quality are important. Women with a lower overall carbohydrate intake have a better chance of ovulating, regardless of body mass index (BMI) or exercise. The glycemic index measures how rapidly blood sugar levels rise after eating a certain food. Foods with a lower glycemic index are less inflammatory. Complex carbohydrates (whole grains) are a less inflammatory option; examples include legumes, quinoa, brown rice, steel cut oats. Refined carbohydrates (white rice, white potatoes, corn syrup, honey, fruit juice) cause rapid blood sugar spikes, which may be more inflammatory and should be avoided.


  • Fats: Trans fats (hydrogenated oils) are inflammatory and can make insulin resistance worse. However, “good” fats include omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation and are good for cardiovascular health.

For further reading on PCOS and Diet, including recipes, check out The Fertility Diet by Jorge E. Chavarro.


All diets should be coupled with regular, moderate exercise (30-40 minutes per day, 3-4+ times per week.) This is especially true for women with PCOS, because insulin resistance is often a driving force in their metabolic and reproductive dysfunction. Exercise is a great way to increase insulin sensitivity and to begin to reverse these problems.

Women who are obese, or who have not exercised in a long time,should begin their program with professional guidance.

Riley JK, Jungheim ES. Fertil Steril. 2016 Sep 1;106(3):520-7. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.07.1069. Epub 2016 Jul 20. Review.

Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. Diet and Lifestyle in the Prevention of Ovulatory Disorder Infertility. Obstet Gynecol 2007; 110: 1050-8.

For more information about PCOS and conception, and to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kathryn C. Calhoun or any other of ACRM’s fertility experts, call 678-841-1089 or click here.