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
Best Foods for PCOS
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.
Foods to Avoid with PCOS
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.
A Final Thought on PCOS & Diet
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;
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