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What Foods to Eat and Avoid on PCOS

As a hormonal disorder that is quite common among women of reproductive age, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can cause irregular periods or prolonged periods due to the presence of excess male hormones (androgens). This makes it harder for the ovaries to release mature eggs, impacting the ovulation process. Plus, the collection of follicles in the ovaries might turn into cysts.



Below we have listed down the signs and symptoms of PCOS along with information on the PCOS diet plan i.e. what foods to eat and avoid on PCOS.

What Foods to Eat and Avoid on PCOS

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A] Signs and Symptoms of PCOS

  • Irregular periods or heavy periods: One of the most common symptoms of PCOS are infrequent, irregular or prolonged periods. The lack of ovulation prevents the lining of the uterine from shedding, which leads to women getting less than nine periods per year. This includes more than 35 days between periods, which can then lead to heavy bleeding.
  • Excessive Hair Growth (Hirsutism): Another sign of PCOS that most women experience is excessive growth of hair on their face, stomach, breasts, etc. Also known as Hirsutism, it is caused due to the hormone androgens that are present in excess during PCOS.
  • Acne and Oily Skin: The male hormones make the skin oilier which causes breakouts on the face, chest and upper back area. With the high level of androgens, the glands in the skin produce an oily substance in excess known as sebum. This further leads to inflammation causing pimples.
  • Weight Gain: Weight gain is quite common in PCOS and these extra pounds can worsen the condition. Obesity is one of the major concerns in PCOS, so losing weight is recommended. By following a PCOS diet plan to lose weight, you could improve your periods and manage your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
  • Ovulation problems: PCOS is one of the causes of infertility in women. Women who do not ovulate regularly are unable to release sufficient eggs to be fertilised, making it difficult to conceive.
  • Hair Loss: Excess androgen can also cause thinning of hair or hair loss. Many women suffering from PCOS start noticing extreme hair fall, especially near the front of their scalp.
  • Mood Swings and Depression: PCOS is a complex endocrine condition that can cause depression, anxiety and mood swings. This is due to the prolonged exposure to high cortisol levels that increase stress. High cortisol levels also increase insulin resistance, which can cause depression.

B] Things to Know About PCOS

  • PCOS is known to be a leading cause of infertility in women. About 1 in 5 women suffer from this condition and have The hormonal irregularity makes it harder for women to get pregnant and can lead to repeated miscarriage.
  • There is no cure to treat PCOS. However, a specialist may diagnose it with a combination of s The doctor might run a series of blood tests and ultrasound to analyse symptoms and determine PCOS.
  • A recent survey shows that diagnosis of PCOS is important as now it has also been strongly linked to increased metabolic and cardiovascular risks.
  • PCOD and PCOS: Despite being related to ovaries and causing hormonal distress, PCOD and PCOS are two different conditions. PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease) is a condition wherein the ovaries release a lot of partially mature eggs that turn into cysts. Some of its symptoms are weight gain, irregular periods, hair loss and infertility. In this condition, the ovaries usually become enlarged and secrete male hormones that create an imbalance in the fertility and ovulation process.

If you want to learn how ovarian cysts can affect fertility then you can read our comprehensive guide on ovarian cyst and fertility. Next, we’ll discuss the different types of PCOS.

C] Different Types of PCOS

Not many know that there are four types of PCOS.

  • Pill Induced PCOS: You can develop this type of PCOS due to the consumption of birth control pills. This happens as the pills tend to suppress the process of ovulation. Many women start ovulating again once the effect of the pill vanishes. But, if you still experience irregular periods, consult with the best gynaecologist for PCOS.
  • Insulin Resistant PCOS: One of the most common types of PCOS, this is caused due to smoking, a high sugar diet, pollution and trans fat. In this condition, the high insulin levels prevent ovulation and trigger the ovaries to produce testosterone.
  • Inflammatory PCOS: Hormonal imbalance can cause inflammation and prevent ovulation. The main reasons for inflammation are stress, toxins, and an inflammatory diet like gluten.
  • Hidden PCOS: One of the simpler forms of PCOS, once diagnosed it can be treated within 3-4 months. Causes of hidden PCOS could be deficiency of iodine, vegetarian diet (lack of zinc – the ovaries need zinc), and artificial sweeteners.

Read more: Impact of PCOS on fertility and its treatment

D] How Does Your Diet Affect PCOS?

Women with PCOS often have high insulin resistance, which is commonly found in those suffering from obesity. High insulin levels lead to your body storing more fats, which promotes weight gain.

Women with PCOS also have a low metabolism and experience difficulty in controlling food cravings. High level of insulin results in your ovaries producing more androgens. It is also known that more than half the number of women experiencing PCOS have diabetes. Thus, to alleviate the symptoms of PCOS, you need to follow a healthy PCOS diet plan and make lifestyle changes.

E] Comprehensive PCOS Diet Chart

1. PCOS Diet Plan: What Foods to Eat with PCOS

  • Green leafy vegetables: Consumption of green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale are a must to manage the symptoms of PCOS. These vegetables have high water and fibre content that helps in sugar absorption, thereby helping you maintain your blood sugar levels. They are rich in nutrients and low in calories, making them an excellent choice for weight loss. Green leafy vegetables are also rich in vitamin B and contain phytochemicals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help with acne – a common symptom of PCOS.
  • Oats: A source of complex carbohydrates, oats are a great choice for breakfast. These carbohydrates help in breaking down the sugar levels keeping them stable. They are also rich in fibre and helps regulate your bowel movements. Moreover, they can help lower your cholesterol levels, which is essential for PCOS.
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes have lycopene – a carotene that has heart-protective properties. This superfood has antioxidants that can battle PCOS. Its high water, fibre and vitamin C contents help in keeping your skin clear, protecting it from acne. Tomatoes can be eaten raw in salads or can be cooked.
  • Walnuts and almonds: For women with PCOS, it is essential to reduce the male testosterone produced in the ovaries, and the best way to do this is by consuming nuts like walnuts and almonds. These nuts have the right amount of monosaturated fats that help decrease testosterone levels and aids in the production of female hormones. They can also help reduce the symptoms of PCOS, including acne, hair fall, and excessive hair growth.
  • Green tea: Packed with antioxidants, green tea helps boost metabolism which is important for women with PCOS. Drinking green tea daily along with exercising and a healthy diet can help fast-track weight loss.

Before you start a PCOS diet with these foods, contact your healthcare provider and get the diet approved by them because they can provide guidance on whether the diet is appropriate for your individual health needs and medical history.

2. PCOS Diet Plan: What Foods to Avoid with PCOS

  • Processed foods: Women with PCOS should avoid processed foods as they have higher GI (Glycaemic Index) that increases insulin and blood sugar These foods also have high amounts of sodium and unhealthy fats in them, which can lead to weight gain and worsen your symptoms. Processed foods include white bread, biscuits, cakes and ready-to-eat meals.
  • Dairy: Women with PCOS should limit their dairy consumption as dairy products make your body produce excess insulin. You can also switch to skimmed milk if avoiding dairy altogether is not an option.
  • Unhealthy fats: Cheese and cream, fatty red meat and processed fried foods contain unhealthy fats that can increase inflammation in the body, lead to weight gain and worsen your symptoms.
  • Soy products: Soy products contain high levels of isoflavones – a phytoestrogen that is similar to estrogen. Excessive consumption of soy can lead to horm
    onal imbalance, especially in women with PCOS. However, there are no strong evidence or studies that prove soy is harmful, but still eliminating it to an extent from your diet is suggested.
  • Gluten: Even though there is no evidence that this condition makes you gluten intolerant, avoiding gluten is Eating a gluten-rich diet may increase inflammation in the body, lead to insulin resistance and develop the risk of diabetes. Higher inflammation in the body can also increase the production of androgen, which is a major contributor to many PCOS symptoms.

#Consult With a PCOS Specialist

Even though there is no cure for PCOS, the symptoms can still be treated based on their severity. The best way to treat PCOS is to make lifestyle changes and opt for a healthy PCOS diet plan. Routine pelvic examinations, regular exercise and managing your stress levels can also help alleviate the symptoms of PCOS.

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Neha Goel

Neha Goel, a Psychology alumna and MBA graduate from CASS Business School, London, brings together her expertise as a Reiki Practitioner and Practice Manager. She integrates psychology and business strategies to foster holistic well-being and personal development.