There is no standard diet for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, some strategies — such as an anti-inflammatory diet — may help manage some symptoms.
These changes can
In this article, learn more about foods to eat and avoid with PCOS.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
- insulin resistance
- changes in metabolic and hormonal functioning
- high levels of body fat
- problems creating gonadotrophin-releasing hormones, which are essential for reproductive well-being
These factors are all interlinked. Diet could be a factor in breaking this cycle and reducing the impact of PCOS. It could also help reduce the risk of complications such as diabetes and cancer.
Some ways in which diet may help people with PCOS relate to managing:
- body weight
- insulin production and resistance
- blood sugar levels
- oxidative stress, which increases the risk of inflammation and cancer
There is currently no standard diet for PCOS, but various approaches appear likely to benefit people with this condition.
Here are three diets that may help people with PCOS manage their symptoms.
A low glycemic index (GI) diet
Foods in a low GI diet include:
An anti-inflammatory diet
Foods with anti-inflammatory properties include:
The DASH diet
Doctors often recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to reduce the risk or impact of heart disease, but it might also help manage PCOS.
A DASH diet is rich in:
- whole grains
- low fat dairy produce
According to a 2021
While these diets vary in some ways, they have many similarities.
They all promote fresh, whole foods and discourage foods that are highly processed or high in unhealthy fat and added sugar.
Examples of foods to include in a PCOS-friendly diet include:
- unprocessed foods
- high fiber foods
- fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel
- kale, spinach, and other dark, leafy greens
- dark red fruits, such as red grapes, blueberries, blackberries, and cherries
- broccoli and cauliflower
- dried beans, lentils, and other legumes
- healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocados
- nuts, including pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios
- dark chocolate in moderation
- spices, such as turmeric and cinnamon
Managing weight will likely benefit people with PCOS, whichever diet they follow.
People with PCOS can benefit from avoiding foods that
- refined carbohydrates, such as mass-produced pastries and white bread
- fried foods, such as fast food
- sugary beverages, such as sodas and energy drinks
- processed meats, such as hot dogs, sausages, and luncheon meats
- solid fats, including margarine, shortening, and lard
- a high intake of red meat, such as steaks, hamburgers, and pork
- foods with high levels of added salt or sugar
- other highly processed foods
Lifestyle measures can also help people with PCOS manage the condition. Research suggests that combining dietary measures with physical activity may have the following benefits:
- weight loss
- improved insulin metabolism
- more regular periods
- reduced levels of male hormones and male pattern hair loss
- lower cholesterol levels
These practices include:
- goal setting
- social support networks
- self-monitoring techniques
- caring for mental well-being
Reducing stress through self-care practices, such as getting enough sleep, avoiding overcommitment, and making time to relax, can also help a person manage PCOS.
Common PCOS symptoms
- increase in facial or body hair
- thinning hair
- weight gain
- darkening of the skin, especially in creases, under the breasts, and around the groin
- irregular periods
- skin tags around the neck or under the arms
- difficulty getting pregnant
Anyone experiencing these symptoms may wish to discuss their concerns with a doctor. Prompt treatment may help improve symptoms and prevent complications.
There is currently no cure for PCOS, but diet and medical treatment can help manage weight, glucose levels, and other features and complications.
Opting for healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of PCOS or manage its symptoms. Meanwhile, it is best to avoid highly processed foods and those containing high levels of fat, added sugar, and salt.