Foods You Should (and Shouldn’t) Eat If You Have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, affects a small percentage of women between the ages of 15 and about 45. Though it affects each person differently, it often causes the same long-term side effects and an overall increased risk of disease in everyone who is diagnosed.

Women living with this disorder are at an increased risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and endometrial cancer. They’re also more likely to develop obesity, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure.

Once you have PCOS, all you can do is take steps to ease your symptoms. Thankfully, changing what you eat can make a big difference.

Who does PCOS do to the body?


A woman has a headache. | SIphotography/iStocks/Getty Images

The disorder is caused by a hormone imbalance that often leads to abnormal hair growth and irregular menstrual cycles in women. Those of childbearing age sometimes also experience heavy bleeding during periods, headaches, and weight gain.

The majority of women with PCOS are overweight and insulin resistant, putting them at an increased risk of diabetes. Many also experience high levels of inflammation throughout their bodies.

PCOS can also cause problems with infertility, metabolism, and depression.

These symptoms and their side effects can be difficult to deal with on a daily basis. But research has shown that diet plays a major part in improving — or worsening — PCOS symptoms. You can take steps to feel better, lose weight, and improve your overall physical and mental well-being. Making small dietary changes is an ideal place to start.

Foods to avoid

If you have PCOS and want to reduce your symptoms, there are certain foods that can actually make you feel worse. These foods also often make it harder to lose weight. Cutting them out of your diet completely — or eating fewer than you usually do — can benefit you in more ways than one.

  • Foods high in refined carbs such as pastries, white bread, and desserts
  • Snack foods high in sugar such as cookies and crackers
  • Red and processed meats, which can have negative inflammatory effects.

Avoiding these foods when you don’t have PCOS won’t necessarily prevent it. Because genetics often play a role in a person’s chances of developing the syndrome, there’s no guarantee you’ll avoid a diagnosis even if you eat relatively healthy.

But a diet high in fiber and lean protein can be beneficial for everyone, including women living with PCOS. It’s not necessarily about always avoiding the “wrong” foods, but instead eating more of the “best” foods for your body.

Foods you should be eating


Broccoli | phasinphoto/ Images

Some of the foods highly recommended for women with PCOS are also part of a healthy diet for everyone else. Each of the examples below contains essential nutrients without too many “extras.” They’re also extremely low in calories per serving, especially compared to the list of foods you should try to eat less of.

  • Lean protein sources such as fish, chicken, and tofu
  • Foods high in fiber such as broccoli, almonds, beans, and sweet potatoes
  • Anti-inflammatory foods including tomatoes, kale, and blueberries.

Fiber is an excellent way to promote healthy digestion as well as weight loss. High-fiber foods contain slow-digesting carbohydrates that make you feel full more quickly, so you’re less likely to try “filling up” on junk foods high in calories.

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