Understanding a medical condition often includes learning about lifestyle and diet changes that are helpful.
If you have Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, some changes to your diet can help with side effects and also support living with the condition and being healthy in general.
Let’s understand more about foods to eat when you have PCOS.
Complications of PCOS
Doctors and researchers aren’t clear about the exact cause of PCOS. However, there are a few possible factors that may play a role in PCOS, and which can also cause health complications:
- Insulin resistance: This causes a rise in blood sugar levels, so the body makes more insulin. That in turn can lead to an increase in the male hormone androgen, as well as problems with ovulation and therefore issues getting pregnant.1 It also means that more than half of women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by age 40.2
- Low-grade inflammation: This is a response to infection or injury, and research has shown that people with PCOS have a type of long-term, low-grade inflammation that leads polycystic ovaries to produce androgens. This side effect can lead to heart and blood vessel problems.1
5 Foods To Eat When You Have PCOS
There are other symptoms of PCOS, but these two complications have an impact on your overall health. Doctors have found that early diagnosis and treatment along with weight loss may lower the risk of long-term complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.1
Therefore, lifestyle changes like eating a balanced diet of healthy foods and getting more physical activity can help with weight loss and reduce the risk of health complications.3
To support your overall health, and mitigate your symptoms, here are suggestions for foods to eat when you have PCOS.
1. Focus on Fresh
Avoid or limit processed food and instead reach for fresh or minimally processed fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and lean proteins, including nuts and seeds.4
2. Choose Complex Carbohydrates
Instead of white bread, pasta and rice, choose the complex versions like whole wheat bread and pasta and brown rice. Complex carbs contain fiber and other nutrients and do not raise blood sugar levels as high.3
3. Add Omega 3s
One study found that Omega-3 fatty acids could help with hormone levels and regulate the menstrual cycles of those with PCOS.5 That means eating fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and herring; or ground flaxseed; or add a supplement to your regime.
4. Drink Water
Stay hydrated with water instead of sugary drinks. Unsweetened coffee or tea is fine too, and seltzer with a splash of fruit juice is a tasty option too.6
5. Add Fiber
This can come from your other food options, like the whole grains mentioned in option 2, and the fruits and vegetables we mentioned as food tip 1. Keep the skin on your apples and potatoes; try some quinoa for a change of pace; nuts, seeds and legumes like lentils and beans are other good options.7
Besides the 5 healthy foods to eat when you have PCOS, it’s also a good idea to eliminate or limit foods that can aggravate the health complications and inflammation of PCOS—like fried foods; processed food like luncheon meat, hot dogs, cakes and cookies; sugary foods; refined and white bread, pasta and rice; and alcohol.6
Ask Your Doctor
Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health, who can help with a treatment plan for PCOS. Combine your healthy diet with moderate exercise activities and your health—and PCOS symptoms—will benefit. Researchers have found that a modest reduction in your weight, even as little as 5% of your body weight, can improve your condition and may increase the effectiveness of any medications you take for PCOS. It can also help with infertility.8