List of foods for PCOS : 8 Best & Worst foods for Effective PCOS meals!

Last Updated on February 20, 2023 @

Read Time : 12 minutes

If you’re dealing with PCOS, the foods you eat can be the difference between fighting your symptoms or making them worse!

In this guide, you’ll find out the most comprehensive list of foods for PCOS. Learn about the best food items to include and those to avoid to make your meals much more PCOS friendly.
Here you’ll get to know about:

  • The List of foods for PCOS diet
  • The Worst foods for PCOS
  • The Best PCOS fruits to eat

And much more!

Let’s get started!

List of foods for PCOS - 8 Best & Worst foods for Effective PCOS meals
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If you’re suffering from PCOS, one of the biggest challenges that you might come across is finding the right kind of foods for PCOS. And since there are just so many symptoms to deal with, the last thing you want is to have foods that trigger those symptoms in you.

So what you need is a definitive list of foods for PCOS that clearly tells you exactly what you should eat and what you should avoid. And that’s exactly what you’ll get today.

But before we get to that, let’s first understand exactly how the choice of foods you eat have a major impact on PCOS.

How does a PCOS food plan help?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that occurs due to a hormonal imbalance in your body. What you might not know is that diet and nutrition play a very crucial role in regulating your hormones. 

There are three primary causes behind PCOS:

  1. Insulin resistance
  2. Increased Androgen levels
  3. Chronic low grade inflammation

The food you eat heavily influences each of these three. 

If you eat large quantities of carbohydrate and sugar rich food, your body retaliates by producing more insulin. This could make your blood sugar levels rise suddenly, which further leads to insulin resistance.

Moreover, consistently consuming more calories than your body requires leads to excess fat gain and possibly, obesity. Thus, the more fat you gain, the more insulin resistant you become.

With an increase in insulin resistance in your body, your ovaries pump out more testosterone and other androgens. Increased androgen levels further worsen your symptoms of PCOS. This is in fact, the underlying cause of most side effects.

Last but not least, many foods that we commonly consume as part of the modern western diet are highly inflammatory. Therefore, prolonged consumption of such foods results in chronic low grade inflammation.  

Basically, a diet that’s not aligned with PCOS can actually make a lot of your symptoms worse. 

So, what’s the solution? Fixing your diet of course!

Several studies have found that fixing your dietary habits can bring in a significant improvement in your PCOS condition. It helps improve the hormonal imbalance already caused by PCOS.

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Thus, there are 3 major ways through which having the right foods for PCOS diet can help you:

  1. Improving insulin sensitivity in your body which helps control your blood sugar levels.
  2. Controlling overproduction of androgen hormones in your body.
  3. Weight loss in the case of obesity; to control other related symptoms.
Effects of a Good Diet on PCOS Infographic
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So now that you know why the right diet is crucial for dealing with PCOS, let’s have a look at the best and worst list of foods for PCOS, one by one.

PCOS foods to eat

1. Leafy Greens

Green vegetables are always a good inclusion in your diet, no matter which diet plan you’re following. They’re packed with lots of essential nutrients and provide several health benefits

Green leafy vegetables are super low in calories and help you feel full, making them the perfect component to a weight loss plan. Leafy vegetables are especially good for PCOS because of their high Vitamin B content. This helps in reducing the risk of cardiovascular health issues with PCOS.

Including green vegetables in your meals also helps manage insulin resistance and therefore, hyperandrogenism with PCOS.

The best leafy greens to include in your diet are:

  • Spinach 
  • Kale
  • Microgreens
  • Collard Greens
  • Cabbage
  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy
  • Beet Greens
  • Watercress
  • Swiss Chard

2. Lean Protein

Moderate protein consumption is a very important component of the right PCOS diet. While there are several subcategories of protein rich food available, the one that you need to consume is lean protein.

Lean protein sources are those that are high in protein but low in fat. A few examples include chicken, turkey and shrimp.

Lean protein helps boost your metabolic activity and also controls your appetite. In fact, it is also known to reduce cravings.

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The thermic effect of protein based food is much higher than other foods. This helps in increasing the number of calories burned per day and hence, facilitates weight loss.

Protein consumption also facilitates the production of glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that counteracts the action of insulin in your body. So protein consumption helps balance the levels of insulin. Hence, insulin resistance can be controlled this way as well.

Additionally, your body takes more time to digest proteins as compared to carbs. Thus, having a good portion of protein in your meals helps prevent blood sugar levels from rising a lot.  Thus, lean proteins are definitely one of the best foods for PCOS.

The most common sources of lean protein include:

  • Skinless white meat (poultry)
  • White fleshed fish
  • Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Beans and lentils
  • Tofu
  • Powdered peanut butter
  • Pork Loin
  • Bison
  • Egg Whites
  • Low Fat Milk
  • Frozen Shrimp
Lean Protein Sources Infographic
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3. Healthy Fats

Contrary to popular belief, not all kinds of fats are bad for your health and lead to weight gain. In fact, a fat rich diet can provide several health benefits along with facilitating weight loss. But you have to be conscious of the kind of fats that you’re eating.

Even though healthy fats might be high in calories, they help you get full faster. This helps in reducing your overall calorie intake throughout the day. 

An 8 week study of 30 women, concluded that a high fat diet helped lose more weight as compared to a low fat diet. It also helped reduce belly fat and lean body mass, while increasing insulin sensitivity with PCOS. Find out the right mix of fats for your diet by learning more about Saturated Fats vs Unsaturated Fats: How To Know The Right Kind!

So the best fats to include in your PCOS food list are:

  • Avocado
  • Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Nut butters 
  • Fatty Fish 
  • Flaxseed
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Chia Seeds

4. Antioxidant Rich Food

With PCOS, your body goes through a range of side effects which stirs up a lot of sudden changes in your body. One of the most common changes is that you might experience chronic low grade inflammation. This also increases the risk of infections.

Antioxidant rich food helps reduce low grade inflammation in your body. It also helps in reducing cardiovascular and heart related diseases with PCOS.

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In fact, they’re helpful in reducing the overall impact of PCOS on your body. Consuming antioxidant rich food also helps flush out the oxidative stress in your body. It also helps build a stronger immunity against foreign substances.

Thus, antioxidant rich food is a necessary inclusion in your PCOS friendly meals. These food items are:

  • Strawberries
  • Red Grapes
  • Beans 
  • Beetroot
  • Spinach 
  • Red Cabbage
  • Blueberries
  • Green tea
  • Cauliflower
  • Oats 
  • Pecans
  • Walnut
  • Oregano
  • Turmeric
Foods Rich in Antioxidants
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The above-mentioned food items not only help fight inflammation; but also help reduce the hostile conditions caused by PCOS in your body, which get in the way of pregnancy. So these antioxidant rich foods should definitely be included in your PCOS fertility diet too.

5. High fiber foods for PCOS

High fiber foods are one of the most important components of a healthy meal when you’re suffering with PCOS. Even though high fiber foods might seem high in total carbs, their net carb content is quite low. Thus they’re an ideal inclusion in the best list of foods for PCOS.

Fiber rich food helps in lowering insulin levels in your body. It even controls your blood sugar levels. They’re also antioxidant rich which helps in dealing with inflammation caused by PCOS. Reducing inflammation can also help improve your egg quality and increase your chances of fertility with PCOS.

It’s also great for improving your digestive activity which can get compromised due to sudden dietary changes. Thus, always make sure to include a good portion of dietary fiber in your meals with PCOS.

The best sources of getting fiber from your foods are:

  • Peas
  • Oats
  • Spinach
  • Baked Beans
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Soybeans
  • Broccoli
  • Flax Seeds
  • Squash
  • Carrots
  • Kidney Beans
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat

High Fiber Foods for PCOS
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6. Anti-Inflammatory Foods

As you know, low grade inflammation is one of the contributing causes of PCOS. But with the consumption of certain anti inflammatory food items, you can reduce the effects of existing inflammation. It can also help prevent worsening of your condition or causing inflammation in the future.

Anti inflammatory foods can also help you lose weight, which can prove to be very difficult with PCOS. If that’s something you’re struggling with, check out how to Lose Weight with PCOS: 3 Best Ways for Fast Results!

An anti-inflammatory diet has shown to cause moderate weight loss of (± 7%) and significant improvements in body composition. These food items also bring a balance in your hormones and menstrual cycle, blood pressure, and glucose homeostasis. So anti-inflammatory foods are really good foods for PCOS.

Some of the best Anti-Inflammatory foods include:

  • Salmon
  • Beans and legumes
  • Ginger
  • Chili Pepper
  • Curcumin
  • Green tea
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Bay Leaves
  • Artichokes
  • Black Pepper
Best Anti Inflammatory Foods
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2. Low Glycemic Index Food

Glycemic Index (GI) is a rating that is assigned to food items in order to reflect their effect on the body’s blood sugar levels. The higher the GI rating of a food, the greater its impact on your blood sugar

So in order to keep your sugar level and insulin resistance in check, you need to avoid all high GI foods from your diet. Instead, include food items with a low glycemic index in your list of foods for PCOS.

Switching to Low GI foods also brings an improvement in your menstrual activity and helps lower the overall percentage of testosterone in your body. Some of the best foods for PCOS weight loss with a low glycemic index include:

  • Radish
  • Oranges
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Celery
  • Zucchini
  • Mushrooms
  • Olives
  • Unripe Bananas
  • Coconut
  • Soy milk and yogurt
  • Shellfish
Glycemic Index Chart Infographic
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8. Herbs

Along with the food groups mentioned above, another important inclusion in the list of foods for PCOS is certain herbs. They play a very important role in providing the right balance to your meals and are also great for adding taste.

Herbs also help in reducing insulin resistance and controlling androgen production in your body. Thus, they help with several PCOS side effects including acne, hirsutism and even irregular periods. 

These herbs improve your hormonal balance and hence, reduce the effects of PCOS on your body. You can simply have them as a seasoning in your meals or have them raw with warm water, as you like. Some of the must include herbs for your PCOS meals are:

  • Cinnamon
  • Turmeric
  • Fenugreek
  • Basil
  • Ginger
  • Asparagus racemosus
  • Aegle Marmelos
  • Tinospora Cordifolia

Best Foods to Eat for PCOS
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Now that you know about the best PCOS food to eat, it’s time to have a look at those food items which need to be avoided. It’s important to simultaneously make note of the worst foods for PCOS while making your list of foods for PCOS.

Foods to Avoid with PCOS

1. Refined Carbs

Refined carbohydrates have a very high glycemic index and can cause problems with PCOS on a lot of levels. When you consume food items made out of refined carbs, they affect your blood sugar level massively. This either creates insulin resistance in your body or worsens it if you already have it. 

Additionally, they can also cause oxidative stress in your body. This could further lead to and worsen low grade inflammation with PCOS.

Including refined carbs in your list of foods for PCOS might also raise your androgen levels. This can worsen other PCOS symptoms including menstrual irregularity, facial hair, hair loss and acne.

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So the most common food items made from refined carbs that need to be in your PCOS food list to avoid are:

  • Cakes
  • Bread
  • Cookies
  • Donuts
  • Bagels
  • Breakfast Cereals
  • Condiments 
  • Flavored Sodas
  • Sugary Drinks
  • Candy
  • Tortilla
  • Pasta
Refined Carbs
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2. Dairy Products

This could be one of the most shocking food items to avoid with PCOS. Because what harm can dairy do? It’s supposed to be healthy, right? While dairy products are usually good for your health, they have to be heavily moderated when you’re suffering from PCOS.

Even with their rich nutrient base, the reason why dairy is bad for PCOS is primarily because of one element. This element is known as Insulin Growth Factor (IGF-1) and its properties replicate the functions of insulin in your body.
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Your body is already resistant to the activities of insulin because of PCOS. IGF-1 worsens your condition as more androgens are released to combat the problem of hyperinsulinemia.

This might lead to a hormonal imbalance in your body. Thus, your dairy intake with PCOS should be kept to the bare minimum, especially if your underlying cause for PCOS is insulin resistance. To know more about your specific type of PCOS, check out: 4 Types of PCOS: Know which one you have {Take this easy quiz}.

Dairy products that you must exclude from your list of foods for PCOS include:

  • Goat’s Milk
  • Cow and Buffalo Milk 
  • Soft blue cheese

Instead, you can include some high fat cheese in your diet and full fat yogurt.

3. Inflammatory Foods

Just as anti-inflammatory foods help you fight PCOS and should be included in your list of foods for PCOS; the opposite i.e Inflammatory foods should be avoided

Along with stress and the toxic waste in your body, consumption of dietary inflammatory products are the major causes of Inflammatory PCOS. Thus, these food items trigger low grade inflammation. Additionally, prolonged consumption of these food items also puts you at a greater risk of contracting infections.

So you have to make sure that the following items are in your list of PCOS food to avoid:

  • Food items made from sugar and fructose corn syrup, including candy, donuts, soda/pop and chocolates
  • All fast food items like fries, burgers, pizzas etc.
  • Sunflower Oil and other refined Vegetable oils

4. Bat Fats

While including healthy fats in your list of foods for PCOS is a good idea, you must limit the consumption of saturated fats and eliminate trans fats entirely from your diet

Consuming saturated fats when you have PCOS can cause proatherogenic inflammation in your body, which gets even worse if you’re overweight.

Trans fats are the worst type of fats for your body. This is because they add no essential nutrients to your body. Instead, they increase the risk of several health problems and cause damage to your body. While you should keep the intake of naturally occurring trans fats moderate, you need to entirely eliminate artificial trans fats from your list of foods for PCOS.

Artificial trans fats are chemically altered to increase their shelf life. Thus, they’re extremely hazardous for your health. It not only increases the risk of cardiovascular problems, but also puts you at a risk for high cholesterol levels.  By eliminating trans fat foods from your list, you can bring a significant improvement in your metabolism as well as weight control indicators

Following is the list of some bad fats that you need to exclude from your list of foods for PCOS along with their healthy alternatives.

  • Margarine: You may use butter, lard or cream cheese as a substitute. They taste similar and are quite identical in texture. 
  • Frozen Pizza: This one will surely be tough to give up. While frozen pizza is super convenient, it’s also quite rich in trans fat. But don’t worry, you can make a PCOS friendly pizza, which is just as delicious but far healthier!
  • Non-dairy coffee creamer: Vanilla coconut milk creamer and collagen creamers are great alternatives to this.
  • Vegetable Shortening: To make your baked goods healthy, simply substitute vegetable shortening with healthier alternatives like coconut oil, butter and ghee.
  • Refrigerated dough like biscuits: There are several healthier alternatives to refrigerated dough, which has a quite heavy composition of trans fat. Click here for recipe.
  • Canned Frosting: The best alternative is a homemade frosting with coconut butter. Click here for recipe.
  • Vegetable Oils: Trans fats are very commonly found in vegetable oils. But you can simply substitute them for coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil. Apart from being healthier alternatives generally, these are great options to include in your list of foods for PCOS.
Healthy Alternatives to Trans Fat Foods Infographic
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Good Fats Vs Bad Fats

The main difference between good fats and bad fats is that while good fats help protect you against heart diseases, bad fats can degrade your heart health

Good fats primarily include unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These fats provide natural omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids to your body which are crucial for good health. They also help in reducing your risk of heart diseases and strokes

Bad fats, on the other hand, increase the levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) in your body. Additionally, they may even clog your arteries and deteriorate your heart health.

Trans fats are considered to be the worst kinds of fats. You should keep their consumption to an absolute minimum or even avoid them altogether. 

While you might have also heard that saturated fats are bad for your health. However, there’s actually no reliable evidence to back up this claim. Contrary to common knowledge, it doesn’t increase LDL or bad cholesterol levels in your body. Instead, it may help decrease those levels in your body.

The best food sources of good fats include avocados, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, fatty fish and peanut butter. Whereas, bad fats include vegetable oils, microwave popcorn, margarine and fried food items.

5. Sugary Beverages

Beverages with high sugar content are an absolute NO with PCOS. Hence, they can quickly raise your blood sugar levels and worsen insulin resistance with PCOS. As a result of that, your androgen levels also rise. 

Thus, it further worsens the side effects of PCOS and can cause several related problems like obesity along the way. So make sure to exclude all sugary smoothies, mocktails, juices, cocktails and sodas with added sugar

Instead, you could rely on the natural sugar present in low carb fruits to satiate your sweet tooth, whenever needed.

You can occasionally use healthy natural calorie-free sweeteners such as erythritol, stevia and xylitol instead of refined sugar. This will help you get the sweet flavor in your meals without risking an escalation in blood sugar levels.

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6. Alcohol

If you’re suffering from PCOS, you’re at a greater risk of fatty liver. Consuming alcohol can worsen this condition and put your body at a greater risk. By avoiding or at least minimizing alcohol consumption, your liver gets a shot at better functioning

You can have an occasional glass of wine here and there, but try to avoid anything too intoxicating and strong. Also, note that if you’re looking to get pregnant,  alcohol consumption is a strict no-no in a PCOS fertility diet.

7. Processed Food

All packaged food items including bread, cakes, biscuits and ready to eat meals come under processed foods. While they're easy to cook and quite delicious, they cause a lot of harm to your body with PCOS. They’re mostly made out of processed grains, unhealthy fats and preservatives which can deteriorate your overall health.

Additionally, they have a high Glycemic Index (GI), which is why they can severely increase the insulin production in your body. Hence, it could cause the condition of type 2 diabetes. Continuous consumption of processed foods could also lead to fertility problems, as a result of the effect on your blood sugar levels.

So make sure to exclude the following items from your list of foods for PCOS:

  • Packaged fruit juice
  • Chips and Wafers
  • Cakes
  • Muffins
  • Instant Noodles
  • Candies
  • Instant oats and porridge
  • Ketchup
  • Chocolate Bars

8. Fatty and Processed Meats

Just like other processed foods, processed meat can also cause a lot of problems with PCOS. It could put you at a greater risk of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and several forms of cancer in extreme cases.

The consumption of fatty and processed meats also increases the chances of inflammation in your body. They’re also rich in bad fats along with being processed, which makes them an even worse food option for PCOS.

So the fatty and processed meats that you need to avoid are:

  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Ham
  • Smoked meats 
  • Beef jerkys
Worst Foods for PCOS
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PCOS Fruits

Fruits are called “Nature’s Candy”. They’re packed with nutrients as well as essential minerals and vitamins. But many of them are also loaded with a bunch of sugar. Thus, it becomes very important to ascertain the kinds of fruits that should be included and excluded from your list of foods for PCOS. 

So let’s first have a look at some fruits that you should definitely include in your food list with PCOS.

List of Fruits good for PCOS

The best kinds of fruits to eat on a PCOS meal plan are low carb fruits. They not only help in getting all the nutrients but also prevent an increase in blood sugar levels. 

So make sure that you choose low carb fruits by looking at the low net carb content and high fiber content. Here are some of the best PCOS fruits options for you to include in your list of foods for PCOS.

  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Starfruit
  • Blackberries
  • Plums
  • Honeydew
  • Raspberries
  • Cherries

Fruits to Avoid in PCOS

The kind of fruits to avoid in PCOS are the ones with high net carb and sugar content with low fiber. The reason for avoiding these fruits is that they can either increase your blood sugar levels or androgen levels. This worsens your PCOS symptoms and hence, should be definitely avoided. 

  • Bananas
  • Mango
  • Figs
  • Melon
  • Pears
Best and Worst Fruits for PCOS
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Now it’s Your Turn

And there you have it! So this was your comprehensive and detailed list of foods for PCOS!

Now that you know what to eat and what to avoid, your PCOS Meal Planning has just gotten a lot easier. Use this list to kickstart your journey against PCOS with something as simple as small changes in your diet!
So, which of these foods are you going  to incorporate into your diet? And which foods will be difficult for you to let go?

Tell us with a quick comment down below 🙂

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List of foods for PCOS - 8 Best & Worst foods for Effective PCOS meals
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