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Foods for a PCOS Diet

By Viola Horne ; Updated July 18, 2017

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. According to the Mayo Clinic, women with PCOS develop numerous small cysts that appear along the outer edge of the ovaries. The Georgia Reproductive Specialists state that some women with PCOS were found to have insulin resistance accompanied by elevated fasting blood insulin levels.


According to Martha McKittrick, RD, CDE, Registered Dietician, Certified Diabetes Educator, and editorial advisor, carbohydrates can cause a sharp increase in blood sugar levels, causing insulin production to spike and contributing to insulin resistance. Dr. Walter Futterweit, clinical professor of the Division of Endocrinology of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine suggests women who are not obese limit their daily intake to no more than 50 percent complex unrefined carbs, bypassing the more common refined carbs like white bread and table sugar. He suggests women who are obese confine their daily carbohydrate intake to no more than 40 percent of their diet. Complex unrefined carbs include brown rice and whole grains like oatmeal.

Low Glycemic Index Foods

McKittrick says women with PCOS tend to have a hard time losing weight. She says a weight loss of just 5 percent can help alleviate many of the symptoms associated with PCOS, like irregular menstrual periods and decreased insulin levels. According to the Glycemic Index Foundation, foods with a low glycemic index (GI) produce lower fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin and can prolong feelings of fullness. Eating foods with a low GI can reduce the amount of insulin produced and aid in weight loss.

Foods with a low GI include apples, apricots, asparagus, barley, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cherries, most fruit juices, grapefruit, green beans, lettuce, low-fat ice cream, milk, whole and multi-grain bread, regular and whole wheat pasta, peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes and yogurt.


Low carbohydrate diets often end up being high in saturated fats, which can increase the risk of heart disease, another symptom of PCOS. McKittrick suggests choosing protein that is low in animal fat such as fish, chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, and low-fat cheese. According to the Center For Young Women's Health, including some protein, carbs and fat at each meal or snack will keep insulin levels more even and help maintain a healthy weight. They recommend adding beans, nuts, tofu, milk, shellfish and nut butters to the list of healthy proteins to be consumed each day.

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