PCOS DIET: Top 3 Foods to Ponder with PCOS

PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is an endocrine disorder that can affect various hormones in the body. A lot of the times with PCOS, it can be difficult to determine what is truly going on; each and every person who has PCOS will experience it differently. Having PCOS increases your risk of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and infertility.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is re-evaluate your food choices. I always like to say, “You are what you eat.” Whatever you put into your body is going to be a direct reflection of your overall health. There are a few foods to think about when diagnosed with PCOS, as they can affect the hormone system.

Below are my top three foods to ponder with PCOS.

1) Dairy

There are a few studies looking at dairy and the impact it can have on PCOS directly. I often recommend that my patients consider pondering dairy consumption if they have PCOS. In fact, the risk of having PCOS increases when consuming milk products. In a cross-sectional study of 400 women in Iran, it was found that there was a direct relationship between milk consumption and the risk of having PCOS. See the study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4085920/

I’ve found in practice that removing dairy products in the diet completely can have a significant impact on the symptoms related to PCOS. I recently came across an interesting study that was an 8-week dietary intervention with low starch and low diary consumption in 24 overweight women with PCOS. What they found was a reduction in weight, fasting insulin, testosterone and insulin resistance after the diet was implemented. The study only allowed for 1oz of full fat cheese per day. See the study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516387/ 

Lastly, the DASH diet can be great for women with PCOS as it’s designed to be rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, while also being low in saturated fats, cholesterol, refined grains, and sweets. In a 2015 study, the DASH diet was studied with obese women with PCOS and it was found that after 8 weeks, there was improvements in insulin resistance, hs-CRP levels in the blood and abdominal fat accumulation. See the study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4211969/

Not all women with PCOS will be sensitive to dairy, but in my personal practice, I have seen success in reducing PCOS-related symptoms in many women by reducing or eliminating dairy consumption. So how do you know if you are sensitive to dairy products? You can do an IgG food sensitivity blood test or you can try eliminating dairy from your diet for a few months, and then adding it back in to determine if it affects your symptoms.

If you do decide to limit dairy consumption, how do you get your calcium intake in? Opt for calcium rich foods such as leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.

2) Sugar

Sugar can be very disruptive to the body. I’m sure maybe some of you have experienced some level of sugar addiction. One piece of chocolate can end up becoming half the bar or eventually the entire bar! PCOS women are typically more sensitive to sugar – whether it is natural or artificial.

Sugar can have the following reactions in PCOS women:

  • Increased insulin, which is a growth hormone. More insulin means more carb cravings, weight gain, insulin resistance and increased testosterone
  • Resulting inflammatory responses almost immediately after consumption
  • Disrupting the microbiome (a.k.a. gut bacteria) in the body leading to insulin resistance, inflammation and obesity
  • Can end up being stored as fat

Ingredients that don’t necessarily say “sugar” but are in fact sugar include:

– glucose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, galactose, saccharose, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, agave, coconut sugar, fructose

Trying to avoid the above-mentioned sugars can really help with PCOS symptoms. Instead, opt for sweet fruit to beat those sugar cravings, and on occasion, natural sugars can be considered including: date sugar, maple syrup, and honey. 

3) Grains

We know that insulin is one of the most important hormones that affect PCOS women. Carbohydrates in our diet come from fruit, sugar, some dairy, but mostly from grain products such as bread, rice, pasta, cereal, oatmeal, baked goods, etc. Once you eat anything with carbohydrates, it signals to the body to release insulin from the pancreas. Insulin takes the glucose from the carbohydrates to the cells to be used as energy. It’s important to be choosing grains that do not spike insulin levels in the blood. Choosing complex carbohydrates are best, as they take longer to digest and slowly release insulin. Some examples of great complex carbohydrates include: millet, quinoa, buckwheat, squash, and sweet potatoes.

4) And more…

Since we know that with PCOS there is an underlying level of inflammation in the body, it’s important to determine if there are any other foods that may be affecting you. It can sometimes be helpful to reduce consumption of the most inflammatory foods, such as corn, soy, gluten and as I mentioned previously, sugar and dairy. Completing a food sensitivity test can be a great resource in discovering other foods that may be causing inflammation in your body. Please message me at info@saminamitha.com for more information.

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