The Best and Worst Foods For PCOS
Nutrition is fundamental when it comes to managing your PCOS. The food we eat becomes information for our cells and either fuels health or disease. If you want to feel and look better you can’t skip out on good nutrition, there is no hack. And with PCOS it’s even more important.
PCOS is very responsive to our environment and what we put into our bodies. So if you want to ditch the PMS, heavy periods, acne, or mood swings you definitely need to start with the plate in front of you.
So what should you eat?
My Favourite Foods For PCOS
One of the most nutritional group of foods. High in fiber, water, and important nutrients they are low glycemic therefore won’t spike blood sugar and very low in calories which means pile them on your plate! High in folate which is important for healthy ovaries and conception as well as vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium which promotes healthy cycles.
Examples : spinach, kale, chard, collard, arugula, mustard greens, boy choy, dandelion greens, cabbage.
Cinnamon contains large amounts of highly potent polyphenol antioxidants and ranks in the top 10 foods with the highest concentration of antioxidants.
Cinnamon is particularly useful for PCOS as it helps balance blood sugar levels as well as supports fat cells to become more responsive to insulin which helps reduce insulin resistance and promote ovulation.
You can find Ceylon or Cassia cinnamon. Ceylon is the preferred because Cassia contains higher amounts of Coumarin which can be harmful to the liver.
Just half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day has been shown to be very effective at normalizing blood sugar levels. Add to your smoothie, oatmeal, yogurt, or baking!
Wild Fatty Fish
Significant source of omega 3 fatty acids which have specific anti-inflammatory actions in the body. Omega 3 fats are important sources of EPA & DHA that contribute to lowering inflammation. With PCOS we often see chronic low grade inflammation. This inflammation causes damage to our cells, speeds up the aging process, worsens mental health, promotes fat storage, and can trigger excess androgen production in the ovaries as well as insulin resistance.
Including omega 3 fats in your diet will help inhibit inflammatory chemicals in the body and promote anti-inflammatory action. These fats are essential so they have to be taken in from the diet. They do not get stored as fat but instead support healthy hormone balance, brain function, insulin function, and improve energy and skin health.
You can get EPA & DHA from flax seed oil or fatty fish like wild salmon, mackerel, and anchovies.
I know what you’re thinking, these are all the veggies you always hated as a kid. But hear me out! These are incredible for your health. Cruciferous vegetables contain a special compound called “indole-3 carbinol” that promotes estrogen detoxification; helpful for reducing PMS symptoms, regulating periods, and achieving hormone balance.
Look for veggies like arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, turnip, watercress.
Source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that help improve skin health, hormone balance, and stabilize blood sugar levels as well as magnesium which is commonly deficient in women with PCOS. Magnesium helps promote sleep, relaxation, menstrual regulatory, and healthy periods.
Pumpkin seeds are also rich in zinc which inhibits the formation of testosterone into DHT (the more potent form) which helps reduce hair loss.
My favourite. Food. Ever. Avocados are rich in many beneficial nutrients:
Monounsaturated fat : promotes fertility, reduces bad cholesterol in the blood, increases the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Fiber : helps to slow the absorption of glucose in the blood, which helps to lower insulin levels in the body. It is also supports weight loss and is a source of fuel for our good gut bacteria and promotes healthy elimination of toxins and waste.
Folate : Critical mineral for healthy pregnancy and fertility, as well as energy production.
Low glycemic, anti-inflammatory, rich in antioxidants, and high in fiber; berries are superfood fruits! Their properties help block inflammation and reduce cell damage as well as provide important antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals for hormone balance and fertility. Add 1 cup of berries to your smoothie or yogurt in the morning!
Foods I Avoid With PCOS
Dairy is commonly problematic for PCOS as it triggers inflammation, spikes insulin, and can promote hormonal imbalances. Most of our dairy products are loaded with estrogen and exogenous hormones, which creates hormonal havoc. Dairy products contain IGF-1 (insulin growth factor) which spikes blood sugar and causes the ovaries to release excess testosterone, resulting in androgenic symptoms. Casein, a protein found in dairy, has been shown to be especially inflammatory worsening the low grade inflammation found in PCOS. Whey protein is also a common workout supplement however it is one of the highest insulin spiking foods so it is best to be avoided by women with PCOS and blood sugar imbalances. If you do eat dairy ALWAYS choose organic.
Though celiac disease is less common, gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance is very common and can trigger symptoms like brain fog, skin conditions, headaches, and depression. Gluten can spike insulin and provoke an inflammatory response in the intestines.
The main problem is a protein found in gluten grains called gliadin. Gliadin activates zonulin which leads to increased permeability in the intestines, ie leaky gut.
It has been shown to reduce nutrient absorption in the intestines and form a gluey like lump that can contribute to constipation and poor gut function.
Gluten also can promote addiction and leptin resistance (preventing the body from getting the proper satiety signals) because of the release of exorphins. Avoid wheat, rye, spelt, barley, and choose gluten free oats.Beware if you are going gluten free to avoid the “junk food gluten free” trap! Just because something is gluten free doesn’t mean it is healthy as there are many processed foods being labeled gluten free nowadays. Your best bet is to eat naturally gluten free foods such as beans, legumes, quinoa, amaranth, rice, etc.
Sugar is EVERYWHERE. With PCOS it is especially problematic as it is inflammatory, void of nutrients, spikes insulin and blood sugar, and causes crashes in energy. This promotes weight gain, mood imbalances, hormonal dysfunction, and nutrient deficiencies. Sugar is also taxing to the adrenal glands which can lead to disrupted sleep cycles, cravings, stubborn weight gain, low energy, mood swings, hangry-ness, and poor thyroid function. Read the label, avoid added sugars and choose fruit, stevia, cinnamon, vanilla or monk fruit for healthier sweet alternatives.
Oils such as safflower, sunflower, canola, cottonseed, margarine, fried foods, peanut, corn, & rapeseed are highly processed in order to increase their shelf life. They are high in omega 6 fatty acids which are usually over consumed in our diets compared to omega 3 which contributes to inflammation. Our ancestors commonly consumed a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 of 1:1 whereas today our society is commonly consuming ratios of 25:1. We are simply not eating omega 3 fats in the Standard American Diet and over consuming omega 6 fats.
Many of these oils are usually GMO and go through toxic processing which interferes with hormonal balance, fertility, and damages our own cells. Opt for healthier oils like unrefined coconut, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil.
So before you freak out, hear me out! Coffee does have nutritional properties (like antioxidants) but if you do drink coffee make sure you are buying organic good quality beans. The typical American coffee today contains excess sugars, inflammatory dairy products, mold, and toxins.
However, when it comes to PCOS and women’s hormones there are some concerns. Coffee is a stimulant and can overtax and weaken the adrenals and thyroid leading to crashes in energy and dependence over time. Try skipping coffee for a day and you’ll know what I mean! It is also a central nervous system stimulant increasing cortisol and insulin secretion which can spike blood sugar and inflammation.
Most of us don’t have the proper gene to produce the enzyme CYP1A2 to properly process coffee in the liver. This can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and impaired fasting glucose.
In PCOS coffee has been shown to increase cyst formation, disrupt ovulation, and increase the risk of miscarriage by depleting vitamins and minerals, impairing gut function, and increasing cortisol levels.
As a former addict I find I function wayy better off coffee. You may want to experiment and see if you are the same. If you can’t imagine getting through your day without it… you probably need a coffee detox!
Have no fear, Four Sigmatic has coffee and mushroom blends that don’t give you the jitters as well as cacao mixes that are delicious and energizing! Plus you can save money with my discount code right here. Beware you will be addicted.
Need more help with navigating diets and PCOS? Check out my self paced course PCOS Breakthrough : your step by step guide to healing PCOS with food and lifestyle.