What is the best diet for PCOS?
I hear it all the time… “What about [this] diet, or [that] diet?”
Good news- the answer is simple. There is no best diet for everyone- not even for every woman with PCOS.
Everyone’s body is different, and no diet could possibly work for every person. What works for your auntie may not work for your neighbor.
In my years of personal experience, training, research, and helping thousands of women overcome their most challenging symptoms, I have discovered certain commonalities. For most, the best diet for women with PCOS is a gluten-free, low dairy, and whole food diet.
This is the diet I use for my PCOS Diva Jumpstart program and what my meal plans are based upon. It is best for women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome because it will decrease the symptoms of PCOS by eliminating inflammation and helping to regulate insulin. These two factors are the root cause of many of our worst symptoms including infertility, hirstuism, acne, and difficulty losing weight.
Here is a bird’s eye view of popular diets:
|Diet||In a Nut Shell||Balances Insulin||Tames Inflammation||Good for PCOS||Bad for PCOS|
|Paleo||Eat like a Neanderthal! This diet encourages participants to eat meats and vegetables- basically anything found as-is in nature.||Maybe||Maybe||No processed foods or gluten, (low) dairy||Doesn’t focus on specifically low glycemic foods to control insulin. Many women with PCOS need some gluten-free grains to feel balanced/grounded.|
|Carb Counting (Weight Watchers)||Participants,can eat what they want within a point limit. Each food is given a number of,points.,Healthy foods that fill you up,have fewer points than foods that are empty calories. Group meetings and,weigh-ins give accountability and support.||No||No||Encourages conscious eating||Includes gluten and dairy, does not consider inflammatory foods or,balancing of insulin|
|Low Carb,(Atkins, South Beach)||These diets emphasize high protein, fiber and nutrient rich foods and,limit processed foods.||Yes- South Beach
|No||These have little dairy and no gluten (though some is phased back in). South Beach watches the glycemic index of vegetables and fruits.||Gluten rich and inflammatory products are eventually allowed.|
|Prepared Meals,(Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem)||Participants,eat prepackaged low-calorie food. Fruits and vegetables may be added. A consultant,may offer support in person or on the phone.,Once close to their weight loss goal, participants begin to prepare,some of their own meals.||No||No||Most food is processed and prepackaged (exactly what we should avoid). The diet is not designed to manage insulin or inflammation and includes foods that aggravate both.|
|Slim Fast||Focuses on portion control using primarily Slim Fast meal replacement,products.||No||No||Meal replacement shakes are gluten free.||Slim Fast products are processed. The diet is not designed to manage insulin or inflammation and includes foods that aggravate both.|
|FODMAP||This is a popular plan for people,with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).,Participants,limit foods high in fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans and,polyols.||Maybe||No||Limits dairy||Allows gluten and some dairy which may elevate inflammation.
Fiber intake may decrease.
|Metabolic Typing||Participants,determine their metabolic type and adapt their diet to include only the foods,that their body type requires. A participant’s type determines the percentage,of protein, fat and carbs consumed daily.||No||No||Helps participants understand their cravings and keys into foods that can get them under control||The diet is not designed to manage insulin or inflammation and includes foods that aggravate both|
|Carb Cycling||Carb,cycling participants alternate high-carb and low-carb days. All foods are,allowed.||No||No||Makes participants aware of carbohydrate consumption and identifies healthy sources for carbohydrates||Big swings in carbohydrate levels may stimulate insulin fluctuations. Does not eliminate inflammatory foods|
|Vegan||Vegans don’t eat meat, fish, poultry,or other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey,,etc.,A healthy vegan diet includes,fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and,legumes.||No||No||Vegans must eat lots of healthy foods. Dairy is not allowed||You will need a B12 (and possibly iron) supplement. Vegans may eat processed and gluten filled foods. The vegan diet does not eliminate inflammatory foods or consider insulin regulation.|
|PCOS Diva Jumpstart and Meal Plans||This diet and lifestyle plan encourages participants,to consume unprocessed, whole foods in a balanced way. It eliminates inflammatory foods like gluten,and dairy.||Yes||Yes||Eliminates processed and inflammatory foods. Considers insulin regulation. Encourages lifestyle changes that reduce PCOS symptoms.||N/A|
There is no one size fits all definition of PCOS, and there is no one size fits all diet.
Part of being a PCOS Diva is listening to your body and the cues it sends you. My body responds best to a whole food, gluten-free, processed soy-free, low dairy diet with lots of veggies, some clean animal protein, a bit of gluten-free grains, healthy fat, and low glycemic fruit.
Many of the diets listed could be adapted to eliminate foods that inflame PCOS symptoms.
Experiment, listen to your body, and trust your inner voice. Your body wants to be healthy; you just have to find the right combination of diet and activity that help it do its job.
My opinion is based upon years of research and experience working with thousands of women with PCOS. Of course, I encourage you to do your own research, talk to your doctor, and not just take my opinion. As I always say, “knowledge is power.”
I welcome your opinion and experience. Please comment below and share this article with women who share our PCOS struggle. Our mutual support can be our greatest strength.