The Diva Kitchen Dejunking Guide - PCOS Diva

The Diva Kitchen Dejunking Guide

If you are serious about creating health and learning to thrive with PCOS, it all begins in the kitchen.

A healthy body starts with a healthy kitchen.

Getting your kitchen stocked with healthy food is actually the second step.  The first is a Kitchen Dejunk.  It is kind of like a “detox” for your kitchen. The definition of “detox” is “a treatment designed to rid the body of poisonous substances.”  That is exactly what we are going to do –  rid your kitchen of food that can harm your body and prohibit lasting health.

One of my favorite authors is Michael Pollan.  His book Food Rules is a must read and I could probably condense my entire Kitchen Dejunk down to 3 of his rules ;

“Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

“Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims. They’re apt to be heavily processed, and the claims are often dubious at best.”

“Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.”

I have compiled a  checklist of ingredients to search for in your pantry, cupboards and refrigerator.  Think of this as your chance to be a super sleuth!  Take a look at every food label. If the list of ingredients on a package is long, there’s probably a lot of chemical additives in the product.It’s best to avoid these foods, not only because of the individual effects of the additives, but also because of the unknown health effects of combination of food additives. Also, US Federal Regulations don’t require full disclosure on product labels. The only way to avoid dangerous food additives is to eat whole, natural, organic food.  And teach your spouse and kids to do the same.  Now my boys are on the lookout for “red #40” and “high fructose corn syrup” on boxes at the store.

So get your trash bag ready and hit the pantry – toss food that contain any of the following:

1. Trans Fat – Partially Hydrogenated Oils:

Trans fat is found in margarine, vegetable shortening, commercially baked goods, deep-fried foods, fast foods and many restaurant foods. Trans fat is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation, which makes the oil less likely to spoil. Using trans fats in the manufacturing of foods helps foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and have a less greasy feel. If a label has any listing of “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients – toss it.  The US FDA allows .49% of trans fat per serving and still allows companies to label 0% grams trans fat.

2.  High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Often a sign of a highly processed food, high fructose corn syrup is  a processed liquid sweetener.  It is a inexpensive sweetener with a high glycemic index, it converts to fat more than any other sugar. It alters the metabolic rate in a way that favors fat storage. Research suggests that it is a major factor of obesity.  HFCS increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, strokes, and cancer.

Click here for more info on why to avoid HFCS see

3.  Artificial Sweeteners

Look for the  name Nutrasweet, Splenda, asparatame, Acesulfame-K, Saccharin and  sucralose.  These zero-calorie artificial sweeteners are  highly-processed and  chemically-derived and are found in diet foods and diet products to reduce calories per serving.  They can really mess with and slow down your metabolism. Many have been shown to cause an increase in cancer.  Most artificial sweeteners have side effects, and their chemical breakdown in the body can be toxic. In addition, in combination with other food additives like artificial colors, artificial sweeteners can have a much more potent effect on nerve cells. Artificial sweeteners link to over 90 side effects. Focus on natural sugar substitutes like the ones I mentioned in a recent post.

For more info on the dangers of artificial sweeteners

4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is a flavor enhancer that can stimulate appetite and cause excess weight.  It is an excitotoxin used to bring out the flavor in foods. Excitotoxins are toxins that bind to certain receptors (e.g., certain glutamate receptors). According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, an author and neurosurgeon, excitotoxins can cause sensitive neurons to die. Many people experience a host of other side effects like headaches, itchy skin, dizziness and respiratory, digestive, circulatory and coronary concerns.Wonder why you can’t just eat one chip and dip?  Often both have MSG as an ingredient.  Animal studies have also shown that dietary MSG induces markers of insulin resistance. You will often find it in restaurant food, salad dressing, chips, frozen entrees, soups and more.  When looking for MSG on an ingredient label look out for all of these ingredients as they contain MSG – Autolyzed Yeast, Calcium Caseinate, Yeast Food,  Glutamate Glutamic, Acid Hydrolyzed Protein, Monopotassium Glutamate, Monosodium Glutamate, Sodium Caseinate, Textured Protein, Yeast Extract, Yeast Nutrient.

For more info see

5. Benzoates – TBHQ, BHA and BHT

Benzoate preservatives are often added to foods to preserve fats and keep them  from becoming rancid which happens when they age and are exposed to light and air.  They help with shelf-life and are also used as a de-foaming agent.  They are a weak estrogenic and have been shown to affect  sleep and appetite, and have been associated with liver and kidney damage, baldness, behavioral problems, and cancer.

6. Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)

This chemical that enhances flavor in many citric-based fruit and sodas. Brominated vegetable oil is used to keep flavor oils in soft drinks in suspension. When consumed, it is stored in fat and over time can accumulate. This additive can lead to reproductive interference and birth defects. It has been banned in 100 countries.It has been shown to increases triglycerides and cholesterol and can damage liver, thyroid, heart and kidneys. The main ingredient of BVO, is a poison.  Just two ounces of a 2% solution of BVO can severely poison a child.  The FDA has not taken action regarding BVO, however, thus it is still lawfully used, and worst of all, manufacturers are not required to list BVO on food labels.

7. Sodium Nitrate (also called Sodium Nitrite)

It is  preservative that’s used in some processed meats, such as bacon, jerky, sausage, hot dogs and luncheon meats.  It  could increase your heart disease risk.  It’s thought that sodium nitrate may damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Nitrates may also affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes. Nitrites/Nitrates can combine with chemicals in the stomach to form nitrosamine, a highly carcinogenic substance.

8. Olestra

An indigestible fat substitute used primarily in foods that are fried and baked. Like Baked Lays Light Chips.  Olestra
inhibits absorption of some nutrients. Linked to gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea, gas, cramps, bleeding and incontinence. It is banned in the United Kingdom and Canada.

9. Artificial Flavor

Cheap chemical mixtures that mimic natural flavors. Linked to allergic reactions, dermatitis, eczema, hyperactivity and asthma. Can also affect enzymes, RNA and thyroid.

10. Artificial Colors

Artificial colors are synthetic chemicals that do not occur in nature. Most are derived from coal tar and can contain up to 10 parts per million of lead and arsenic and still be generally recognized as safe by the FDA. Artificial colors can cause allergic reactions and hyperactivity and ADD in children, and may contribute to visual and learning disorders or cause nerve damage.

For more information on artificial colors and flavors click here

11. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs):

GMOs are plants or animals that have had their DNA modified. In the US, the majority of the corn, soybean, cotton and canola crops are now genetically modified, and one or more of these can be found in nearly every processed food. GMOs have not been proven to be safe and some studies show GMO’s may decrease immunity to diseases in plants as well as humans, may cause residence to antibiotics and may have a negative impact on genetic function. Plants that are genetically modified to be resistant to disease, pesticides and insecticides could diminish the need to use these strong chemicals, or adversely, may build up a resistance and therefore require even larger amounts of chemicals than before. It is still too soon to tell: there is no long-term supporting evidence at this time. If you are going to eat corn products or canola oil try to buy organic.

12. Refined Sugar

People in the US consume 150 to 175 pounds of sugar per year. In other words, people are consuming half a cup of sugar a day and most aren’t even aware of it. Due to its insidious nature and the fact that it can be found in virtually all processed foods, unless they say “sugar-free,” we subsist on sugar. High consumption of sugar and the corresponding elevated insulin levels can cause weight gain, bloating, fatigue, arthritis, migraines, lowered immune function, obesity, cavities and cardiovascular disease. It can also disrupt absorption of nutrients, possibly leading to osteoporosis, depression, PMS symptoms and stress.

Here are some good resources for more information on food additives

Some info excerpted from a post in the January 2008 issue by Kelly Scotti, and supplemented with information by the Center for Science in the Public Interest

Amy Medling, PCOS Diva founder and PCOS Health Coach

Last Post

ASK AMY: Is Almased Good for PCOS Weight Loss?

Next Post

MENU PLAN September Week 1

  1. i just recently joined your mailing letter, Iam a 34 year old women who got dignosed with pcos in 2004 since then it has been a struggle to manage my symptoms because i am on low income social security disability.

    In addition I also recieve food stamps my quest to you is how do you manage to eat healthy and the pcos diet with only recieving 200.00 a month to live off of.

    the general cost for organic food can add up between 300.00-400.00 if you stock up well for a whole month.people who recieve food stamps makes it almost imposible to follow an oragnic diet when you have a 200.00 budget.

    as women who has been suffring from pcos for almost 7 years now how do you eat healthy with a limited budget.

    1. Jane-
      My advice would be to eat lots of beans and lentils (cook from dried) You can can get a pound of beans for less than $2. Brown rice, quinoa, oats, cornmeal, millet, kasha are all affordable. Also fresh veggies in season are most affordable. If you are on a fixed budget, do the best you can with eating a plant-based diet and avoid dairy and meat which are the most important to purchase organic.

  2. Hi My name of course is shavonna. i was diagnosed with pcos at the age of 23. my doctor never really told me what i had or what metformin will do to my body. i ended up having muscle aches in my hands and legs. now that i stop taking it i have gain more than thirty pounds and i can not explain my mood swings, over consumption in food. i feel like i never get full and to be honest i am so scared to diet. i weight 326 pounds and i feel like giving up because im in school and i cant afford to diet; i just want to be happy again. this weight feel like a strong hold on my life. that i can never break.

    1. Shavonna, I am also 23 and trying to work my way through this. It will be tough but I know we can do it! If you ever need anyone to talk to I can give you by email. I weigh over 300lbs and I have the most awful facial hair growth recently but we are all in this together! And Amy thank you for such a wonderful site!

    2. Shavonna – I was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 20 and am now 26. I was put on Metformin and took it for a while but it always made me feel so lightheaded. I took myself off of it, but am still on birth control to help with PCOS. However, I also gained a lot of weight and feel my appetite is out of control. I also weigh over 300 lbs. I am very uncomfortable, have hot flashes, sweat in the least-desirable places, and have horrid mood-swings (anger to crying in a matter of seconds). I have tried dieting but hardly get anywhere and always gain it right back. I hope that soon you are able to focus on eating better so that you can feel better. I hope the same for myself too. If you ever want to talk, feel free to email me –

  3. I am dejunking our kitchen today and have a brand of chips that we love that I don’t know what to do with. They’re more expensive, but gluten free, no GMO and have become my favorite even before learning about my PCOS and starting to educate myself about my body and my food.

    Has anyone found a good resource on more information about Olestra? These chips have just a handful of ingredients, but those include organic palm super olein and non hydrogenated expeller pressed oleic safflower oil. Since these words look so similar just looking for a source to help me verify if they’re the same thing or not…

  4. Shavonna, I, too, stopped taking metformin because I got too dizzy from the hypoglycemia it caused. I am trying to keep my anxiety disorder in check as well and one of the causes of anxiety is hypoglycemia, something I had to avoid. I went for a second opinion to another doc who said I am not insulin resistant so I don’t need metformin.

    I know how you feel, but things will get better, you will see. PCOS is about focusing on yourself and your own well being and making that your priority. When you feel down, of course turn to this site, but also counteract that feeling by watching your favorite videos on YouTube. I also found that 2-3 bites of 70% and 80% dark organic chocolate have an immediate effect on mood and also help with glucose levels. a little goes a long way and one bar lasts a week and a half. Also exercise 30 minutes a day any way you can. Just moving around will lift your mood and contribute to your health.


  5. I just moved into a new apartment and my cupboards are bare- thank you for this information because now the first time I go food shopping I will be more aware. I have a question- whereas I drink my water every now and then I’d like to have a soda. Previously I would just drink diet coke with splenda because I figured that was the lesser of all evils- but I’m realizing now this is a whole lifestyle change- do you have any recommendations for a carbonation fix that isn’t soda? Thanks!

    1. Good for you Ebony! I recommend Flavored seltzer (not sweetened) It takes a while to get used to. Start watering down your soda with the seltzer to wean yourself onto it or go cold turkey. Add fresh fruit like frozen berries or citrus for added flavor!

  6. Thank God I found this website! Just recently join and found it interesting..
    I`ve been struggling with PCOS since my first period as I never had regular period.. And in 2011 I was diagnosed with PCOS while my husband & I are trying to have baby..
    After a year under hormonal medication, I gained about 20 pounds and now I stopped all the medical medication and move to herbal, relaxation and traditional medicine. Been with it for 5 months now and feel my body more relaxed and better metabolism. Eventhough it`s still hard to do, but now both of us try to eat better and no MSG at all while eating at home..
    One thing I wanna ask, is it better to eat raw vegetables or boiled/steamed vegetables?

    1. Good question Susan. I eat both. Raw veggies still have natural enzymes intact but steamed veggies actually release nutrients and break down fiber to make them easier to digest. It is best to have both.

  7. Amy…what are your thoughts on following the body by vi 90 day challenge? I have read some testimonials from other women with pcos and actually that is how I came across your site. Love everything I have read on your blog so far!! Just curious what your thoughts are on the challenge as I had been thinking of trying it?!?!

    1. I have done the 90 challenge. I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 19. I’m now 28. When I did the shakes the correct way, and worked out I was able to lose 20 pounds and 3 pant sizes. My periods went back to being normal. I felt better. I’ve also been trying to get on the correct dosage for my thyroid medicine. But there is a down side to the challenge. If you stop the shakes like I did. (Hey, the wedding was over, and all I was trying to do was fit into my dress! LOL) I started binge eating because I was just SO hungry all the time. But I can tell you that even now I don’t feel as good as when I have a shake. I at least do one in the morning. The days that I don’t have one I can really tell a difference in how I feel. The shakes are supposed to give you the vitamins you need every day. My skin also cleared up a lot, and I had a “glowing” complexion. As well as my hair was shinier. But as with anything it takes will power to stick with something. Wish I had never stopped in the first place, it’s hard getting back into that routine. I know I can do it, and get the results I want. It’s just physically doing it. lol Don’t know if this helped you or not. Hope it did. 🙂

    2. What is the 90 day challenge? I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2009. The first couple months of changing my dirty and taking metformin I lost about 75 pounds. Since then, I’ve been stuck. Not sure where to go from here. I recently took myself off the metformin and don’t feel any different. I was recently hospitalized, I had a heart attack. I’m only 46. I need to get back on track, and my husband does too, to losing weight and eating healthier. I always cook our meals.

  8. Hi Amy,

    I’m 26. Newly diagnosed with pcos and after reading your article am now in the process of dejunking my kitchen! I am just now starting to research pcos but I am curious — I’m 5’3″ but only weigh 115 pounds— I completely understand that changing my diet will help, especially in terms of decreasing inflammation within my body . However do people with “lean pcos” still suffer from a form of insulin resistance? I’m going to continue my research until I find out. Thanks! Wonderful site.

    1. Yes, lean women with PCOS still have insulin issues. It is still important to eat like a Diva even if you are lean.

  9. I was diagnosed with PCOS at age 15 and am now 27. I was initially prescribed metformin, synthroid for low thyroid and birth control. I immediately lost 50 pounds and was down to 220( my lowest weight I remember). I slowly crept back up through college and after my masters degree in 2009 ( 280) I decided that the lap and was the best fit for me. Well I got down to 240 but only with a lot of throwing up and issues that the doctor could not pinpoint.. In March of 2011 I decided to have it removed as I had developed gastroparesis and was drinking motility meds everyday just to get my stomach pumping and was back up to 280. In May of 2011 I was hospitalized for deep vein thrombosis and severe pulmonary embolisms. I had to take a leave of absence from work and was on oxygen for several months. I had to go off of birth control because of the severity of blood clots and the high risk of having them again. I have been really struggling with PCOS symptoms ever since( mood swings, depression, lethargy, acne, hair growth, weight gain, and a real heavy full feeling in my low abdomen). I have not had a period since jan 2012. In jan 2013 I started the paleo diet and have felt much better when I stick to it. However have not had any weight loss(310 now) or periods. I am 27 and really want to start a family but am feeling really hopeless in getting my body healthy…any diet and/or natural supplements recommendations are really needed to help me balance hormones.
    Thank you

    1. Alana-
      Great job with eating well but you need to exercise too. There really isn’t a magic pill. Do you have access to a gym with a personal trainer that can design a program for you?

  10. Just wanted to say thank you for putting together this website. I was diagnosed just yesterday and am feeling very overwhelmed and to be honest scared! But after reading about it in more detail on here, I am feeling a lot more hopeful about living with PCOS.

  11. Hi I just read your top 10 and I notice I have used splenda in my tea for years and so use to the taste as i like sweet tea do you have any suggestion other then sugar as it taste weird for me now to put in my tea?

  12. I love to can and preserve my own produce but have not been successful in finding an alternative for white sugar when it comes to canning fruits or making jams/jellies – do you have any suggestions or resources?

  13. How do you feel about honey as a sweetener? That’s what I currently use in coffee and tea.

    1. I would much rather you wean yourself off the sweetener in drinks. In general I like maple syrup, raw honey and a little coconut sugar all used very sparingly.