Nutrition for Polycystic Ovaries (PCOS, PCOD)

PCOS is a complex constellation of endocrine and metabolic interactions that create an unbalanced hormone profile resulting in ovarian hyperstimulation. Fortunately, it has been shown that improving baseline nutrition and losing weight (if needed) can do a lot to improve both the symptoms and the underlying disorder.  Focusing on a higher protein and lower carbohydrate nutrition profile is important. Making primarily plant-based food choices and changing your eating patterns to regular small meals with healthy snacks between can re-establish a balanced blood sugar and hormonal response leading to improved fertility.

 Important Changes

  • Reduce sweets and sweeteners: Eliminate candy, ice cream, desserts and pastries. Read ingredients on every label. Foods ending in -ol or -ose (glucose, dextrose, lactose, mannitol, xylitol, sorbitol etc) should be avoided. Also eliminate “diet” and “sugar free” foods made with splenda, aspartame and saccharin as these are toxic chemicals.  Stevia is a natural sweetener that can be used freely. Small amounts (1-2 tsp) of agave, raw honey or maple syrup are also ok 2-3 times a week.
  • Eliminate processed grain products: Avoid pasta, crackers, breads, wheat, white rice, and all other processed flour products. Potatoes are also best mostly eliminated as their starch is converted to sugar very quickly in the body.  After 3 weeks on this diet, high fiber non-wheat crackers, gluten free (sugar free) breads or whole grain rice cakes can be used 1-2 times a week.
  • Reduce unhealthy fats: Eliminate packaged baked goods, deep fried foods, high fat dairy products like cream and sour cream and margarine.
  • Switch from balsamic vinegar to apple cider vinegar, umeboshi vinegar, or use lemon/lime juice instead of vinegars. Have balsamic vinegar occasionally, as it is high in sugar.

 General Suggestions

  •  Start your day with the juice of 1/4 a lemon in a hot or cold water on waking to get your digestion started. Consider juicing with beets, carrots, apples and kale.
  •  Replace cow milk and dairy products with goat and sheep cheeses, sheep or goat yoghurt. Limit dairy to 4 times a week.
  • Many fruits needs to be eliminated or strictly reduced as these are a source of high sugar. Eliminate all dried fruits. Sour apples, crisp pears, grapefruit and all berries are ok in moderation. Eliminate all processed juices, or only have occasionally as a treat. Fresh vegetables juices are ok. Tropical sweet fruits such as mango, banana, papaya and pineapple are too sweet as are most melons.
  •  Ensure adequate good quality protein – Eat more protein in the early part of your day to keep your blood sugar steady and energy up. Include vegetarian proteins even if you eat meat. Good vegetarian choices are raw seeds and nuts, quinoa, avocado, tofu and other soy products, lentils, chickpeas, black beans, lentils and all other beans.
  • If you are not vegetarian, include cold water fish 2-3 times per week, such as  sardines, sole, haddock, flounder, herring, or salmon (wild or organic.) Swordfish, shark, king mackerel, halibut, sea bass or tuna can only be eaten once every 2 weeks which may contain high levels of mercury.
  •  Organic turkey, organic chicken, and organic eggs  2-3 times a week (6 eggs per week maximum.) Avoid low quality “commercial” poultry as it is a source of exogenous hormones and chemicals. Wild game is also acceptable (pheasant, moose, deer, buffalo, etc.) Beef and lamb twice a month each maximum. Animal-source proteins are best organic and free range. Completely avoid all processed luncheon meats, hamburgers and fast food products.
  • Soy products: Tofu, tempeh, and edamame soybeans are good sources of protein. Choose unsweetened, organic non-GMO soy milk (or an alternative milk.) Use soy meat substitutes only occasionally (hot dogs, veggie meats, ground round, veggie burgers.)  If vegetarian, limit soy products to 3 times per week. If not vegetarian, have at least once a week.
  •  Increase your essential fat intake. 2 tbsp flax seed oil daily plus 2 tbsp ground seeds (such as flax, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin.) 1 handful of nuts daily. Avocado, cold water fish, hemp oil, chia seeds and borage oil are also healthy sources of essential fatty acids. Use olive oil and/or organic coconut oil for cooking. Nuts and seeds must be raw, unsalted and unroasted.
  • Ensure adequate fibre intake from whole grains, lentils, beans, vegetables, and fruits. Be adventurous with your grains – use millet, quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, and buckwheat kasha as part of your meal plans. Include a minimum of one cup whole grain daily for fiber and nutrient content.
  •  Use butter, never eat margarine (if vegan, substitute with coconut oil and “earth balance” margarine if you absolutely must.) For cooking, use organic coconut oil or cold-pressed virgin olive oil, adding a tablespoon of water to the oil for stir-frying.
  •  Improve liver function. Beets, carrots, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, artichokes, asparagus and turmeric are especially beneficial for liver health.  Eat as often as possible! Reduce alcohol, ibuprofin, caffeine and Tylenol.
  •  Eat at least one portion of dark leafy greens and one yellow-orange fruit or vegetable every single day. This includes kale, chard, dandelion, bok choy, beet greens, collards, spinach, watercress, arugula and squashes, sweet potato, peppers, carrots, apricots, peaches/nectarines (in season only).

Optimal Habits

Make breakfast. Avoid the usual quick bagel and coffee, and eat a cooked, warm breakfast that includes some fruit or vegetable and protein. If you are rushed, prepare breakfast the night before and heat it in the morning.

Eat substantial snacks. Plan ahead with humus with raw vegetables, rice cakes with nut butter, raw almonds, fresh fruit, raw nuts and seeds, celery with nut butter, spelt or kamut flatbreads. Eliminate chips, bready treats, sugar, coffees and pop.

Don’t go hungry: Eat every 2-4 hours. Getting over-hungry leads to poor food choices and wreaks havoc with insulin control. Start with breakfast and schedule small snacks between moderate meals for best blood sugar regulation.

Sit down and eat. Eat consistently, quietly and chew a lot (35 times per bite is recommended by macrobiotics.) Eat comfortably and enjoy your meal. Don’t walk, read, stand or do other activities while eating. Give yourself at least 15 minutes down-time to relax and enjoy your meal.

Having a consistent eating plan that allows some flexibility and variety has been proven to be more effective than stricter short term “diets.” Focus more on whole foods and good quality proteins than on the restrictions. Fat does not need to be restricted per say, but eliminating saturated and trans fats in the form of processed “treats” will naturally provide a lower fat diet.  Do not choose “low fat” salad dressings or other options as these tend to be high in sugars. Read labels, read labels read labels! And, be nice to yourself – there will be easy days and hard days. A little compassion towards self goes a long way, and may be the best medicine!


98 thoughts on “Nutrition for Polycystic Ovaries (PCOS, PCOD)

  1. A glass of pure fruit juice, bananas, yoghurt, low-calorie muesli with semi skimmed or skimmed milk, fresh fruit salad with few spoonfuls of low fat yoghurt, fresh and raw veggies mixed with flavoured yoghurt, a slice of toast or plain bread with eggs, boiled or poached are some of the options for breakfast. Kids can enjoy a Smoothie with their favourite fruits; add dash of yoghurt or honey to make it more delicious.^

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    • Pure fruit juice is a bad option for kids with PCOS(as is wheat or low fat anything products) as it can cause a glycemic spike in blood sugar which wil contribute to the hyperinsulinism in the metabolic component of kids PCOS. Better to stick to the premises of the protein/steady- blood-sugar deit.

      • Hello, Flax seeds are not high in estrogen, the steroid hormone all bodies produce. Flax seeds contains what are called phytoestrogens, which have a chemical structure similar enough to estrogen that they can bind to the estrogen receptors on cells. This blocks the biological (and xenoestrogens) from attaching to teh recptors, and this excess E can be eliminated through a healthy bowel.

        Flax seeds also contain lignans and omega three fatty acids. Ligans may increase Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, which decreases free testosterone in PCOS as well.

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  3. Hi, would you recommend starting a Juicing programme? I don’t like eating any fruit & Veg so I struggle getting any goodness in, but when I juice them, I love the juices.
    It would be the 7lb in 7 days to help kick start my insides 🙂
    Thank you

    • Hello – juicing is beneficial when used in conjunction with a healthy insulin-balancing eating plan. Juicing is a great way to get additional nutrients, enzymes and antioxidants into a vegetable-deficient system. The fiber in vegetables is also important for insulin balancing! Your best bet is to find vegetable recipes and ways of cooking them that you can palate, and teach your grown up self how to eat fruits and veggies.

      Some juicing would be good, but never as a fast unless you are enrolled in a complete juicing rejuvenation program that includes rest, gentle exercise, massage, and nutritional guidance. Juice fasting while living a busy life can wreak havoc on ones metabolism. (you may lose 7 lbs in 7 days but will likely gain back 10 or more.)

  4. Hello! Are the Jason Vale juices a healthy choice? A lot of his juices do call for a 1/4 inch of a medium pineapple. Also, there a lot of recipes that include beets, cucumber, kale, spinach, etc. If not Jason Vale, what about “Rebooting with Joe”?

    • Hello! I am not familiar with the Jason Vale or Rebooting with Joe programs. In general fresh vegetables juices are excellent choices for all people and safe for PCOS. Small amounts of fresh whole fruit are ok in juicing as they help temper the stronger vegetable flavors. Juicing gives great enzymes, antioxidants and superior nutritional support. It is important for people with PCOS not to do pure juice fasts unless they are doing a specific healing retreat that includes lots of rest, yoga or pilates, massage, and a complete rejuvenating program. Fasting while living a hectic lifestyle can do more harm than good.

  5. Hi there, thank you so much for this information. I have been living a plant based lifestyle for a couple of months now but I have been consuming the wrong foods. thanks to your list I will evaluate and adjust what I consume. I have been struggling with losing weight despite working out 6 days a week and eating fruits/vegggies and no dairy or meat.

  6. hiii….. im 23yrs old…unmarried…suffering from PCOS from past 5yrs. im thin but loosing scalp hair and also suffering from oily skin,extra hair growth on chin,neck… im an indian woman…. im really depressed very much by this… used many hair fall control products but no use. im thinking of following a strict diet plan… can you pls suggest a diet plan for indian woman.

    i’ll be really thankful to you.

    • Hello – I practice individualized medicine, which means I would need to talk with you directly about your food, health, reproduction, sleep etc before I knew enough to make any reccomendations other than the general ones that are listed here.

      You could google Naturopathic Doctors in your area to find a practitioner that could help you work on this hormone imbalance and figure out the best nutrition for yourself. Good Luck!

  7. Hi i have pcos and as u said jucies are good which ones would b most benifical ones like i have lemon and apple ciyder vineger water in the morrning and befor bed what els can i hav to boost it

    • Hi! Juicing is good for the added nutrient and enzymevalue, but too much quick sugar from the juice can be problematic. If you do juice, using more vegetables juices like carrot, ginger, kale, celery, lemon and less sweet juices like melon, apple, orange etc.

  8. Hi I have been juicing for a couple of weeks with many different fruits and vegetables. Are there any fruits or vegetables you would recommend having less of?

    • I reccomemnd having higher vegetable and lower fruits in your juicing. Avoiding things like melons and sticking to citrus, carrots, ginger, greens. celery etc with moderate amounts of organic apples. . I am not a juicing expert, so this is only my opinion….

  9. Great blog! got a lot of good information from here but please note as I am a thin PCOS (caused by always being below 17% body fat due to a fitness career); Low fat= low estrogen and low estrogen= annovulation. it is very different to overweight PCOS. To all thin PCOS women reading this blog; nutritionists and dieticians suggest to remove these things from the diet: cruciferous vegetable, seeds, nuts, legumes, soy and dairy, these things reek absolute havoc on my body as they contain phytoestrogens and phytochemicals which confuse the natural estrogen production in sensitive women(under-fat PCOS). Also as we are not trying to lose any more fat in order to stabilize your fat levels you DO NEED white rice, potato and starches-these things will not hurt you because you need to maintain the fat you have. I have previously had a complete organic diet with many seeds, nuts and legumes and completely stopped ovulating. Once I had potato or white rice 3 times per week, i begun ovulating again the following month and it was obvious my estrogen rose back to normal levels as I was better lubricated and etc..

  10. Hi i’m a 26 yrs old unmarried girl,s suffering from PCOS from 1 year. Since than i already gained 25lbs… Which is making me feel so depressed and down so much…. I been eating as healthy as I ever did. I work out at least 5 timesa week for 40 min, trainning for a 1/2 marathon, i cant keep the weight off… Any tips? Is there a specific diet plan for pcos?

    • Hi Gaby – You may need a specific nutrition plan for PCOS as there is significant blood sugar dysregulation that happens. Also, having your hormones balanced will be important, Generally its a “low glycemic diet” that is used to treat PCOS. Google a Naturopathic Dr in your area and get some support! It sounds like you are motivated and working hard without the results you want which can be really hard. Thanks for the comment!

    • Hello – The best treatment is individualized medicine. This article outlines some basic approaches using nutrition. If you find you need more support, I recommend finding a Naturopathic Dr in your area, or I also do Skype consults. Please email me at for more information about consultations.

      Thank you!

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  13. I am curious that you recommend soy products for PCOS…can you tell me more about that? I have always thought of them being more estrogenic and hence not great for a woman with hormonal issues of this kind.
    Thank you.

  14. I stopped reading when you advised eating soy. It’s the last thing any one with a hormone disorders should eat.

  15. I am interested in juicing. I heard that there were some greens that should not be juiced if you have PCOS such as Kale? Are there any other fruits or veggies I should steer away from when juicing?

    • I have never heard of a green that wasnt good to juice! Although some will be bitter and yucky, so better sauteed. Steer away from sweet fruits like banana and melon, stay more to sour fruits like grapefruit and pineapple, and fresh berries or a ever-rotating mix of fruits and vegetables. Lots of carrot/beet/celery!

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  19. I am not over weight and have been diagnosed with PCOS – I am very confused as to what I can and cannot eat… I love my dairy and have been told that I need to completely remove all dairy from my eating plan… and from all the research I’ve been doing it also mentions that Soy products are not that good either… I started Herbalife a few months ago which seemed to aggravate my ovaries… Don’t particularly like veggies and fruit – What now? I would really appreciate your help. Many thanks

    • Hello – thin PCOS is also common. Working with nutrition is important for the underlying insulin piece of PCOS, but working with the hormonal side is also very important. Perhaps you could start working with bioidentical hormones and save the nutrition piece for when you are ready to do some changes around food?

      Smoothies are a yummy way to get more fruits and vegetables as are soups. You could start there?

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  22. Hi,I really liked your blog.I am 19 and suffering from pcos.I don’t get periods,it’s like I just get 3-4 periods a year.i am thinking of juicing or drinking detox water,Can you please suggest me what fruits or vegetables I should use to get my periods regular and every month?
    I will be waiting for your reply,

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  24. Hi,
    I have recently been diagnosed with PCOS but live in Ghana(Africa) where it’s difficult to calculate the amount of calorie intake in specific foods and the staple foods available are mostly carb based. What do you recommend I do in terms of my diet?
    An excellent piece, have learnt a lot. Thanks

    • Hi, thank you for your comment. Limited foods make PCOS diet tough. If you can, have as many vegetables as possible and definitely limit/eliminate sugar. You can also focus on high intensity, short term exercise daily and stress management like stretching, yoga, meditation, prayer, relaxation, sleep, and good quality time alone to rebalance hormones. Good Luck!

    • Acne can be due to many thing – elvated testosterone, infection, nutrition,other hormone imbalances, poor gut health, food sensitivities. Heavy periods can also be normal for some women or related to things like fibroids or estrogen excess. Best choice is to see a Naturopathic Doctor or BY/GYN that can help you understand what is going on! Good Luck.

  25. Hello ! I am thin and suffering from pcod.I take dairy products daily . I take half litre buffalo milk daily . is milk not good for lean women with pcos ????

  26. Can you recommend a naturopathic doctor in Maryland or Washington DC. Recommend A cookbook or meal plan for PCOS
    Thank you
    Allison Edwards

  27. What about carrot juice and green tea??? are they good for women with pcos? .. i know that green tea aids losing weight yet it has caffeine (which isnt really recomended) … thats why im confused about it

  28. thank you so much, i learnt a lot, i also suffer from pcos and was put on mertformin and my cycle went back to normal but my problem is diet. i need help i recently started experiencing a funny cooking oil after taste every-time i have food cooked/fried with cooking oil. i use vegetable oil and am also trying to conceive

    • It sounds like you may be using rancid oils. Generally, rule of thumb is if something is not appealing to you, don’t eat it! Steam vegetables, and sauté with coconut oils. Avoid frying food in general. Good luck conceiving!

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  30. Hi

    I am unmarried single girl and have been trying to be on diet from last couple of months but unable to reduce, i follow the diet plan but do a bit of cheeting as well..but since i am on diet from last 6 -7 months havenot seen any significant difference. My nutrionist told me last week that there is a possibility i might be suffering from PCOS, i feel depressed at times coz lost my mum 3 years back n live with my dad. Stuck weight and depression are the only two symptoms i have. i have not gotten any test or ultra sound but what do u suggest am i suffering from PCOS is it curable ? Please help.

  31. hi,
    i am suffering from pcos and not having mensturation from last one month.
    i am drinking juice from last 1 week of carrot,beetsroot,apple.
    and intake of fruites papaya,pears,avocda,pomograntes and vegetables.
    not eating chiken and meat instead m eating fish.
    avoiding all sweet juices and chips.
    but the problem i have faced
    1) is that my hairs are falling toooo much serious hair fall
    i have applied everything used medicated shampoo and spray’s but not effected
    2) is that i am getting dark pacthes on neck more than 10 small and big dark.
    from last 4 month and i have consulted skin specailist and he have given me gell to apply and that gell also not affected..
    please tell me is their any prob or any food is making any prob ?.
    i am very deppressed.. please

    • Hello – It sounds like you have a complicated picture. Are you working with a physician or homeopath/naturopathic doctor? The best medicine happens when you have someone who can take your full case and really understand what is happening at a hormonal level. It sounds like your thyroid may also be affected.

      Meanwhile, I suggest eliminating gluten and increasing protein. I would also stop the daily juicing and fruit intake and focus on whole grains, vegetarian protein, lots of seafood and green leafy vegetables. I hope you feel better soon.

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  35. Hello, i am diagnosed with PCOS and I have been, getting scanty periods from the past 3 months. My gynae took scans and told me that I have multiple follicles in my ovaries and it was spasmed. She opened the spamsms during my TBPCR test in May (test was negative). We are trying to conceive since December last year but not helping. Had gone through a lot of stress since December. PCOS was detected in April and I am on medication since then – metafolic HD 5g daily twice with Foli 123 and Zincovite. Do you think I’ll take a lot of time to conceive. I have started yoga now and completely eliminated sugar and dairy in my diet. Do eat junk like pizza only once a week. Can you please suggest and help me? I am really worried if I will comceive, i am 31 year old working woman.

  36. Hello! I’m currently on the Keto diet and have been on it for almost a month. I’ve lost 10 lbs so far. That was probably all water weight. But i have been consuming these Atkins shakes that have a dairy protein blend. Not sure if I should continue consuming them. I’ve read that a Keto diet is beneficial for PCOS but I dont understand how we can consume high fat and dairy on this diet?

    • High fat is beneficial for a moderate amount of time. The ketogenic diet works well for women short term, often not more than 3 months. Some people do fine with dairy, others don’t. Paleo style eating eliminates dairy while still having high fat for short term use.

      In the long run, you will need some whole grains to sustain thyroid health and Mood balance and well as good digestion.

      Good luck!

  37. Am a Kenyan, I was diagnosed with the same pcos in the year 2015 december and i was given some combined oral for hormonal balance but i just saw the menses while on the pills,once i stopped they also stopped, went to another gynae and gave me gynacocid, letrazole and biofolic which i finished taking early this month, am to go back to the gynaecologist on 19/10/2016, i was told my ovaries are small around 0.8 and this means they cant be fertilized, what can i do to enable me get pregnant minus taking all these prescribed drugs am given every time? really in need of a kid

    • hello – It soujds like you are having some ovarian health concerns, and have some fairly strong medications right now. I am sure your doctors are doing their best to help you with fertility. It is best to continue treatment with your current doctor. If you ovaries are small, you could have what is called premature ovarian failure – in which case you will likely be unable to have a biological baby of your own – but please dont take my word for it because without knowing you and having a real doctor visit, I could not really say. Would you consider adoption? Many babies are in need of loving mothers like yourself.

  38. If anyone is estrogen dominant they should avoid anything with soy, chickpeas, hummus, beans. They have phytoestrogens and will make the pcos worse. They should eat carrots and broccoli especially, since it helps your body excrete excess estrogen.

  39. Thank you for this list and how often we should be eating certain foods.

    Each of us may be different, but in general I find this very accurate in my personal diet/experience.

    Also, this is great for meal planning!

    I probably do eat more fruit than you suggest ( apples, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, kiwis, sometimes dates, prunes, figs ) but almost always with a fat and/or protein and when I do not eat fruit, my digestion is horrible. I also eat it at maybe every meal, but the portions are very small, like 2 strawberries or 1/4 cup blue berries. If I eat it alone, I feel bad.

    • many instant oatmeals are high in sugar, so read your ingredients! Not everyone needs to eliminate all wheat or dairy, but it is worth eliminating each for 1 month and seeing how you feel. Soy does not need to be eliminayed as long as it is GMO free and organic, and you are not having allergic reactions to it.

  40. Great blog and post, keep it up. Now I need more of eating fruits and vegetables than any other foods. But I love banana and orange, are they good for hormonal imbalance?

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