PCOS wreaks havoc on your hormones and body systems. Infertility is a major complaint with PCOS, but it is not the only health problem that can appear. Women with PCOS are also at risk for insulin resistance and the prediabetes and type 2 diabetes that can result.
Still, being “at risk” does not mean you are helpless. Simple changes in your diet can reduce PCOS symptoms and lower your risk for diabetes. Here are 5 easy diet tips to fight PCOS and diabetes.
1. Lose weight, even a little bit.
Having PCOS raises your risk for obesity and makes weight loss difficult. Your doctor may have been telling you to lose weight for years, and you might have been trying to beat your metabolism for years. Here is some good news if you have been struggling to hit goal weight: losing a few pounds is enough to improve health.
Better yet is that you do not need to make major sacrifices. Take smaller portions here and there, get in an extra brisk walk every so often, and swap soda for water a few times a week, and the pounds will slowly but surely come off.
2. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
Both PCOS and diabetes are conditions linked to chronic inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet can help lower inflammation in your body and improve insulin resistance and PCOS symptoms. In one study, patients with PCOS followed a Mediterranean-style diet that was considered anti-inflammatory because of components such as legumes, fish, whole grains, spices, and healthy fats. The diet led to weight loss and reduced symptoms of PCOS.
3. Healthify your carbs.
Good news for carb-lovers: despite popular belief, a low-carb diet may not be your best bet for fighting PCOS or insulin resistances. A low-carb diet does not just have health concerns, such as bone loss or kidney or liver trouble. It may not even be the best way to lose weight or improve insulin sensitivity.
A moderate-carb diet, with as much as 50% of your total calories from carbohydrates, is probably your safest and most effective bet over the long term. These healthy carb sources should be your primary ones, with sugary foods and refined starches being only occasional treats.
Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, and brown rice.
Raw vegetables, salads, and steamed or other non-fried vegetables.
Fresh fruit, peanuts, nuts, and seeds.
Reduced-fat dairy products, such as plain yogurt and cottage cheese.
4. Add flavor to foods.
Certain spices may help to fight inflammation, increase insulin sensitivity or lower blood sugar, or reduce PCOS symptoms, so try loading up the flavors in your foods. Especially promising are:
Cinnamon (add to oatmeal, yogurt, and peanut butter sandwiches).
Turmeric (great in curries and soups).
Rosemary, marjoram, and thyme (flavor chicken, fish, and roasted vegetables).
Ginger, black pepper, and hot chili peppers (try stir fry dishes).
Fennel (use raw in salads or cooked in pasta dishes).
This is already a win-win, since you gain flavor while gaining health. Go for the triple win and cut back on salt as you bump up the other flavors. Lowering sodium intake from salt will lower your risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease, which are both risks if you have PCOS and insulin resistance.
5. Skip the junk.
If you want to minimize complications and maximize effects of your diet plan for fighting PCOS and diabetes, here is a top tip: skip the junk. This strategy is as simple as you think. Just limit or avoid the foods that you know are wrong. Hint: your gut is usually right.
You are doing yourself a favor every time you skip or cut back on:
Classic fast food or takeout, such as pizza, burgers, burritos, fried rice, and chow mein.
Fried foods, such as French fries and hash browns, fried fish and chicken, doughnuts, fried cheese sticks, onion rings, and potato and corn chips.
Sugary and starchy desserts, such as cake, ice cream, cookies, pie, and candy.
Baked breakfast goods, such as biscuits, croissants, brioche, cinnamon rolls, toaster pastries, and muffins.
Processed foods, such as deli meats and snack foods.
PCOS and diabetes risk go hand in hand, but you can fight them with easy diet tricks. Follow your instinct and make small changes, and you may notice big results with fewer symptoms in your daily life, and good news at your regular check-ups.
ACOG. (2009; reaffirmed 2015). Polycystic ovary syndrome. Practice Bulletin 108. Washington, DC: ACOG.
Salama AA, Amine EK, Salem HA, Abd El Fattah NK. Anti-Inflammatory Dietary Combo in Overweight and Obese Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. N Am J Med Sci. 2015;7(7):310-6.
Faghfoori Z, Fazelian S, Shadnoush M, Goodarzi R. Nutritional management in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A review studyDiabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, 2017-11-01, Volume 11, Pages S429-S432, Copyright © 2017 Diabetes India
Salama AA, Amine EK, Salem HA, Abd El Fattah NK. Anti-Inflammatory Dietary Combo in Overweight and Obese Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. N Am J Med Sci. 2015;7(7):310-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4525389/