What Foods To Avoid With PCOS?

For PCOS, following a healthy lifestyle has been shown to be the most effective approach and your diet plays a huge role in improving your symptoms. However, when it comes to your diet we always focus on what to eat but what foods should you avoid?

Posted on May 7, 2022 ·

BY Team Veera

Medically Reviewed

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With so much information and misinformation online, it can become confusing to understand what will actually help you manage your PCOS. Being detected with PCOS can be stressful and the need to be more disciplined and healthier becomes very important. A lot of studies say that a diet that is imbalanced and poor along with a lifestyle that has little to no activity are the culprits for the higher risks in PCOS. Even if PCOS itself is not very harmful, it may give rise to risks for more serious conditions such as type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and difficulty in trying to conceive.

Switching to healthy foods with PCOS

If you have PCOS, you know that there are a couple of things that you need to avoid so that you can have a healthy and sustainable diet. While it is wrong to completely omit groups of food because you might miss out on the nutrients, it is sometimes required so that you can eliminate harmful and inflammatory agents from your diet. These food items should be avoided from your diet since they do not help treat your symptoms and disturb your weight management goal too. 

PCOS is a multi-faceted disorder – meaning it has different aspects to it that affects your body. Treating its symptoms is the best way to keep the illness in control, otherwise it might aggravate and lead to long term complications. Women with PCOS who have a diet that is rich in starch, sugar and saturated fats may experience an increase in their symptoms. 

Refined and processed food can also make the insulin resistance in PCOS worse. So, it is important to avoid certain foods and focus on a diet that is more balanced and has a good proportion of nutritional elements. Although most of the foods that we find around in our diet are rich in wholesome lentils and grains along with spices that have healing and immune-boosting properties, foods with nutrient-devoid ingredients such as processed flours and sugars enter our diet unknowingly.

Avoiding the following foods can make a difference in your PCOS journey:

Vegetables with a high starch content:

High carb vegetables such as potato, sweet potato, carrot, sweetcorn can be combined with low glycemic foods such as spinach, onion, tomatoes, cabbage, peas to avoid any bad effects. Complete elimination is not necessary. Since high GI vegetables can spike insulin levels, it is best to limit or avoid these from your diet. This can lead to an imbalance in your hormones and cause your symptoms to worsen.

Canned or processed fruit concentrates or juices

They may seem the easier way of having fruits but juices and concentrates that are processed and sold in cans or tetra packs are filled with sugar and preservatives. Not only preservatives, fruit juices also lack the fibre portion that you get in whole fruits – and fibre is important to maintain blood sugar levels. Whole and fresh fruits should be consumed in a balanced quantity because they contain more nutrients and whole fibres that are more beneficial to us.

Vegetable oils:

PCOS is described as chronic low-grade inflammation, so it is best to avoid foods that aggravate inflammation. Vegetable oils particularly have high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids which can not only worsen PCOS symptoms but also affect your overall health. Mustard, groundnut, sesame and coconut oils which are traditionally used for cooking Indian cuisine are all good as they contain a healthy balance of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids. 

Sugary foods

High sugar content foods such as cake, pastry, doughnuts not only spike your insulin levels that also increase the level of inflammation. Although you don’t need to completely cut out sugar, practice portion control and switch to healthier alternatives. 

Fried foods

Those pakodas and samosas in the evening may seem perfect with your evening cup of tea but they are full of saturated fats. Fried foods are best to avoid since they can cause an imbalance in your hormones and affect your weight management too.

Caffeine and alcohol:

Women with PCOS should be aware of their caffeine intake since it can lead to a disturbance in their hormone levels and lead to mood swings. On the other hand, alcohol, especially cocktails that have sugary syrups can cause an increase in blood sugar levels. 

Processed foods

Foods such as white bread, white pasta or instant foods, do not contain the nutrients that they promise because they are filled with preservatives and sugars to make them tasty. Not only do they lack nutrient value and fibre, they also spike blood sugar levels which can worsen insulin resistance in women with PCOS. 

Foods rich in cholesterol and sodium

Consumption of foods such as red meat and preserved meats should be completely avoided since they are high in cholesterol and unhealthy fats. Such foods also contain a lot of salt to preserve them, which can become a risk factor to high blood pressure and a lot of serious heart conditions. So, they do not contribute a lot of value to your diet and instead complicate your symptoms.

PCOS diet is all about moderation and visualising your diet as a way to nourish your body. When you switch to a healthy lifestyle out of habit, you won’t see the need to follow restrictive diets anymore.

Disclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician

Verified by Dr. Iris Lee

Fellow in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Lee is a fellow in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed medical school and residency training at the University of Pennsylvania as well. Her work focuses primarily on PCOS, particularly the metabolic and mental health implications. Outside of work, she enjoys baking, reading, and spending time with her husband and two puppies.

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