Dietary support from a PCOS nutritionist can help you manage symptoms, reduce your risk of developing other long-term health conditions, and support future fertility if that’s something you are looking to do.
Unfortunately, people with PCOS are subject to some of the most restrictive, fad diet advice out there thus I thought it would be prudent to outline my top 6 top nutrition tips. All of which come from a gentle, compassionate lens to help support your health and give you actionable steps to try today.
1. Eat regular meals and snacks
This is my number one tip, and it sounds really obvious. You might be thinking “I already do that” or “I need to lose weight, not gain weight!” But here’s the thing: Not eating regularly, and by that, I mean every 2-4 hours, comes with a bunch of side effects… Including thinking about food and not being able to concentrate, being over-hungry when you do eat so you can’t tune in to your hunger/fullness signals, distracted eating, and because you are probably ravenous when you do eat, you likely make less nutritious, balanced choices.
If you’re currently eating a tiny breakfast (e.g. one banana) or trying to hold off eating breakfast as long as possible (e.g. filling up on tea and coffee in the morning to prevent the hunger pangs), try eating a balanced breakfast each morning for this whole week. The same applies if it’s lunch you’re skimping out on.
Some examples of a balanced breakfast are:
● Toast with butter or avocado and eggs
● Porridge made with milk, topped with seeds
Some examples of a balanced lunch are:
● A sandwich or wrap with chicken/soy meat, hummus or mayo, with spinach and tomato
● Whole grain pasta with a tomato sauce, and tofu/chicken
1. Don’t ditch carbs! And pair carbs with protein and fat
“Eat low carb” seems to be the mantra of the social media world when it comes to PCOS, based on the idea that certain carbs have a high glycemic index. The restrictive mentality of avoiding or restricting carbs isn’t a good idea for our relationship to food, satiety, enjoyment of food, and carbs are rich sources of important nutrients, especially fibre and B vitamins. By adding a protein and a fat source to carbs, you lower the glycemic load of the meal without having to cut foods out.
2. Add in high fibre foods - fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, brown rice, whole grain bread and wholemeal pasta are a few examples.
Fibre is a really important nutrient; it’s the indigestible part of carbohydrates, and it feeds our gut bacteria, is involved in immunity, and lots of other bodily processes. Fibre plays an extra important role in PCOS, where fibre reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (1) - which are both conditions people with PCOS can go on to develop.
3. Take a vitamin D supplement of 10ug (micrograms) per day.
Vitamin D is important for bone health, muscles, nerves, and brain functioning, and around 60-90% of people with PCOS are deficient. This is also linked to infertility and the development of CVD (e.g. 2).
The recommendation is to take a 10ug supplement daily. You could focus on vitamin D rich foods, like bony fish, eggs, and milk to help even more and to “top up” on days you forget to take a supplement.
4. Aim to eat one portion of oily fish per week for omega 3s - salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring (SMASH)
PCOS is an inflammatory condition, so adding omega 3s is known to help reduce the severity of symptoms, and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and CVD (3). If you don’t want to eat fish, aim to add in one tablespoon of either flaxseed, chia seed, or 30g of walnuts to your diet every day. An algae-based supplement daily is also recommended.
5. Think: “Is there anything I can add to this plate?” Rather than thinking “I need to remove this or limit that.”
PCOS is a victim to the faddiest diet and restrictive eating tips partly because treatment options are sub-par, so people turn to dietary changes. My advice would be to stop following “PCOS weight loss accounts” and “#pcos30dayplan”, and take some time to actually check in with yourself. Look at your current week of eating, what can you add-in to your diet? I would recommend starting with one of the above tips, trying that out for a week to a month, and see if you notice any changes in symptoms.
If you are looking for personalised, compassionate support, please feel free to book an appointment with me. You will receive science-backed, sustainable nutrition and lifestyle advice together with any additional help you may need around body image, emotional eating support - all of which is common with PCOS.
If you want to read more detail about PCOS symptoms, treatment, and other lifestyle management strategies, check out this article written by Shannon.
1. Zhu, C, Cuy, Z., Goodarz, M. (2021) PCOS and risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke. Diabetes 70(1): 627-637.
2. Mogili, K., Karuppusami, R., Thomas, S., handy, A., Kamth, M., Aleyamma, T. (2018) Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in infertile women with PCOS and its association with metabolic syndrome - a prospective observational study. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Reproductive Health 229(1): 15-19.
3. Yang, K., Zeng, L. et al. (2018) Effectiveness of Omega-3 fatty acid for polycystic
ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Reproductive Biology
and Endocrinology, 16-27.