Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) face conflicting information every day on which foods to eat or avoid for best results. We’ve covered some of these controversial topics like gluten, soy, and dairy in previous articles.
In this article, we’ll discuss our top five PCOS foods that we recommend. PCOS foods should be balanced with protein, fat, and carb and include high fiber carbs. They should also contain important nutrients such as Omega 3s, zinc, and magnesium.
Recommended Serving: 3 ounces, twice per week
Salmon is one of the best PCOS foods because of its omega-3, selenium, and iodine content. Omega-3 is a healthy fat with anti-inflammatory benefits and may help reduce insulin resistance and cholesterol numbers in women with PCOS (1). These benefits particularly stem from two key omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA. A 3-ounce portion of salmon (the size of a deck of cards) provides about 1,500 mg of EPA and DHA. Salmon also provides excellent sources of two minerals, selenium and iodine, which support optimal thyroid function. This is especially important for women with PCOS since they are three times more likely to also suffer from Hashimoto’s thyroid disease (2, 3).
Recommended Serving: 4+ cups per day
Non-starchy vegetables are a category of nutrient-dense PCOS foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. All of these components work together to help balance your hormones, lower inflammation, and promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Examples of Non-Starchy Vegetables:
- Leafy greens
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and brussels sprouts are particularly helpful in promoting healthy estrogen levels. Roast a large sheet pan of chopped vegetables in the oven with salt, pepper, garlic, and any other desired herbs or spices to have quick access to non-starchy vegetables throughout the week!
Recommended Serving: ¼ cup or 2 tablespoons nut butter per day
The healthy fat and fiber content found in nuts slows digestion and prevents blood sugar spikes after a meal. This leads to more satisfaction and less sugar cravings between meals as well as improved blood sugar levels for happier hormones. Add some pecans to your morning oats, spread peanut butter onto apple slices for a midday snack, or throw some walnuts or almonds onto your salad for a crunchy addition. Store nuts in the refrigerator or freezer if you don’t think you will use them right away or if purchasing in bulk to maintain quality and extend the shelf-life.
Recommended Serving: one or more cups per day
Common PCOS symptoms, like acne and hair loss or unwanted hair growth, are largely due to high levels of androgens in the bloodstream. Androgens are sex hormones present in both men and women but with higher concentrations found in men. Testosterone is one of the most commonly elevated androgens in women with PCOS. Spearmint tea is a great PCOS food to add to your drink rotation as some studies suggest frequent consumption may lower androgen levels (4, 5).
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Recommended Serving: varying between 2 tablespoons and ¼ cup per day
Despite their smaller size, seeds offer a powerful nutrient addition as a PCOS food thanks to their higher levels of zinc and magnesium. For example, a ¼ cup serving of pumpkin seeds provides nearly 20 percent of your daily zinc requirements. In women with PCOS, zinc can improve blood sugar levels, reduce PCOS-related hair loss or unwanted hair growth, and may help mitigate common PMS symptoms. Read more about zinc for PCOS. Add pumpkin seeds to your yogurt, salads, trail mix, or roasted vegetables. Furthermore, chia seeds are an incredibly great source of magnesium offering about 34 percent of your daily requirement in just two tablespoons! We find that most people are not meeting their magnesium requirements, which is why we love recommending breakfast or snack ideas like chia seed pudding.
Simple Chia Seed Pudding:
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- ½ cup milk of choice
- Berries and nuts for topping
Pour chia seeds and milk into a jar or bowl and mix well. Cover and store overnight in the fridge. Top with a handful of berries and nuts before eating for added antioxidants and healthy fats. Optional: sweeten with 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup.
For more PCOS friendly foods and recipes, download our foundational meal plan.
Tea for PCOS
Drinking tea can be helpful for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) symptoms like facial hair growth.
Turmeric for PCOS
Most of the benefits of turmeric stem from its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. While there are not a large amount of studies specifically assessing PCOS and turmeric yet, the few available show promising results.