Does a Vegetarian Diet for PCOS Actually Help?
Managing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is work. It takes time to find a diet, exercise, and medical regimen that gets your PCOS symptoms under control. Finding a diet for PCOS weight loss may feel like a constant work in progress. You’ve probably been told to cut calories, carbs, or even dairy.
Could eliminating meat be the best approach for you? In this article, we cover the benefits of a vegetarian diet for PCOS and tell why PCOS vegetarian diet plan is useful.
PCOS and a Vegetarian Diet
When we reviewed the many PCOS diet options, we found a recurring theme. Women with PCOS benefit from a diet that focuses on whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, and lean proteins. In a vegetarian diet, you eliminate meat as a source of protein. Can this be helpful for women with PCOS?
There’s evidence that a semi-vegetarian diet can be helpful for PCOS hormone imbalances. In a 2020 study, women with PCOS and obesity followed a strict Mediterranean diet. They ate unlimited green leafy vegetables, cruciferous veggies, zucchini, cucumber, and eggplant. Their intake of meat, eggs, and fish was strictly limited. After following this diet for three months, the women had improvements in specific lab values. They had lower cholesterol, blood fats, insulin, and androgen levels. Women who followed this diet also had a lower LH to FSH ratio. 
Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) are reproductive hormones that play a role in ovulation. Women with PCOS may have irregular LH to FSH ratios. This can prevent women with PCOS from ovulating. The study suggests that a vegetarian diet may improve ovulation in women with PCOS. 
What Can Cause Weight Gain in PCOS?
PCOS can change the way your body uses food for fuel. With metabolic hormone imbalances, women with PCOS need nourishment in a different way than the average person. A common metabolic problem seen in PCOS is insulin resistance. Having insulin resistance can cause weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
Between 70-80% of women with PCOS are also obese. Having extra body fat and living a sedentary lifestyle can cause insulin resistance. If you’re struggling to lose weight with PCOS, you should know that it’s not your fault. Your body has extra challenges in metabolizing food and storing fat. Even with a healthy lifestyle, you can still develop insulin resistance. It’s possible to find a combination of diet, exercise, and medical treatment that works for you. Consider a vegetarian diet as a possible approach to managing PCOS.
What Foods Should You Include in Your PCOS Vegetarian Diet?
Vegetarians get their fuel from a mix of dairy, proteins, fruits and vegetables, grains, and oils. Before starting a PCOS vegetarian diet, plan how you’ll get a balanced diet for your body’s needs. When giving up meat, you will need to find ways to incorporate certain nutrients into your diet. Here are some key nutrients to focus on adding to a vegetarian or a vegan PCOS diet: 
As you check your dietary needs, consider daily PCOS supplements. S’moo Ovary Good has the nutrients your body needs to function at your best and feel great. Take our hormone balance supplements to manage PCOS symptoms.*
Is There Any Scientific Evidence on Vegetarian Diets and PCOS?
Following a vegetarian diet may help women with PCOS balance sex hormone levels. In one study, women who followed a vegetarian diet had increased SHBG levels.  Sex hormone-binding globulin, or SHBG, is typically low in women with PCOS. The protein binds the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen.
Low SHBG levels cause free testosterone. This is to blame for many PCOS symptoms, like unwanted facial hair and problems with ovulation. Higher SHBG levels help to get those testosterone levels down. If you struggle with hyperandrogenism, a vegetarian diet may help.
Deciding If a Vegetarian Diet for PCOS Is Right for You
There are several benefits of following a vegetarian diet for PCOS. Before starting a new diet, consider what your typical meals will look like. If you have insulin resistance, make sure to incorporate complex carbs like whole grains. Finding foods that keep you fuller longer will help as you give up meat. Talk to your healthcare provider about your dietary needs for PCOS.
*The content in this article is provided for informational purposes only. This is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any health conditions. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice or consultation. Talk to your doctor before making changes to your healthcare regimen.
- Dietary Patterns and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a Systematic Review
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (LH:FSH) Ratio in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) - Obese vs. Non-Obese Women
- Can insulin resistance cause weight gain?
- Nutrition and healthy eating
- Diet and reproductive hormones: a study of vegetarian and nonvegetarian postmenopausal women
Written By: Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN