What Is the Best Diet for PCOS Weight Loss?
How many times has a doctor or family member made you feel like your struggle with PCOS weight loss is your fault? You feel ashamed when you can’t lose weight – even worse when you gain it back after a significant loss.
You’ve tried every fad diet – and counting calories has become second nature. But the reality is, your body responds differently to dietary changes than the next cyster. That’s because PCOS is different for every woman, and so is the treatment.
So what is the best diet for PCOS weight loss? Discover your different PCOS diet options – so you can find the best plan for your body, your hormones, your PCOS.
What Can Cause PCOS?
PCOS is caused by excess male hormones (androgens) in women. Excess androgens cause PCOS symptoms like facial hair, male pattern baldness, and ovarian cysts.
Women are diagnosed with PCOS based on a set of symptoms related to the condition. The cause of PCOS isn’t fully known, but it’s believed to be a genetic condition.
PCOS can run in the family – if you have a mother or sister with PCOS, you may be at a higher risk. 
How Hormone Imbalances Affect Weight in PCOS
In addition to the physical symptoms, women with PCOS may have challenges with their metabolism. This means the way your body uses food for energy is different then the average person.
Many people with PCOS have insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. Its job is to keep your blood sugar regular. Problems with insulin receptors make it hard for your body to respond to insulin.
With insulin resistance, the pancreas keeps sending out more insulin until there’s a buildup in your bloodstream. This too much insulin in the blood is known as hyperinsulinemia.
Extra circulating insulin can cause a disruption to the reproductive hormones. It also causes the body to store sugar as fat. Insulin resistance puts women with PCOS at risk for prediabetes or diabetes.
PCOS may also affect metabolic hormones ghrelin and leptin. These hormones tell your brain when you’re hungry or full. When these hormones are off-balance, you may not feel full when you’d normally stop eating. 
Hormonal imbalances make it incredibly difficult for women with PCOS to lose weight. If you’re struggling to lose weight with PCOS, know that it’s not your fault. Finding a diet that works for you will depend on which underlying issues are affecting your PCOS.
How Can Diet Affect PCOS Symptoms?
One way to find the right diet for PCOS is to understand how foods affect your symptoms. For example, eating refined sweets can cause blood sugar spikes, making insulin resistance worse. A diet full of processed foods can also cause inflammation. This may show up as stomach issues like slow digestion.
On the other hand, adding healthy foods to your diet can help ease PCOS symptoms. Fiber-rich veggies help improve digestive issues and regulate your blood sugar.
What is your biggest challenge with PCOS? Knowing this will help you choose a diet that works for you.
What Is the Best Diet for PCOS?
You’re motivated to lose weight quickly – but be cautious about fad diets. Just because your best friend dropped hella pounds after eating cabbage soup for a month doesn’t mean that’s the solution for you.
Having PCOS means having a unique set of challenges to maintain a healthy weight. We found some diets that have been studied in women with PCOS that delivered real results. Here are a few…
Reduced Carbs and Dairy
Best for: Inflammation, blood sugar stabilization, weight loss, and hyperandrogenism. 
Women with PCOS are at risk for chronic low-grade inflammation. Eating foods like starchy carbs (think bread, pasta, and cereal) and dairy can make inflammation worse.
This can make a big impact on hormones – inflammation is often a culprit for imbalanced hormones.
Reducing carbs and dairy may help women with PCOS correct hormone imbalances. After following a low-starch, low-dairy diet, women had lower fasting insulin and testosterone levels.
Women who followed a reduced carb and dairy diet experienced weight loss and reduced body fat.
Eating Several Small Meals a Day
Best for: Reducing inflammation and stabilizing blood sugar. 
Instead of the traditional three meals per day, some experts recommend eating five small meals a day to help regulate blood sugar.
The key to this diet is eating foods with a low glycemic index (GI). Foods with a low GI are broken down slowly for fuel. This helps keep your blood sugar stable, minimizing sugar spikes. This is beneficial for women with PCOS insulin resistance.
To follow this type of diet, incorporate foods like:
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Lean meat and fish
Eating several small meals a day is effective when your diet is full of nutritious foods. Try swapping out junk food for foods that keep you fuller longer.
Best for: Improved menstrual cycles, insulin resistance, lower testosterone and cholesterol, and weight loss. 
The Mediterranean diet is widely recommended for women’s health – and it’s especially beneficial in women with PCOS. The general guideline for a Mediterranean diet is to eat lean proteins, fresh vegetables, and whole grains. Try incorporating foods like:
- Lean meat
- Whole grains
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Vegetable oils
- Reduced sodium foods
Women who followed a Mediterranean diet also had improved satiety. That’s the feeling of fullness after a meal, which can be interrupted by imbalanced metabolic hormones.
Women with PCOS are at risk for heart disease because of high cholesterol and chronic inflammation. When combined with a low-sodium diet, the Mediterranean diet may also reduce the risk of heart disease. Following a Mediterranean diet has similar results as a vegetarian diet for PCOS.
Best for: High testosterone, irregular menstrual cycles, insulin resistance, and weight loss. 
Have you ever been told to count calories to manage PCOS? As tedious as it may sound, research has found proven success with this diet approach.
One study showed that a hypocaloric diet may improve hormone imbalances in women with PCOS. The diet helped to reduce testosterone, which helps with ovulation. Women on a low-calorie diet began to have regular periods again. They also had improved insulin sensitivity, which helped with weight loss. 
In the study, women on a hypocaloric diet ate lean meats and non-starchy vegetables and eliminated fast food. Talk to your doctor before starting a low-calorie diet to understand your nutritional needs.
Best for: Weight loss and heart health. 
Some women with PCOS have had success with fasting diets for weight loss and reducing cardiovascular risk factors.
Dietary approaches like intermittent fasting and one meal a day (OMAD) give the digestive system longer periods of rest. This has been shown to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and cortisol.
This may be an effective diet for women with PCOS who are at risk for heart disease and inflammation. This type of diet isn’t right for everyone, though – so talk to your doctor before trying any type of fasting diet.
Food to Eat if You Have PCOS
Managing PCOS naturally is all about choosing foods that help to balance your hormones and reduce PCOS symptoms.
Getting insulin resistance under control helps manage inflammation, reduces the risk of diabetes, and gets your hormones balanced. To help manage insulin resistance, choose foods with:
- A low glycemic index (whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, beans)
- High fiber (beans and veggies)
- Lean protein (chicken or fish)
Eating a heart-healthy diet with low sodium and healthy fats may also prevent heart disease.
PCOS can lead to other health problems, so avoid potentially harmful choices like:
- Processed foods (chips and cookies)
- Starchy carbs (white breads, cereal)
- Refined sugar
- Fast food
- Sugary beverages like sodas, energy drinks, or sweet tea
Did you know hormone balance supplements can help reduce the symptoms of PCOS? Add S’moo Ovary Good to your next smoothie or recipe. The hormone-balancing blend helps women with PCOS get insulin resistance and sex hormones under control.
When combined with a healthy diet and exercise routine, S’moo customers have tackled PCOS hormone imbalances. They’ve successfully overcome weight challenges, hyperandrogenism, and irregular periods thanks to Ovary Good.*
Helpful Tips for Losing Weight with PCOS
Losing weight with PCOS is like running a slow, steady marathon. Will you have bumps in the road? Yes. Will it take some trial and error to find a solution that works for you? Absolutely.
As you find your weight loss plan, try an exercise routine that works for PCOS. Workouts like weight lifting keep your heart rate low and steady. This helps burn calories without causing cortisol spikes and inflammation.
Adding PCOS supplements to your diet may help get your hormones balanced. Check out Ovary Good by S'moo, a best-selling PCOS supplement that helps reduce the symptoms so you can live a more carefree life.
And while you’re on this marathon, remember it’s totally normal to have cravings and slip-ups. Eating a slice of pie at a family get-together isn’t the end of the world. Enjoy yourself!
*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.
- Causes - polycystic ovary syndrome
- Can insulin resistance cause weight gain?
- Serum Leptin and Ghrelin Levels in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Correlation with Anthropometric, Metabolic, and Endocrine Parameters
- Dietary pattern and polycystic ovary syndrome: A systematic review
- A controlled trial of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction in healthy, normal-weight, middle-aged adults
Written By: Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN