Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. Many women with PCOS find they’re able to manage their symptoms and reduce their risk of other medical concerns by controlling their diet and lifestyle choices.

How Does Your Diet Affect PCOS

Women with PCOS are often found to have higher than normal insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone produced in the pancreas that allows cells to use glucose, your body’s primary energy supply. If you don’t produce enough insulin, your blood sugar levels can rise. This can also happen if you’re insulin resistant, meaning you aren’t able to use the insulin you do produce effectively.

When you are insulin resistant your body may try to pump out high levels of insulin in an effort to keep your blood sugar levels normal. Too-high levels of insulin can cause your ovaries to produce more androgens. This causes your testosterone to rise causing difficulty with ovulation.

Insulin resistance may also be caused by having an above the normal range of body mass index (BMI). Women with PCOS often experience difficulty losing weight, because insulin resistance can make it hard even when you are physically active if your diet is not the right one for your needs.

A diet high in refined carbohydrates, such as starchy and sugary foods, can make insulin resistance, and therefore weight loss, more difficult to control.

Which Foods Should You Avoid With PCOS

  1. Foods high in refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates cause inflammation, exacerbate insulin resistance, and should be avoided or limited significantly. These include highly-processed foods, such as white bread, muffins, bagels, breakfast pastries, sugary desserts, baked goods made with white flour, white potatoes, white rice. Pasta that list semolina, durum flour, or durum wheat flour as their first ingredient is high in carbohydrates and low in fiber. You should avoid it in your diet.
  2. Sugary snacks and drinks. Sugar is a carbohydrate and should be avoided wherever possible. When reading food labels, be sure to look for sugar’s various names. These include sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose. Sugar is also present in the things you drink, such as soda and juice.
  3. Inflammatory foods. It’s a good idea to reduce or remove inflammation-causing foods, such as fries and other fried foods, margarine, and red or processed meats from your diet as well.

Your Lifestyle

PCOS responds positively to proactive lifestyle choices. This includes regular exercise and daily physical movement. Both can help to reduce insulin resistance, especially when incorporated with a diet that limits the intake of unhealthy carbohydrates.

Daily activity, low sugar intake, and a low-inflammation diet may also lead to weight loss. With weight loss, many of your symptoms will get better.

The symptoms associated with PCOS can cause stress. Stress is known to induce overeating. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body, including metabolism and the immune response. It also has a very important role in helping the body respond to stress. When you’re stressed cortisol can make you crave sugary, salty and fatty foods making you overeat and therefore making your insulin go all over the place.


If you have PCOS or any of its symptoms, you may feel frustrated at times. Taking proactive steps regarding your health can improve your mood as well as reduce your symptoms. One of the best ways to do this is to create a plan in which you will improve your diet by avoiding the trigger foods, eat a diet appropriate for your symptoms, incorporate exercise into your daily routine, get enough sleep and limit stress as much as possible.