You’ve probably heard the phrase “food is medicine” before, right? It’s not exactly revolutionary, but we do tend to forget just how big a role diet plays in keeping our gears running. Eating balanced meals that are specific to our body’s needs makes such a huge difference—doubly so if you have a health condition like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS.
As I briefly touched on in my first PCOS story, the first thing I did after being diagnosed was change what I ate. I read up on what foods were good and bad for PCOS. It started with adding new things to my daily routine: more fruit, a few shots of ACV, more protein. Then, I slowly started to cut things out: high-sugar anything was the first to go, then refined carbs, then dairy.
Figuring out my nutritional needs continues to be a work-in-progress. But thankfully, after much trial-and-error, extensive research, and talks with my doctor + derma, I now have a pantry full of staples that work for me. Below, you’ll find a list of 13+ PCOS-friendly foods that make the bulk of my diet. Hope this helps!
If you have PCOS, consistently spiking your insulin levels could destabilize your hormones further. While the best thing would be to avoid sugar completely, it’s not always feasible—especially if you’re already a sweet tooth. One compromise I’ve found is to opt for low-glycemic alternatives.
Coconut sugar (1) and Manuka honey (2) are my faves: the first, because of its delicious caramel notes; and the second, because of all its additional health benefits. Still, even with these substitutes, I try to keep my sugar intake low, keeping it at no more than 10% of my daily calories.
TRY: Cocoro Sugar Cocoro Ivory (250g Pouch), P120, Manuka Health MGO 100+ Manuka Honey (250g), P1,500
PCOS hates processed foods rich in saturated fats and sodium, AKA 80% of the snack aisle at your local grocery. So, I tend to steer clear of all that. Instead, I stock my snack cabinet with guilt-free options that are minimally processed, contain little to no seed oils, and don’t go overboard on sugar, either.
Whenever I’m craving a salty treat, I reach for a bag of camote chips. Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and are generally more PCOS-friendly than white potatoes. For sweets, dried fruits are nature’s candy—as long as they’re free of added sugars! My pick: nutrient-rich Goji berries (4). They’re great in oats, trail mixes, or just straight out of the bag. When I want to snack on something slightly more indulgent, these Oatmeal Raisin Zooper Cookies (3) are plenty satisfying.
TRY: Healthy Tropics Camote Chips (100g Pouch), P100, Honest Junk Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, P110, The Green Tummy Organic Dried Goji Berries, P120
Theory has it that women with PCOS suffer from higher levels of inflammation due to higher androgens—which, as we know, spikes insulin. To counteract this, I load up on foods with potent anti-inflammatory capacities.
This includes apple cider vinegar (5) and matcha (6). ACV is rich in gut-friendly probiotics and vitamin C, which also help treat excessive bloating. Meanwhile, organic matcha not only tastes wonderful, it’s also loaded with the antioxidant polyphenol, which is a known anti-inflammatory. I love sippin’ on a hot cup for energy, too!
TRY: Bracha Apple Cider Vinegar, P160, The Superfood Grocer Matcha Green Tea Powder, P375
Because PCOS doesn’t play well with high blood sugar levels, we have to watch out for refined carbs, too. White rice, bread, and pasta are stripped of beneficial fiber that our body needs to keep blood glucose down. Since being diagnosed, I’ve started to save these types of carbs for extra special occasions.
So on a regular day, I go for sorghum (7), quinoa (8), brown rice (9), and/or whole wheat bread as my main carb sources. They’re mineral-rich, slow to digest (in a good way!), and come out very low in sugar—proof that you don’t have to quit carbs, a necessary fuel source, to stay fit and healthy.
TRY: Wholly Grain Sorghum Grains (1kg), P170, Manila Superfoods Organic White Quinoa (220g), P260, Fresh Start Organics Brown Rice (2kg), P331
Essential fatty acids help our bodies absorb vital nutrients, while rebalancing our hormones and controlling inflammation. Not only that, they can also help moisturize the skin from within. When you have PCOS, dry skin and acne can become an issue, so I supplement my diet with lots of omega-3’s to stay one step ahead.
Chia seeds (10) are a powerhouse of fiber, fat, and protein, and they’re pretty much flavorless, which make them super easy to mix into anything. I have them in my oats, energy balls, water, smoothies—just whatever I can slip ‘em into, TBH. Flax seeds (11) are a similar sitch, and they even aid in digestion. In general, I love nut butters in all their creamy (or crunchy) glory. But pure almond butter has the slightest edge thanks to its higher % of blood sugar-stabilizing monounsaturated fats.
TRY: The Superfood Grocer Chia Seeds (1/2 lb.), P350, The Green Tummy Flax Seeds (350g), P350, Seeds of Life Pure Almond Butter (200g), P350
Yes, research on dairy’s role in hormonal acne isn’t totally conclusive yet. Out of curiosity, though, I’ve experimented with having varying amounts of the stuff in my diet. What I found: my skin is at its clearest when I cut out milk, cheese, and everything in between.
As much as I love cow’s milk and every sweet thing you can make out of it, I love having healthy skin more. Thankfully, non-dairy options are more common now! I love having rice milk (12) in my coffee, chia seed puddings, and oats. Almond milk isn’t half bad, either. The former has a very mild taste and an almost watery consistency, which makes it a great base for almost anything. The latter is a lot creamier, but almonds can be overpowering, so I’m extra careful with measurements when I use it.
TRY: Dream Original Rice Milk (32oz.), P175, Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Unsweetened Original, P40
There’s no overstating the healing power of fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables. They’re natural antioxidants, they provide plenty of fiber and other essential nutrients, and they won’t tip the scale even if you have them in every meal. Regardless of your PCOS status, you need them in your diet. Just mind that fructose!
To get my daily dose of vitamins without overloading on sugar, I eat a ton of kiwis (13), oranges, and apples. They’re low-glycemic, satisfying, and less pricey than other fruits. For greens, I eat a lot of kale (note: they’re better cooked if you have PCOS!), Swiss chard, and arugula. A great rule of thumb to follow when picking out what greens to eat is: the darker they are, the more nutritionally dense they are.
Lastly, don’t skip protein. I mostly eat chicken breast, eggs, and salmon (also high in healthy fats!), with moderate amounts of soy (because the jury’s still out on whether or not it’s okay for PCOS). Protein is essential for optimal health—you need it to build and maintain muscle tissue, and to derive energy from throughout the day. Just make sure you’re keeping your sources lean and clean!
It’s a lot to take in, huh? Don’t worry: you don’t have to commit to all of this at once! It took me 8+ months to figure out what’s best for me, so take it easy and do your research. Leave yourself some wiggle room, too. Sometimes, little cheat meals here and there are well-deserved—you’ll go a little cuckoo if you’re too strict with yourself. Trust me, it happens!
As always, be sure to consult with your doctor first before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle. In any case, happy (and healthy!) shopping!
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