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The Right PCOS Diet

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By - Dr. Panchali Moitra (Woman and Child nutrition Expert)

Women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), are researched to be at a greater risk for heart diseases, obesity, diabetes and infertility. Among other factors, an optimum diet may serve as an essential treatment tool for effective management of PCOS and its related complications. This diet and PCOS relation gets emphasis because of the role diet can play in combating the insulin resistance, which happens among PCOS sufferers. The article is an attempt to highlight the role of diet in PCOS and also to provide certain practical guidelines for proper meal planning.

Insulin is a hormone which is produced in the pancreas with the primary function of converting the foods (especially carbohydrates) in to the energy. It helps in the transport of glucose to our muscles, fat and liver cells through blood stream. However, during PCOS, this function tends to get impaired, due to which the process of getting the glucose out of the blood into the cells gets affected. The result is that the body secretes more and more of insulin to get this excess glucose out of the blood and in turn creates havoc with the hormonal levels, ability to lose weight, LDL and triglycerides levels. Hence, the best way to treat PCOS and its symptoms would be to correct the underlying insulin resistance problem with diet, exercise and if needed, weight loss.

Studies have shown that losing only 5-10% of body weight can lead to substantial improvement in your skin health, menstrual cycle irregularity, response to insulin and even fertility issues. A typical low fat and high carb is not going to work for such patients as carbohydrates, especially the refined ones, will quickly get converted in to glucose and cause elevated blood glucose levels, which in turn will increase the insulin production and its related problems. The key to success for PCOS diet is a low glycemic index diet, which maintain a steady blood glucose levels and also help to reduce weight.

So what do you eat?

Well, the non-obese women with PCOS problem who get regular periods may eat a balanced diet with approx. 50-55% of calories from complex carbohydrates( whole grains, fruits and vegetables) and 20-30% from lean proteins( egg whites, whole pulses and low fat dairy products). However, an obese patient with insulin resistance may need to lower the carb intake to 40% and replace the carbohydrates with healthy mono unsaturated fats like omega 3 fatty acids (flax seeds, olive oil and fish). The diet plan should be tailored as per individual requirement and degree of insulin resistance and the effectiveness of the diet plan may be determined by factors such as improvement in menstrual cycle regularity, weight loss or decreased insulin levels.

A few dietary guidelines to combat PCOS

  1. Try to select lower glycemic index foods such as whole grains (jowar, bajra, whole wheat, green vegetables, etc) as they will cause a slower rise in blood sugar levels. For example, oat flakes or wheat daliah (10 gm fiber/1/2 cup) has a lower glycemic index than cornflakes (1 gm fiber/1/2 cup).Simply put, add fiber in your diet by selecting wheat breads over white breads, wheat rotis over rice or maida naans, fresh fruits over fruit juices.

  2. Do cut down your carbohydrate levels so low that you induce ketosis. Try to space the carbohydrates evenly through the day and eat small and frequent meals rather than 3 large meals.

  3. Restrict intake of those carbohydrates that trigger more hunger or cravings (i.e. refined sugar, sweets, candies or chocolates which triggers craving for some people). Choose dates or honey to meet your sugar cravings.

  4. Suggested vitamin / mineral supplements: Taking calcium 1000 mg - 1500 mg (take two - three 500 mg pills a day as prescribed but be sure to space them out as you can only absorb 500 mg at a time). You may also add a multivitamin with minerals like folic acid, especially so, if you are trying to get pregnant.

  5. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day as a high fiber carbohydrate intake can cause dehydration.

  6. For heart health, limit foods high in saturated and trans-fats (i.e., whole milk and products, butter, red meat, fried foods, rich desserts, etc.). Select mainly monounsaturated fats (i.e. olive oil, canola oil, nuts) and omega 3 fats -fatty fish (such as bangda, rohu, sardines, and surmai), flaxseed, and nuts as these fats are heart friendly.
Exercise on a regular basis to lose weight and improve insulin response. The above are just a few tips to guide you on a healthy path and to fight PCOS. An individualized diet strategy shall aid in lowering weight, decreasing the insulin resistance and also to improve your heart and over all health
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Payal.2 years ago
One of my friends has this problem. I think she needs to reduce her weight. Thanks for the insights on this issue!
.2 years ago
i m 23 age old.i m not married ....i m suffering pcos pro na....i following this diet mean..i m cure to this pro ah this is my mail id mam...pls reply mam...wat can i do mam
.2 years ago
Thank you Dr. Panchali Moitra for the tips you have given us. I have had pcos for many years and I cant seem to find the right help to sort this out. I am trying to fall pregnant for 7 years now. I just keep on putting on weight. I would really love your most appreciated help. And a full months diet for this problem please. Thank you.
.2 years ago
Thank you Dr. Panchali Moitra for the tips you have given us. I have had pcos for many years and I cant seem to find the right help to sort this out. I am trying to fall pregnant for 7 years now. I just keep on putting on weight. I would really love your most appreciated help. And a full months diet for this problem please. Thank you.
.2 years ago
Thank you Dr. Panchali Moitra for the tips you have given us. I have had pcos for many years and I cant seem to find the right help to sort this out. I am trying to fall pregnant for 7 years now. I just keep on putting on weight. I would really love your most appreciated help. And a full months diet for this problem please. Thank you.please contact me on e.mail=
Sultana Shaikh.3 years ago
Hi Doc, Thanks a lot for the information. I will be completing 26th year next month in June 2012.
I am a PCOS patient, since I have started getting period in 2000, it was very heavy flow, continuing for 1 months, more that 10 days, very heavy bleeding.
Doctors advised me to take Overal tablets. I have been taking overal tablets since 2004 till 5th May 2012. Married since May 2011.
I do not want to be pregnant for next 2 years. I have decided to quit Overal tablets as i am gaining weight. My height is 5.3 inches and weight is 70Kg.
Please please provide me a proper diet to loose weight and get out of this PCOS problem. Kindly write me on :

Thanks & Regards,
Sultana Shaikh
# 09920895209
Raj.5 years ago
Hi Doc. Im surprised how you categorize Jowar and wholemeal as low GI . Bajra is medium GI (60) while Jowar and Whole Wheat (Very high GI) are poison for PCOS Patients if taken daily . Doctors like yourself give advice to patients whitout themselves having good info . Very Sad on the part of your patients. and this is the only reasoc PCOS is not fully cured in India. For best info on PCOS visit the website - 'ovarian cysts no more'. This is whre u will find the best info. And Please spare innocent patients who trust on you fully to get their condition cured. Whoever says PCOS is not 100% curable. Refer to Ayurveds where its 100% cured .Visit the website i have given for proper info.
.5 years ago
Since last 10 yrs i'm suffering from pcos. Since then my wt gain is from 45kg to 72kg.I'm mother of one kid. I tried all types of exercise.My job is office job. I 'm vegeterian. i'll follow yr diet.
pinki.5 years ago
iam suffering from pcos in my right ovary n trying to get pragnant..but it is so difficult for me..(TTC - 3 year) i have belly fat rest of body part are ok...thanks for your suggest ..i will try my best to follow the diet..doc..if u like to give me any other suggestion it will be highly appreciated my id is
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