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PCOS Diet Vs. Normal Diet

I recently came across a piece of research that made me SO excited and I just have to share it with you as it could completely transform how you manage your PCOS. Now this research is a gem, a treasure to be looked after and worn close to your heart. It confirms that you don’t have to be a victim of PCOS but that you do have some power and control over what happens with your body. Are you ready for this?

The Gem

Diet and lifestyle changes are more effective than Clomid and Metformin in managing PCOS (1). I have always firmly believed this but to see it in black and white, evidenced in medical and scientific journals, validates my own approach to managing my PCOS. Researchers compared the effectiveness of Clomid, Metformin, Clomid combined with Metformin, and Lifestyle changes. They measured pregnancy rates and found that Clomid had a 12.5% pregnancy rate with Metformin being 14.4% and the Clomid and Metformin rate was 14.8%. Here is the amazing thing: Diet and lifestyle changes resulted in a 20% pregnancy rate! This is HUGE and so exciting.

Well, you might say that you aren’t trying to conceive. Why is this relevant for you? Pregnancy rates confirm that a woman has ovulated and if ovulation has occurred, hormones are probably balanced, testosterone levels have dropped and insulin is probably more under control. If that were to carry on over the long term, you can bet that weight loss, decrease in excess hair and improvements in acne are just around the corner. Sounds good, doesn’t it?!

Right, we have established that diet changes are key to managing PCOS. But just how should we be eating and what should our diet look like? Is it enough to eat a healthy diet or even follow a weight loss program? Will that help us manage our PCOS symptoms? Let’s try and answer these questions by looking at a sample Weight Watchers meal plan and a meal plan tailored to treat PCOS.

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The PCOS Diet Vs. a Normal Diet

Let’s have a look at what we might perceive to be a healthy diet as well as what some of the popular weight loss programs recommend. Before we get on to this, I want to make it clear that I am not against Weight Watchers or any other diet plan. I have tried Weight Watchers myself and enjoyed the program while I was on it. I am simply using Weight Watchers to illustrate a point.

Sample Weight Watchers Meal Plan

Before we get into the details of the meal plans, you’ll see that the sample Weight Watchers Meal Plans amounts to 909 calories per day. This is generally very low and not something that I would recommend myself. In the PCOS diet comparison, I have used similar caloric values as Weight Watchers to illustrate the difference in carbohydrate content and GL of both diets.

Here is a sample 1 day meal plan from Weight Watchers:

  • Breakfast: Crumpets with banana and honey – A toasted crumpet topped with 2 heaped tsps clear honey and a sliced banana.
  • Lunch: Cheesy Jacket Potato – Small jacket potato filled with 1 tbsp plain cottage cheese, mixed with chopped chives and spring onions. Serve with chopped cucumber and tomato on the side.
  • Dinner: Penne with Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes – Serve this hot or cold with a green side salad.

It looks great and sounds healthy enough, doesn’t it. But what if you have PCOS? Let’s take it meal by meal and consider what is happening with your hormones with these meals:

Breakfast: Crumpets with banana and honey

Crumpets are similar to a thick pancake made with yeast. Here is the nutritional break down of this meal:
WW breakfast

A glycemic load of 45 is HUGE and will cause a significant spike in your insulin levels. This will in turn cause your testosterone levels to rise and your PCOS symptoms will remain out of control. Also, as there is very little protein in this meal, your blood sugars are likely to crash, leading to cravings and needing to snack soon after this meal.

Lunch: Cheesy Jacket Potato

WW breakfast
The nutrition data for lunch looks good in terms of glycemic load. My only concern is that a significant percentage of the calories are coming from carbohydrates and the cheese is a concern as cheese tends to cause insulin levels to rise higher than we would expect based on it’s carbohydrate content.

Dinner: Penna pasta with spinach and sun dried tomatoes

WW breakfast
Dinner is another carbohydrate heavy meal with a glycemic value of 29 and a huge percentage of the calories coming from carbs. Your PCOS will not thank you for this meal, even though it seems very healthy and low in calories.

Can you see how these meals are thought to be healthy, and for the average women, would be. But women with PCOS have very different dietary needs to the average population and it is vital that we consider our specific needs when it comes to diets and foods. Although you may lose some weight on a plan like this as the calories are restricted, you may not lose as much as you could lose following a tailored PCOS diet and your symptoms will not be as well managed.

A Meal Plan tailored to suit a PCOS Diet

Now let’s have a look at a sample meal plan using PCOS friendly recipes.

  • Breakfast: Avocado and Raspberry Smoothie.
  • Lunch: Spiced Lentil, Walnut and Spinach Loaf, served with a green salad.
  • Dinner: Vegetable Stir fry with Cashews

Breakfast: Avocado and raspberry smoothie

WW breakfast
Whilst this smoothie may be high in fats, they are healthy fats, the building blocks of all of your hormones and are essential to your diet. This smoothie also has a low glycemic load and good balance of nutrients to get your day started. You’re unlikely to have a huge crash in your blood sugars which will really help to combat your carb cravings.

Lunch: Spiced Lentil, Spinach and Walnut Loaf served with a green salad

WW breakfast
Again, there is a better distribution of nutrients and a low glycemic load. The protein and fibre will help to keep you fuller for longer and will also regulate the metabolism of carbs, leading to a slower, more gentle rise in insulin levels. This will be kinder to your testosterone levels and this meal is therefore helpful for your PCOS symptoms.

Dinner: Vegetable stir fry with cashews

WW breakfast

Look at all of those amazing nutrients in this meal and the inflammation factor. Your body will literally be thanking you for this meal! Again, the glycemic load is low and there is a good balance of fats, carbs and proteins.

Totals for the Day

Weight Watchers Meal Plan

  • Total Calories: 909
  • Total Carbs: 177g
  • Glycemic Load: 92

Tailored PCOS Meal Plan

  • Total Calories: 898
  • Total Carbs: 94g
  • Glycemic Load: 34

 

Summing It Up

There is a difference of 11 calories (that’s the equivalent of 1 strawberry) in both of these meal plans. But the glycemic load of the PCOS meal plan is nearly a third of the Weight Watchers one and the carbohydrates are nearly half. I can guarantee you that you will lose more weight, have improved PCOS symptoms and better energy levels by following a meal plan tailored for your PCOS than you will by following a generic weight loss programme.

So, let’s sum up some of the key points of a healthy PCOS diet:

  • You need to manage your insulin levels to manage your testosterone and your PCOS symptoms.
  • Make sure you have a good balance of carbs, protein and fats.
  • Avoid highly refined foods and go for lower GI options.
  • Dairy is a no-no (find out more here).
  • No added sugar and if possible avoid sweeteners as these have been shown to raise insulin levels (3) even though they have a very low caloric value.
  • Focus on all of the amazing vegetables, lean meats and whole foods you can eat.

You may think this kind of diet is restrictive at first, but when you start to feel your energy levels rise, your PCOS symptoms improve and the weight finally begin to shift, you will love that your food has literally become your medicine. It does take effort to prepare healthy meals but I would rather spend time cooking amazing meals that will beat my PCOS than grab a quick take away and suffer the effects on my weight, skin and fertility.

Remember that following a tailored PCOS diet and exercising regularly is more effective than medication for managing your PCOS!

If you need any recipe ideas or help with making these changes to your diet, PCOS Foodies gives you all of the information and support that you need to make those changes. Check it out!

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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

Table of Contents

124 Responses

124 Responses

  1. Hi Tarryn

    I have joined pcosfoodies a little more than 2 weeks ago after reading all the info on your website. I have planned and followed 2 weeks so farI do find the tool great to work with but everything in me screams I am eating to much fat! Especially with the coconut oil and coconut milk (can’t do the almond milk taste). Is this normal to eat and will it not actually make me gain weight? I do follow all the other guidelines as much as possible. Giving up definitely the most difficult for me, I do like feta cheese and milk in my coffee.

    I am South African currently living in the UK. I have had one period in the 6 months since I left my contraceptives. My gynea gave me provera, metmorfin and Clomid in December when I was in SA. I am currently busy with this but are also making the dietary changes.

    I do struggle a bit with the mealplans as I need to consider my husband’s meals and long work hours. I am determined to do this to get pregnant but also to manage my health. Any further advice on the high fats, where I can find additional pcos friendly recipes?

  2. I forgot to tell 2 things
    I drink apple cider vinegar tonic ( 1 glass of water + 1 spoon acv) daily
    And an ayurvedic tonic 2 spoons 2 times a day

  3. Hello tarryn ,I was diagnosed with pcos I’m 20. My doctor suggested me bcp .but I’m not going to take it.bcoz of some anxiety in early 19 .I think am suffering from it. I believe I can cure it with my diet and exercise.
    Plz check my eating plan
    Breakfast- oatmeal with powdered cumin in it , boliled veggies sauted in coconut oil with ginger garlic paste,turmeric,onions cinnamon along with it and 3 spoons of curd

    Lunch – wheat bread with vegetable and salad (broccoli ,beans ,carrots ,peas , 1 spoon of apple cider vinegar,salt paper, black seasame seeds powdered )in moderation
    Snacks – nuts ( almonds- about 6 , 2 walnuts ,1 fig) or 1 serving of fruit (apple , pear or whichever my dad brings home)

    Dinner – one barley chappati with 1 bowl of lentils with some pieces of raddish

    Exercise – 40 mins morning and 30-40 mins evening everyday.

    PlzZZ TELL AM I DOING RIGHT ??PLZZ REPLY .IM AN INDIAN.

  4. Just wanted to let you know that weight watchers has recently redone their points system and now sugars are a big factor in points. Unfortunately, this still does not address low calorie or zero calorie sweeteners, but it’s an improvement!

  5. I agree. I have PCOS and followed the dash diet and I love it. I consulted with a nutritionist for my PCOS and was told I am doing everything correctly. I do eat dairy, at a minimum and when I do it is low fat, and low proccessed. Starting metformin this week. Excited for progress.

  6. Hi Tarryn, I am a Danish girl, diagnosed with PCOS, and I am following and reading your newsletters with great interest.
    We don’t have a lot of focus on PCOS in Denmark, so I have struggled a lot with what diet I needed to follow. Not long ago I got this recipe from a Danish website. It is a very tasty, lovely bread and it is good for people with PCOS because it does not contain any flour at all. Only lots of seeds, eggs and some oil! I have tried to translate the recipe into English, but please excuse my bad English. I do however hope, that you will understand the meaning of the text though.
    I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 23 years old. My doctors told me that I was not going to have any children, as my PCOS was “very strong”. 10 years later I had twins, a boy and a girl, due to fertility treatment.My twins are now 12 years old. 3 years ago I thought I had cancer, went to my doctor who ran a lot of tests. He told me it was definitely not cancer.. Instead I was 34 weeks pregnant with my 3 child. No fertility treatment was needed, “she “arrived” all by herself”…!! So despite my PCOS and the forecast of not having any children at all, I am so happy to say that I am a proud mother of 3 now. I hope all of you fighting to become pregnant will be as Lucky as I was. 🙂 Take care and thank you for a wonderful website. Greetings from Henriette in Denmark

    Paleo bread

    ingredients
    100 grams of pumpkin seeds
    100 grams of sunflower seeds
    100 grams of almonds
    100 grams of walnuts
    100 grams of linseed
    100 grams of sesame seeds
    5 medium sized EGGS
    1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
    2 teaspoons of salt

    method

    1.Mix all the ingredients – except oil – together in a bowl including the 5 eggs. Stir properly.
    2.Mix in oil. Stir properly, so the oil is well distributed into the other ingredients
    3. put the batter in a greased form
    4.Bake the bread for one hour at 160 degrees Celcius in the middle of a preheated oven
    5. Let the loaf stand for 2-4 minutes in the bowl so that the oil is distributed back to the bread and thus it will “let go” of the bowl more easily. Alternately use a cooking sheet

  7. Hi Tarryn,
    Very useful website.I have been diagnosed with PCOD 1 month back.I am 31 yrs and planning for a baby.Doc has put me on metformin,folinext and APCOD sachet for 4 months.I am 22 kgs overweight and a working professional.I am 5 ft 5 in and weighs 73 kgs now Since last one month, I have lost 5 kgs after regular exercise and following healthy diet.I take 2-3 chappatis( made of wheat) once during lunch, apple & oats/barley in breakfast.In dinner, I take 1 bowl of veggies ( spinach, beans,cabbage,carrots,eggplant,tomatoes). Is my diet regime ok? my LH/FSH ratio is 3:1, thyroid is 2.49.Pls guide me any other precaution need to be taken??

    Thanks,
    S Mohapatra

    1. Hi Mohapatra
      I was diagnosed with PCOS 6 years ago. I am 29 years old now. The diet you are following seems to be alright. I am glad u were able to reduce 5 kgs . After trying lot of diet and lifestyle changes I am finally getting my periods regularly without any medicines after 6 years and I am ovulating too. I follow gluten free diet and I have eliminated chapathis and rice from my diet. I drink green smoothies for breakfast. I eat lot of fruits when ever i am hungry.That helped a lot. I Add at leat one green and any berries in my diet.I have veggies. Preferably raw rather than cooked. I have ragi (nachin) porridge and brown rice regularly. NO to diary products. I replace dairy milk with coconut milk or almond milk. I exercise regularly and take no stress. Lifestyle changes has helped me a lot.Hope this information has helped you.

  8. I’m ecstatic that you have a website that covers just about EVERYTHING that I need to know to handle this illness! It’s so exciting knowing I have all the resources right here. Definitely worth the price for all the information you give! Do you have the recipe for the Raspberry Avocado smoothie? That sounds ahh-mazing!

  9. I found out I had PCOS about 6 months ago. Since then, I’ve tried Metformin, birth control and a diabetes diet.

    It makes such a difference in the way I feel that it’s hard for me to go back.

    I can’t eat really heavy foods that are loaded with grease and carbs or I feel horrible!

    to any one who isn’t sure about the diet or just doesn’t wanna give up the old diet. Just know that like the article says… It’ll become your medicine.

    I dont need the metformin anymore. & I take BC only cause I dont want kids and it helps to maintain my mood!

    1. Hey Tarryn,
      I was diagnosed with Pcos in school. I managed it by losing about 8kgs. Im 5’3 and weigh about 47.5kgs since about a year now. I have been taking metformin and with a lifestyle change, regular workouts and a good diet I managed to get my periods regularly. But I recently stopped metformin when I shifted for further studies and after two months I’m having an irregular menstrual cycle again. I’m not sure what I may be doing wrong. My diet did change a bit afted I shifted from India and in the first two months I ate quite some pasta and some sweets here and there but always made healthy versions of pastas. However, I have stopped pastas now and also trying to again get back to a low sugar, low carb, no dairy and soy diet. Do you think I should start metformin again? Also, will this sudden bad diet phase affect my pcos badly?

      Hoping to receive a response from you. Thankyou!
      Warm Regards,
      Yashashree

  10. i am suffering for pcos, my both ovaries are infected very badly. i am getting heavier, my head i getting blad. my feeling sick evertime. i am doing excercise, controlling food. but my weight is not loosing. i am 22 afraid to live. i am becoming a burden to my family. physically i am not fit, mentally am getting dipressed alot. i hate this life. because of my health issues

      1. There is hope! I was diagnosed with PCOS 18 years ago at age 14 and told I would probably never have children. I have never taken medication other than birth control, I used diet alone to have 3 beautiful boys. Stop eating all sugar and control carbs as if you were a diabetic. You absolutely can have children even with hard-to manage PCOS. I’m now getting a hysterectomy to be done with the periods now that I’ve had my kids, but many women find the PCOS easier to manage after a successful pregnancy. Best of luck to you. You are not a burden, you should be valued for WHO you are not what you do, if weight and health issues make u a burden I would suspect your family members are possibly narcissists.

  11. Hi Tarryn,

    Most of your posts have till date seconded my Doctor’s advise. But had few queries. Iam from India, and the meal components you have suggested are not much available in India. Can you please suggest few commonly available components so that i can plan my PCOS diet.

    Thanks a lot for your help till date!

  12. Tarryn,
    I know that getting the articles that you link to can be very expensive, but here is a way around it that sometimes works! Go to http://www.scholar.google.com and put in the title of the article you are interested in. If there is a hit to the article, check if there is a link to a html or pdf file on the right hand side – this will link it to a free copy. Many papers get posted on various websites and sometimes you can get a hold of the complete papers this way.

    Btw, thank you so much for putting together this wonderful resource. I was diagnosed with PCOS a few years ago but have had amenorrhea since I was a teenager. I have shifted my diet and started taking DCI, folic acid, NAC, and saw palmetto and for the first time in my life I don’t suffer insane cravings and my sweet tooth has gotten so much more manageable. As I am 37 and currently trying to get pregnant (just had my second IUI this past weekend) your site has provided a sense of empowerment and control of my PCOS that makes me feel like a baby may be a possibility despite my PCOS so thank you!

  13. Wondered what site or app you got the nutrition breakdown from? I’ve tried a couple and they were very frustrating. Thanks in advance

  14. Great information! Thanks for sharing. Where did you find those nutrional charts for each meal.. wondering if I can track foods I am eating …and see GI and anti-imflam numbers. Thanks

  15. Hi,
    I am really struggling. I don’t eat breads or pasta or rice. I’m not intolerant they just make me feel bloated. I pretty much live on salad. Love love love lettuce. I do have 1 coffee a day with both sugar and milk. I have take away pizza once every 2 weeks but can only eat one slice or I feel bloated. reakfast is normally left over steamed zucchini and carrot from the night before with that coffee but then I won’t feel hungry again until 4ish and then I will grab a small green apple. Dinner tonight was a grilled piece of snapper with steamed beans broccoli, carrot and zucchini which I ate hardly any of and put in the fridge to try again in the morning. I have kids but am having issues conceiving, we have been trying for 13 months but with 3 periods in that time it’s not looking good. I have had pcos since I was 20 but aside from just living with it and having surgery when my ovary burst from having too many cysts there has not been anything done till my last pregnancy and he is now 16 months. I have the hair growth and acne and dermis cycsts and weigh 121kgs. How can I be this fat when I eat so very little and have no desire to eat? I’m always on the go with 5 kids, just sitting to write this is a long time not moving for me. I’m now 33 and have had to be the fat chick for so long. It’s sorta getting on top of me….please help….

    1. I would see your doctor. It seems you are sensitive to gluten, and I would see a doctor for that because you may have celiac disease. Also, eating too little calories can negatively impact your health. You should be eating AT LEAST 1200 calories a day for an average women and if overweight even more. I would see a fertility endocronolgist because they can help you with medication or diet advice to help you conceive. Best of luck.

  16. Hi Tarryn,
    I have been taking metformin for about an year now. The doctor prescribed it to me even though I am not overweight nor have ierregulate perriods. I only have problems conceiving a baby and my ovarries looked polychystic. All my hormones look good except the testosterone levels. I got to your article when I decided to give up the treatment and go for a diet change. The only problem is I don’ t want to loose weight , as I am 110,23 pounds and 5,48 feet. I generaly eat pretty healthy, lots of vegetables, fruits, pasta,long rice, Olive oil, nuts, fish, spices but I also have milk, butter and blue cheese from time to time . I am not a big fan of meat so I avoid it as often as I can. Also sweets don’t appeal to me. I usually have some dark chocolate. So what I am asking is how can I balance my hormones without giving up my almost vegetarian diet and without losing weight? I am willing to give up diary and have whole grain pasta.
    Thank you,
    Alina

    1. Almond milk and coconut milk are good substitutes. They both have more calcium and don’t contain the hormones that cow milk does.

  17. Is that an app that you have for your phone that displays the glycemic load? I was curious if you’ve found one that you like.

  18. Hi all,
    I have blood glucose issues due to PCOS. (It drops when I eat carbs.. I’m guessing this is because they cause my bg to spike, which causes my insulin to spike and overcompensate, which causes my bg to fall quickly.) I have switched to a low carb no added sugar diet.. but am still nervous about some foods. I see that New Potatoes are on the meal plan.. I know regular potatoes are very starchy.. What is the difference nutrition-wise?

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