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PCOS Superfoods – I’m particularly fond of #2

We live in an increasingly health conscious society where we are becoming more aware of how food can impact on our bodies and well being, healing us or putting us at risk of disease. Superfoods are becoming increasingly popular for their touted health benefits. Well, let’s have a look at some PCOS superfoods that may help us manage our symptoms.

It’s important that we eat well-balanced, healthy whole foods and incorporating some of these foods into your diet will help to improve some of your symptoms. This list is by no means definitive but it is a good place to start. I make sure that they also frequently appear in my weekly meal plans.

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Avocados

Avocados have gotten some bad press in recent years as it is considered to be fairly high in fat. While this is true, the fats contained in avos are healthy fats and are actually anti-inflammatory in nature (1). This anti-inflammatory property is important in terms of PCOS as we are prone to chronic inflammation (2). One study even suggests that “inflammation directly stimulates the polycystic ovary to produce androgens.” (3) Yikes that doesn’t sound good! Inflammation is also problematic as it increases our resistance to insulin, making our symptoms worse (4).

Another aspect of avocados is that they help with the absorption of oil-based nutrients and carotenoids in particular. So, adding avocados to your salad will ensure that you are getting maximum nutrients from your salads and foods. (1)

Nuts

PCOS-Superfood-nutsFor a long time I have been enjoying nuts regularly as a snack. I find them filling and are not likely to spike my insulin levels as they have a low glycemic index and actually lower the glycemic index of other foods you might be eating at the same time (Eg: an apple with a handful of nuts will have a lower GI than the apple on it’s own) (5)

But, it gets even better… There was a recent study of 31 women with PCOS (6). They were divided into two groups: one group received walnuts and the other got almonds. They ate these nuts daily for a 6 week period. The results were very interesting.

Researchers found that the women in the walnut group had increased sex hormone-binding globulin. This is important because SHBG binds to testosterone and lowers the amount of free testosterone in the blood (7) which will help to improve our overall symptoms.

The women in the almond group has lower androgen or testosterone levels. So, it looks like nuts are a really healthy snack to introduce into your PCOS diet. Just be aware that they are quite high in calories (22 almonds is about 160 calories) (8) .

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a wonderfully versatile spice that can be enjoyed on both sweet and savoury foods. The good news is that it is also great for your Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Here’s why:

The first thing is that research has been shown to lower blood glucose in people with Type 2 diabetes. We know that this is important as many of us are insulin resistant and are at rick of becoming diabetic. The study showed that cinnamon consumption results in a lower demand for insulin (9). (Insulin acts on our ovaries to produce testosterone so if we can manage our insulin levels, we’ll be able to better manage our testosterone (10)

To take that one step further, there was another piece of research done on 45 women with PCOS. They found that women who taken cinnamon daily have nearly twice as many periods and two of the women in the study fell pregnant spontaneously (11)

I know what you’re going to ask me now: “How much should you have?” Well, the first piece of research suggests 3g of cinnamon per day. That’s just over half a teaspoon. I see many spiced almond milk lattes in my future, interspersed with cups of spearmint tea to ensure variety!

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar PCOS superfoodsI’ve been making a lot of gluten free breads recently as I try to find alternatives for my carb-loving daughter. One of the staple ingredients in these breads (see Elana’s Pantry for some delicious ideas) is apple cider vinegar. I have heard that it is good for PCOS but have not really researched it, until now…

It seems that apple cider vinegar improves sensitivity to insulin (12) So, taking ACV before a meal will reduce your blood sugar levels after the meal, as well as the amount of insulin needed to cope with the meal. Not only that, but it also helps to prevent sharp rises and falls in your blood sugars and insulin. Hmmmmm, I wonder if that would help with carb cravings? A quick Google search tells me that lots of women feel it does help with cravings.

So, how should we take it? Firstly, find an organic one so it’s free of nasties. Secondly, 20 g (roughly 2 tablespoons) in water before meals is what was used in the research. Might be worth a try?

Salmon

Did you know that 67-85% of women with PCOS are vitamin D deficient(13)? So basically, most of us. Also, the symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Ovulatory and menstrual irregularities
  • Lower pregnancy success
  • Hirsutism
  • Hyperandrogenism
  • Obesity
  • Elevated cardiovascular disease risk factors

 

Sounding a little too familiar isn’t it?

Well, there are very few dietary sources of Vitamin D but salmon happens to be the best source, with 4oz of salmon providing 127% of your recommended daily intake. (14)

Not only that, salmon (especially wild salmon as opposed to framed salmon) is also high in Omega 3 which is known to help lower testosterone levels in women with PCOS (15)

So, why not have at least one serving of salmon per week to help battle your PCOS?

Summing it Up

PCOS-Superfood-AntioxidantsNot one food is ever going to manage all of our symptoms but by incorporating a variety of healthy foods into our diet we will be better able to manage our symptoms.

So, to sum it up, why not try for a couple of servings of each of the following:

 

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Cinnamon
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Salmon

 

If there are any other PCOS Super foods that you enjoy as part of your PCOS friendly diet, please let me know by leaving me a comment below!

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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.

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39 Responses

39 Responses

  1. All of the foods you mentioned in this article are some of my favorite things to eat as often as possible. I will have avocado today and salmon in the near future. I typically have cinnamon everyday in my morning smoothie but I do need to eat nuts more regularly.

  2. I would love the recipe for those lattes too!…I have a sensitive stomach and acv usually would upset my stomach but i found a recipe that i wanted to share…its delicious…in a quart jar mix…2Tbl acv…1Tbl lime juice concentrate…some truvia to sweeten…fill the rest with water and ice shake and enjoy…it helps my cravings and helps suppress my appetite…

  3. You should remove avocado. I was eating it regularly and it caused my symptoms to be MUCH worse. In fact, I twice didn’t ovulate while eating it and ended up with an ovarian cyst in each of the cycles (not the PCOS kind). I believe it is due to the trigger of testosterone – something us PCOS ladies do not want.
    My acne also flared up while eating it.
    This is just from opinion and experience but I believe that the trigger of testosterone outweighs any anti-inflammatory effect, in terms of negative reaction.

  4. Hi. ACV gives me bad indigestion. I would really like to use ACV because of it benefits how can i combat the indigestion naturally?

  5. My Salads always consist of avocados and Salmon I have at least three times a week! My Smoothies are never complete without a dash of cinnamon. My “cheat snack” is nutella with my fruits. Periods have been on point, no longer on the pill or metformin and Im feeling great. Currently TTC.

  6. Hello Tarryn,

    I really appreciate about all the information that you share with us. I loved this article. I was in a debate about Apple Cider Vinegar. But after reading this article, I am sure that I will start taking ACV daily. I have one question regarding that. Is it okay to drink ACV if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant?

    Thanks!

  7. Hi Tarryn

    It’s interesting that you mention cinnamon! My great-grandmother taught my mom to take a teaspoon full of cinnamon for menstrual cramps. It really helps! I used to mix it in some ice cream, but will have to find a dairy free alternative now. Maybe with almond milk for adouble whammy!

    1. Best way to incorporate Cinnamon to your diet is by sipping hot Cinnamon tea. Which relaxes you as well as gives you the benefits of this wonderful spice. I myself have PCOS and started taking this tea on a daily basis, and it improved the regularity of my cycles. It does help. Avoid dairy, add lots of veggies like beetroot, kale, celery, sweet potatoes, fruits (avoid having too much sweet fruits like grapes, or bananas though). I am drinking a smoothie every day before having my breakfast and works wonders to me. All you have to do is blend:
      – Beetroot (half)
      – Apple (1 full)
      – Orange (1 full) (Vitamin C to increase absorption of Iron from Beetroot)
      – Handful of strawberries/ or kiwi (1 full)
      – Half chopped celery
      – 1 leaf of kale/ a handful of baby spinach
      – 1 table spoon of sunflower seeds/ pumpkin seeds (optional) – You can add them to your diet as a sack to munch
      – 2 inch ginger
      – Half lemon juice
      It will give you approximately 1 full large glass of smoothie. Mix water of drink it like this. Your choice.

      Drink this on a daily basis, and soon you will form a habit. I have seen positive results in just 4 months of drinking this combined with brisk walking while catching the bus to office in the morning and in evening. I have seen improvement in hair, skin and bowl movements too.

  8. I also have PCOS and have recently started drinking shakeology and have seen such amazing results that I am now a consultant for the product. It’s made a huge difference in my pcos symptoms and has regulated my cycle and helped me lose weight and start an excercise regime. I’d love to help you ladies our in one of my support groups! Contact me through my blog!

  9. I have PCOS and Oral allergy syndrome. Allergic to nuts, fruit and veg. Some fish and spices also dairy. Can anyone help me as im trying to lose weight and it seems impossible i cnt exercise due to pseudoarthrosis in my lower spine.

    1. Supplements are needed. I started Myo-insolitol recently and it has been amazing! You need to talk to your doctor, but I would guess you can get some nutrients in pill form without triggering the allergies.
      Any cardio in the morning 20 – 30 minutes will boost metabolism and you will burn more all day. Walking, eliptical, pool walking, anything that increases your heart rate.
      I pray you will find success. Just remember, it is slow with PCOS so don’t compare to others. Just do something daily for your health and try more as you can.

      1. Hi Amanda, I started taking Myo-inostiol as well and I totally noticed a difference in my cycles mainly but do you know if it’s safe to continue taking during pregnancy? I am currently TTC. I haven’t asked my dr. Because he didn’t seem to know much about the supplement.

        1. Cynthia, it is safe to take during pregnancy and has some really good protective benefits for you and baby.

  10. Thank you Lei, all this is helpful but it is definitely going to be hard with 3 kids at home and a husband who eats crap!. I looked up the whole30 diet and I have a ton of questions on that as well. I mean, ingredients are key. Which oil to use, bacon is okay? etc.. I don’t know. I am going to try and do the Whole 30 right away but for example, I read a recipe I would like to make.

    The Carribean plantain and meat casserole, it says to use oil. Which oil? any kind?

    Help..

    1. Avacado, coconut and macadamia oils are good for cooking, olive oil is good for salads. Just avoid canola and other processed oil. If you google “whole30 can I have” you will find answers to most of your questions

    2. Georgina – Sit down and have a family meeting (if your kiddos are old enough), and discuss that as a household you will ALL be making a diet change to live a more healthy lifestyle. Show them videos (there are hundreds online) of what happens to your body when you eat toxic chemical filled foods. Explain the benefits of eating all natural, and organic (remember “organic” labels to NOT mean the packaged food is all natural!), and together box everything up that is in your pantry/cupboards and donate it. Then go shopping together to pick healthy food options. The more you get them involved, the easier it will be. Be 100% firm, if you allow exceptions (chips, cookies, ice cream, etc), they will never fully commit.

      I guarantee that after just 1-3 months of eating better they will be on board. After 6 months let them eat something processed like fast food. They will be really surprised to find it doesn’t taste good, and will likely make them feel sick after.

      It is a lot easier for you to commit to a PCOS diet if a majority of the (processed) temptations are gone. For me, we still have PCOS no-nos in natural varieties (i.e. cheese, homemade cookies and other sweet treats) and the few times I have slipped and cheated, I immediately felt the results. They were so unpleasant that I have no desire to “cheat” anymore. Cheese pizza was my hardest o give up, but now I can easily be around others eating it with absolutely no desire to take a bite, because I remember the stomach pain, bloating, worst-of-my-life-migraine, and horrible cystic acne breakout from including in (even all natural versions) of foods I shouldn’t eat. It seems that my body became even more intolerant once I had gotten all the garbage out of my system because the reactions were intense and immediate.

      Plus once you family sees how much better you (and they) feel after making the lifestyle change, it will get easier and easier to reject unhealthy options. Our kiddos are fully committed now and when at places that offer unhealthy foods (parties, church, groups, etc), they politely decline and offer to share whatever healthy foods they brought. As a mom, it makes me feel good to see these changes in action, knowing they will grow up healthier that I ever was, and will hopefully pass that along to others.

      1. Your children will adjust. Make it fun, include them in planning and preparing.
        Have a serious conversation with your hubby about your health risks…heart attacks, stroke…they are real with PCOS, as well as his health. You can take control of what is in the kitchen. You take control of what is purchased and cooked. Don’t make two meals, just cook healthier for all. After a few weeks they will see benefits too.
        My kids have a drawer of their candy…maybe make a drawer for yours. I don’t open it and decreases my temptations. Feeding your family is an act of love, so it should be healthy.

  11. Hello again, frozen yogurt usually has as much sugar, or at least almost as much, as ice cream. in Australia we have a coconut milk yogurt and ice cream brand which is only sweetened by whole berries but I haven’t been able to find it since arriving in the US, it all has added sugar. Some people will do things like make “ice cream” out of frozen bananas with peanut butter or honey added but again all those bananas are really high in sugar. The key is to just stop trying to substitute for a while.

    It isn’t all bad news! For breakfast this morning I had the nicest smoothie which was just a cup and a half of unsweetened almond milk, a tablespoon of coconut oil, half a cup of frozen berries, half a banana and a tablespoon of raw cacao powder. I bet it could be frozen to turn into an ice-cream style food:) May need more coconut oil for the icecream texture tho..

    Have you checkout out the whole30? It’s an elimination diet that really helped me and seems to do great things for others too. It’s strict! But it may be a good way to break your habits

  12. Leis. Thank you so much for your recommendations. It will be hard to let go of sugar as I need something to take the bitterness out of tea and coffee.. Need my coffee though.

    Love Ice cream and haven’t had any because of the sugars :((

    Frozen yogurt?

    How about bread for my kids? my oldest is one that loves PBJ :(( I buy the regular jif and the regular wheat bread.. jeez it is so hard..

    1. Hello again, frozen yogurt usually has as much sugar, or at least almost as much, as ice cream. in Australia we have a coconut milk yogurt and ice cream brand which is only sweetened by whole berries but I haven’t been able to find it since arriving in the US, it all has added sugar. Some people will do things like make “ice cream” out of frozen bananas with peanut butter or honey added but again all those bananas are really high in sugar. The key is to just stop trying to substitute for a while.

      It isn’t all bad news! For breakfast this morning I had the nicest smoothie which was just a cup and a half of unsweetened almond milk, a tablespoon of coconut oil, half a cup of frozen berries, half a banana and a tablespoon of raw cacao powder. I bet it could be frozen to turn into an ice-cream style food:) May need more coconut oil for the icecream texture tho..

      Have you checkout out the whole30? It’s an elimination diet that really helped me and seems to do great things for others too. It’s strict! But it may be a good way to break your habits

      1. There are quite a few options in the US for coconut milk based ice cream. I am not sure where you are located, but in northern Ca they sell them at Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Nob Hill, and Safeway.

        Here are a few brands that I have seen:

        http://coconutbliss.com/coconut-bliss-products

        This one offers almond, coconut or soy based ice cream – though most with PCOS should avoid the soy:

        http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/product_groups/dairy-free-desserts

        Trader Joes and Whole Foods both have ha store branded version. Personally I think the So Delicious, and the Trader Joes versions taste the best. There aren’t a whole lot of flavor options, at least not as many as traditional ice cream, but that is actually a good thing. The less creative flavors means little/no artificial ingredients.

        Hope that helps!

  13. Tarryn Thank you so much for everything on your site. Everything is helpful. I am new to the website myself but I also have a tons of questions. However, I wanted to share a bit of my story.

    I actually lost track on when I started with PCOS. I was diagnosed, and for a while was in denial because it is not in my family (not that I know of) and I wondered why me. I have learned to live with it but have had a hard time with weight loss after my first child.

    I was always a size 2,4,6 when younger and worked out like crazy and when I decided to try and have babies I was told I had to stop working out so much and so I did. I had 4 miscarriages and all I thought was, it is my fault for waiting until I am 32years of age to have kids. Anyhoo, almost got on clomid and finally got pregnat the week right before I was supposed to start on clomid.

    Had Gyanni at 32, then I had Chloe at almost 34 and I just had Dallas 8 months ago at 37. They are all my blessings and I would not change a thing. After Gyanni however, it seems liked the PCOS got worst in the sense that my weight did not shed at all and so something just hit me that it must be the way I was eating (especially with a husband that could eat anything and still stay thin). I knew SUGAR was a huge culprit, I love sweets and I wasn’t sure if it was me talking or PCOS talking.

    I have now started to view my way of eating very closely and try my best to avoid sweets but it is hard with kids…
    I now know I could use coconut milk or almond in my coffee. I have the coconut vanilla, maybe I should change it to unsweetened.

    What about sugar? I use splenda and Tarryn suggests we stay away from artificial sweeteners. I go on virtuosteas.com to order my organic teas and they have a german rock sugar and pure raw honey. Should I try those?

    Protein shakes? I use Shakeology shakes but they do contain some whey? where could I purchase the pea and hemp powders?

    Bread? I use the light wheat pepperidge farm but just read the label, it has high fructose and wheat gluten :((

    I love dark chocolate? can I get a way with a small piece a day–maybe get organic one from Trader Joe’s?

    Ice Cream??

    I just started back up again as I had my 3rd csection and I try to work out 4-5 days per week. I do T25 at home and sometimes extra cardio and have joined a gym near work and I sneak out at work and get 1 hr doing aerobics and/or cardio. Please help!!

    1. Hey Georgina 🙂

      It sounds like you are a little afraid to give up sugar!

      Maybe try cutting it out for a month and see how you go, I would definitely switch to unsweetened coconut milk as the added sugar is probably cancelling out allot of the good of switching from dairy. German Rock Sugar and Honey are at the end of the day just plain old sugar too (as is agave, raw sugar, corn syrup, fructose or however else they want to market it)

      Shakeology shakes contain a whole bunch of artificial stuff so maybe stay away from the protein shakes post workout and try having some chicken breast, eggs, sweet potato ect as a post workout snack for the 30 days too.

      Bread is really just processed nastiness! Especially American bread which has sugar added and contains wheat which can be inflamitory.

      If you love chocolate and will be unhappy with out it keep a small amount in your diet or make your own with coconut oil and raw cacao (heaps of recipes on the web!) although there is the analogy “if you’re severely allergic to cats and own ten of them and one day wake up tired of feeling like crap and decide to give them all away except one will it really make a difference?”

      If I were you though cut them all out for a month, see how you feel and re evaluate.

      1. Hi Leis,

        Just a quick note regarding Shakeology. I cannot speak about all the products/flavors but the Vanilla one doesn’t have any artificial ingredients, flavors, or preservatives. The ingredients are all raw, whole plants which were air/sun dried then cold-pressed. The only semi-suspicious ingredient is “fructose”, which is a tiny amount derived from beets – I called them to check.

        Not that I think anyone should live on Shakeology, but it is fine for those seeking an all natural diet. I would suggest adding a half scoop of pure protein to off-set the natural sugars in it for PCOS users. That’s what I do anyway.

        Also, it is definitely an acquired taste. Most people hate it at first unless you add a ton of sweetener, which defeats the purpose. For my easy breakfast shakes I add:

        1/2 cup ice
        1/2 avocado
        1 cup NAKED Green Machine juice
        1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology
        1/2 scoop protein powder
        1 tbs Organic Flax Oil w/Lignans
        1 tbs Inosital Powder (Pure/Organic)

        If this had any chemicals or other artificial ingredients/preservatives I would have broken out in hives, and that has never happened.

        As to whether or not all included ingredients are particularly good for someone with PCOS, I am not 100% (I know some like Spirulina, Lactase, and Algae are iffy) but I have personally never had an issue. That could be due to how I make it – I am pretty boring. I find something that works, and stick to it.

        Hope that helps!

        1. Just a quick note, fructose is not a natural product. While it may be made from beets, it is processed and isn’t good for you.

  14. I had a history of pcos which were removed through laparoscopy in November 2010. I delivered a baby in June 2013 and in my recent annual health checkup I found out that pcos is back. I am gaining weight even after work outs, feeling full even on empty stomach, my abdomen bloats, and I hardly bleed during my periods though my cycles are regular until now. What can I do to get some immediate results with all these issues.
    In the article above do u mean raw, mothered apple cider vinegar, how much of avocado a day

  15. hi
    im also pcos patient i want to get pragnet but my gyndr says i m over weight she gives me diet plan n metafirm i took medicen but in one month i reduce 1kg its too hard to reduce wei
    ght and also she says my ovary n utures sweal

  16. This is particularly helpful for me! I’m 17 and have only known about my PCOS since September. I’ve been finding a lot of really great information on this site and am truly grateful for that.

  17. Hi Tarryn,
    Thank you for this article.
    I was wondering…what are the properties that actually make a food anti-inflammatory?
    And also, I live in sunny Darwin Australia and have a lot of time outdoors….do I still need a vitamin D supplement?

    Thanks so much for all the information.

    Sarah

  18. Awesome! I seem to naturally gravitate to almost all of these except ACV. I will definitely be giving that a try. I found your site right after I was Dx’d with PCOS a few years ago and it literally has been a lifesaver! I changed my diet/lifestyle cold turkey – that was SOOO HARD!!! – and now feel a million times better…almost 100%. I cheated only 3 times: a soda, some candy at a theater, and pizza and felt the repercussions almost immediately. After both the soda and candy I had 2 of the worst migraines ever. After the pizza I had horrid PMS type cramping for a week, which is weird since I had an emergency hysterectomy 5 yrs ago, took everything but my ovaries. In hindsight I wish they had taken my ovaries as well as they seem to be the culprit for most of my health issues. However I don’t like the idea of cancer-causing hormone replacement therapy so I will keep them for now. My symptoms are mostly managed anyway.

    Anyhoo, thanks again for taking the time to put this site together!

  19. Just came across this website and am SO glad I did! I’ve had PCOS since I was 16 and have been on the pill for 10 years. I just discovered that I can treat it naturally but have been so overwhelmed with all the options, supplements, etc. I’m also lactose and gluten intolerant, so dieting is necessary but frustrating because I love food. I’m nervous to start coming off the medication, but your website has given me courage and definite plans. It’s a huge relief to know I’m not alone as I start figuring this thing out and take back control of my body!

    1. Meredith,
      How are you treating this naturally? I am in a great deal of medications, (125mg levothyroxine 2000mg Metformin EVERYDAY!) and am finding that they still aren’t working properly.I am really trying to change my diet drastically and do Kore holistic/natural medicines and lifestyle. Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated!!

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