PCOS, short for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is a hormonal health condition that affects an estimated 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years.
There are several types of PCOS, each with a multitude of symptoms, however women with this condition tend to have an overproduction of male hormones (called androgens) that lead to the prevention of ovulation, making it the leading cause of infertility among women of childbearing age.
PCOS has also been shown to increase risk of long-term health conditions including insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, infertility, metabolic syndrome, miscarriage, liver inflammation, anxiety, depression and endometrial cancer.
While this may sound a bit scary and overwhelming, the good news is there are plenty of tools to help you effectively treat PCOS, reverse symptoms and still get pregnant naturally. Read below for plenty of PCOS Friendly recipes, foods and tips to help you heal your hormones and feel your best.
PCOS may present differently in each woman, making it somewhat confusing to diagnose. However, common symptoms of PCOS include:
It’s important to note not all women with PCOS have polycystic ovaries, and not all women with polycystic ovaries have PCOS. Healthy women have been found to have polycystic ovaries 25% of the time.
The exact cause (or causes) are unknown, but researchers believe a number of factors may play a role, including:
If there’s one thing I want every woman out there with PCOS to know, it’s that you do not need to rely on invasive medical options or drugs like metformin and birth control that include a long list of side-effects.
In fact, emerging research shows PCOS is most effectively treated with simple nutrition and lifestyle modifications, which resolve hormone imbalances associated with PCOS and reverse symptoms (and BONUS these methods are healthier for you all around without having any nasty side effects).
Below are a list of my top nutrient-dense foods and recipes to treat PCOS, however please keep in mind that each PCOS case is different, and you will need to experiment with what works best for you based on your unique genetic makeup, preferences, lifestyle, etc.
While the research is mixed on whether or not PCOS can be treated with a plant-based diet, we do know plant foods like leafy greens, cruciferous and root veggies, berries and citrus, etc. to be rich in micronutrients, phytonutrients and fiber that work to balance blood sugar, combat insulin resistance and lower inflammation in the body — all of which can drastically help reduce PCOS symptoms.
**When consuming cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, etc. it’s important to cook them first. This significantly reduces goitrogens, which can suppress thyroid function and contribute to PCOS.
Balancing blood sugar is key to reversing PCOS symptoms, and one of the most effective ways to do this is through food! My top tip is to make sure each meal and snack you consume has a healthy balance of high quality protein (eggs, legumes, pasture-raised poultry, wild-caught seafood), fat (avocado, nuts, seeds, nut/seed butter, ghee, olives, extra virgin olive oil), and fiber (ALL veggies, fruit, complex carbs like quinoa, buckwheat, millet and oats).
This combination works to satisfy your dody’s macronutrient needs, optimize energy, curb blood sugar spikes/crashes, and release the hormone cholecystokinin from your gut, signaling to the rest of your body that you are full and satiated (I.E. you won’t be hungry in an hour).
While I’m a big fan of adding things in vs. taking them away, overconsumption of these substances can mess with our blood sugar (which you now know has a detrimental affect on your fertility and PCOS). Caffeine also impairs your liver, which can impact your body’s ability to naturally detoxify and lead to a buildup of hormones, worsening conditions over time.
Try swapping sugar in recipes for small amounts of less processed forms (dates, fruit, maple syrup), switching coffee for matcha, mushroom coffee or decaf, and substituting high-glycemic carbs like white rice, bread, pasta, cereal etc. for more complex versions made with chickpeas and legumes, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, oats and nuts/seeds.
There are many emerging studies linking disrupted gut health to PCOS, specifically an imbalance of bacteria that can lead to chronic inflammation, worsening PCOS symptoms.
Thus working to support our gut through eating anti-inflammatory foods (especially cruciferous vegetables, which help us remove excess estrogen that can further disrupt hormones), taking probiotics (this is my fave brand, use code SOFRESH15 to save) and avoiding inflammatory foods and triggers (like those listed below) will go a long way in treating PCOS.
Practicing any restrictive diet (no matter WHAT it restricts) can lead to a hormone imbalance and worsen PCOS. For example, low-carb diets high in animal protein intake can interfere with ovulation, while cutting back on complex carbs can destabilize blood sugar, exacerbating PCOS.
On the flip side, eating a vegan diet that heavily relies on carbs can lead to gut dysbiosis, making it difficult for your body to absorb much needed nutrients to treat PCOS. Bottomline, eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods is your best tool for balancing hormones and healing PCOS (see more on that below).
Your body has unique nutrient needs during each phase of your menstrual cycle based on hormone fluctuations. Rotating in a variety of foods based on these needs works to keep hormones balanced, regulate your period and increase chances of ovulation (irregular periods and anovulation commonly present in women with PCOS), a crucial component of fertility and your overall health.
Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that work to boost insulin sensitivity and lower inflammation.
Lower insulin resistance and assist your liver in eliminating excess estrogen that can worsen PCOS symptoms. **Make sure to cook to reduce goitrogens, which can inhibit thyroid function.
High in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and antioxidants, as well as B vitamins needed to boost metabolism, support fertility and lower insulin resistance.
Loaded with antioxidants that work to lower oxidative stress, which tends to present higher in those with PCOS.
Shown to positively cholesterol, insulin and androgen levels in those with PCOS.
Rich in protein and fiber that work to maintain healthy blood glucose ranges and support good gut health.
High in fiber that regulates insulin levels as well as B vitamins shown to lower inflammation.
Work to lower inflammation, stabilize blood sugar and increase nitric oxide production to promote fertility.
+ Teriyaki Glazed Salmon (see recipe below)
Dramatically increase inflammation and insulin resistance.
An extremely high protein diet can decrease the production of sex hormone binding globulin needed to reduce testosterone levels (which are typically elevated in those with PCOS).
Disrupt gut microbiome balance and overgrowth of “bad” bacteria.
An estrogen-mimicker in the body that tricks your body into lowering estrogen and halting ovulation.
Genetically modified, highly inflammatory and severe endocrine health disrupters.
Too much can put strain on your adrenals and sex hormones while driving up stress hormone cortisol and inflammation. I encourage limiting to 200mg or less per day.
Emerging research shows PCOS is most effectively treated with simple nutrition and lifestyle modifications, which resolve hormone imbalances associated with PCOS and reverse symptoms (and BONUS these methods are healthier for you all around without having any nasty side effects). My hope is this post has also shown you how enjoyable, delicious and fun PCOS Friendly recipes and cooking can be!
As with anything, please take into account each PCOS case is different, and you will need to experiment with what works best for you based on your unique genetic makeup, preferences, lifestyle, etc.
My go-to recipe whenever I’m entertaining guests or just craving a delicious, easy and nourishing meal. It’s also an especially PCOS friendly recipe that works to boost fertility, balance blood sugar, lower inflammation and support overall hormone health.
Author: Lauren Chambers
Recipe Type: Entree, dinner, meal
*If making for yourself, you can still cook a smaller serving of salmon following the same instructions. You’ll have extra sauce you can then save in the fridge and reuse throughout the week to flavor meals.
**I love this recipe paired with a complex carbohydrate such as brown rice, cauliflower rice or quinoa, which soaks up the delicious sauce and adds fiber, as well as seasonal veggies (which you can bake in the oven at the same time you cook the salmon for convenience).
I’m honored to support you on your journey to optimal hormone health + happiness. Thanks for being here babe.