Author: Dr.Sandhya Mishra

Qualification: MBBS, DNB, MS – Fellowship in ART, Consultation Reproductive Medicine

15 Foods to Avoid If You Have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a prevalent health condition that affects approximately one in ten women of childbearing age. It is a complex disorder characterized by hormonal imbalances and metabolism problems that can lead to a variety of symptoms. These symptoms may include irregular menstrual periods, excessive hair growth, weight gain, acne, and even fertility issues.
Understanding PCOS is the first step towards managing it effectively. It’s not merely a gynecological issue but a complex condition that can have long-term health implications, including risks for heart disease and diabetes.

Role of Diet in PCOS Management

Diet plays a pivotal role in managing PCOS and its associated symptoms. It’s not just about weight loss – although shedding pounds can significantly help – but it’s also about ensuring your body gets the right nutrients and avoids those that can exacerbate the condition. This is why understanding the intricate connection between PCOS and diet is vital.

Why Does Diet Matters for PCOS?

The food you consume can directly impact your PCOS symptoms. Certain foods can trigger inflammation, affect your insulin levels, and lead to weight gain – all of which are factors that can exacerbate PCOS symptoms. Therefore, a well-planned PCOS diet can help manage these symptoms and improve the overall quality of life. 

15 Foods to Avoid with PCOS

If you have PCOS, here are 15 foods you must consider avoiding: 
  1. Sugar: High sugar intake can lead to insulin resistance, a common issue in women with PCOS. Insulin resistance can worsen PCOS symptoms and increase the risk of developing diabetes. Foods like candy, cookies, cakes, and soda are high in sugar. Instead of high-sugar foods, opt for fresh fruits, unsweetened yogurt, or dark chocolate. Use natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup sparingly.  
  2. Processed Foods: Processed foods often contain unhealthy fats, sugars, and a high level of sodium. These ingredients can worsen PCOS symptoms by promoting inflammation and weight gain. Foods like chips, microwave meals, and store-bought pastries are often packed with unhealthy fats, sugars, and a ton of sodium. Choose whole foods whenever possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains are all excellent choices.  
  3. Carbohydrates: Not all carbohydrates are created equal. Refined carbohydrates, such as those found in white bread and pasta, can cause inflammation and insulin issues. Opt for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole-grain bread or pasta. These are less likely to spike your blood sugar levels.  
  4. Foods High in Saturated and Trans Fats: Foods high in these types of fats can increase inflammation in the body and the risk of heart disease. Women with PCOS are already at a higher risk for heart disease, so it’s essential to limit these types of fats.  Foods like fast food, fried foods, and certain cuts of meat are high in these types of fats. Choose lean proteins and plant-based fats. Fish, chicken, avocados, nuts, and seeds are all good choices.  
  5. High Sodium Foods: Foods high in sodium can lead to bloating and hypertension. Women with PCOS are more likely to have hypertension, so it’s crucial to monitor sodium intake. Foods like canned soups, deli meats, and fast food are often high in sodium. Fresh fruits and vegetables, unsalted nuts and seeds, and fresh meats are all low in sodium. When cooking, flavor your foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.  
  6. Caffeine: Some studies suggest that caffeine can exacerbate PCOS symptoms by increasing estrogen levels. While the research is not definitive, it may be worth reducing caffeine intake if you notice it worsens your symptoms. Coffee, energy drinks, and certain teas are high in caffeine. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, try herbal tea, decaffeinated coffee, or caffeine-free soft drinks.
  7. Alcohol: Alcohol can lead to weight gain and can also affect your hormones. It can increase insulin resistance and inflammation, both of which are detrimental to women with PCOS. All types of alcoholic beverages, including wine, beer, and spirits, can affect your hormones. Opt for non-alcoholic beverages like sparkling water, herbal tea, or homemade smoothies.  
  8. Dairy: Some women with PCOS have found that dairy exacerbates their symptoms. Dairy can increase insulin levels and inflammation, which can worsen PCOS symptoms. This includes foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Try non-dairy alternatives like almond milk, coconut yogurt, or cashew cheese.  
  9. Excessively High Fiber Foods: While fiber is generally good for digestion and can help with weight management, too much can affect the absorption of certain nutrients, such as iron and calcium. While fiber is generally good, foods like bran cereals and some whole grains can sometimes provide too much. While fiber is important, balance is key. Include a variety of foods in your diet to ensure you’re getting a balance of nutrients.
  10. Soy Products: Soy can interfere with hormone balance in some women. While some studies suggest it might be beneficial, others indicate it could worsen PCOS symptoms. It’s best to monitor your body’s reaction to soy and adjust your intake accordingly. This includes foods like tofu, soy milk, and edamame. If you’re sensitive to soy, try other plant-based proteins like lentils, chickpeas, or quinoa. <
  11. Gluten: Some women with PCOS have reported reduced symptoms after cutting out gluten. While there’s no definitive research linking gluten and PCOS, if you notice a reduction in symptoms after eliminating gluten, it might be worth continuing. Foods like wheat bread, pasta, and many processed foods contain gluten. There are many gluten-free alternatives available, including gluten-free bread and pasta, rice, and quinoa.  
  12. Fast Foods: Fast foods are often high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and sodium. They can promote weight gain, inflammation, and insulin resistance, all of which are harmful to women with PCOS. This includes foods like burgers, fries, and pizza from fast food restaurants. Instead of fast food, try homemade meals. You can make healthier versions of your fast food favorites at home.
  13. Non-Organic Fruits and Vegetables: Non-organic fruits and vegetables may contain pesticides and other chemicals that can disrupt hormone balance. Opting for organic produce can help reduce your exposure to these potential endocrine disruptors. This refers to any fruits and vegetables not labeled as organic. If possible, choose organic produce. If that’s not feasible, washing and peeling non-organic fruits and vegetables can help reduce pesticide exposure. 
  14. Red Meats: Consuming a lot of red meat can increase inflammation in the body. Many types of red meat are also high in saturated fats, which can exacerbate PCOS symptoms. Instead, opt for lean proteins like chicken, turkey, or fish. This includes foods like beef, pork, and lamb. Opt for lean proteins like chicken, turkey, or fish. Plant-based proteins like beans and lentils are also good alternatives. 
  15. Artificial Sweeteners: While it might be tempting to switch out sugar for artificial sweeteners, these can also have a negative impact on PCOS. Some studies suggest that they can affect insulin resistance and promote weight gain. Try to sweeten foods naturally with things like fruit or spices like cinnamon. These are often found in “diet” or “sugar-free” products like diet soda and sugar-free candy. Instead of artificial sweeteners, try sweetening foods with a small amount of natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. Or better yet, enjoy the natural sweetness of fruits.


Managing PCOS is a lifelong commitment, and diet plays a crucial role in it. By avoiding these 15 foods, you can help manage your symptoms and improve your overall health. Remember, everyone is different, so it’s essential to listen to your body and adjust your diet accordingly. Always consult with a healthcare professional or a nutritionist for personalized advice. 

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