This post was updated on September 1st, 2022
By Kym Campbell, BSc. | Updated September 1st, 2022
The one thing that no one wants to hear is that sugar and carbs make PCOS worse.
But a sugar-fueled diet is part of a “deadly quartet” of metabolic risk factors in PCOS . The other ingredients are insulin resistance, elevated androgens levels, and low-grade inflammation.
The flip side of this fact is that reducing sugar intake improves health and fertility.
As much as I’d rather avoid this inconvenient truth, I speak honestly about this relationship in my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge. For most participants, connecting these dots makes a big difference. Women lose weight and get their period for the first time in months. Others see improvements in skin, sleep quality, mood, and energy. There are a lot of benefits from cutting back on sugar.
Which begs the question: how do you make a PCOS-friendly dessert?
The following 9 PCOS dessert recipes should answer this question and give you a healthier alternative for any occasion.
What Makes A Dessert Recipe PCOS-Friendly?
A great PCOS dessert recipe should:
- Include lots of healthy fats and protein. The best ingredients are coconut products, avocado, nuts, and seeds. Fat and protein reduce the glycemic load of sugar and carbs. This improves insulin regulation..
- Lower inflammation. This means avoiding gluten, dairy, industrial seed oils, and food additives. Excluding sugar also lowers inflammation.
- Use fresh whole fruit instead of sweeteners where possible.
- Use fructose-free, glucose-based sweeteners in small amounts. Examples include dextrose powder, brown rice syrup, and light corn syrup.
- Use naturally derived non-nutritive sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia leaf extract.
9 Easy PCOS Dessert Ideas
- Chocolate Mud Cake
- Banana Bread
- Berry Delight
- Ginger Cookies
- Chai Tea Frozen Yogurt
- Spiced Nut Muffins
- Chocolate Chia Pudding
- Slow-Cooked Brownies
- Nutty Chai Smoothie
PCOS Success Stories
A sweet tooth is a scary foe. The idea of taming this beast can seem daunting at first. But women just like you are doing it every day. Some want to lose weight with PCOS, while others are more focused on getting pregnant. Whatever your reason, don’t let fear stand your way. Every quarter, women from around the world start this project by participating in my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge. Like Jamie and Kristin’s stories below, the results speak for themselves.
How To Supercharge Your PCOS Diet
Making PCOS-friendly desserts is a sensible way to avoid sugary, gluteny, dairy-filled treats. But if you want to embrace the full potential of a PCOS diet, the following resources will help get you started:
PCOS Dessert FAQ
What about maple syrup? Maple products have antioxidant, antimicrobial, antimutagenic, anti-inflammatory, and antiproliferative properties . This makes maple syrup a better option than other sucrose sweeteners. But since it’s still a sucrose sweetener, it’s not suitable for PCOS women. Maple syrup increases blood sugar levels and disrupts healthy insulin regulation. These outcomes make PCOS worse.
What about coconut sugar? Like maple syrup, coconut sugar (a.k.a. palm sugar) is mostly made of glucose and fructose sugars. Coconut sugar contains micronutrients, fiber, and antioxidants that have modest health benefits. But these positives are insignificant when compared to the negative effects of the sugar.
What about honey? Raw honey has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and wound healing capacities . Many studies also show that honey can improve body weight, insulin sensitivity, lipid metabolism, and blood pressure [4, 5]. This is in comparison to glucose, fructose, sucrose, and other similar “control” sugars. So, like other natural or less-processed sugars, honey is a better option on a like-for-like basis. But it’s still a rich source of sugar that causes blood sugar levels to rise quickly. Caution is warranted for women with PCOS.
What about stevia and monk fruit? Most 1:1 stevia or monk fruit sugar substitute products contain around 1% plant extract and 99% erythritol. This means these products are almost entirely erythritol. Erythritol appears to be one of the better non-nutritive sweeteners. But some people report GI discomfort with this sugar alcohol. Pure forms of stevia or monk fruit extract generally appear to be safe when consumed modestly. These products also don’t contain erythritol or other fillers. Pure stevia or monk fruit extract are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar . This means that only small amounts are needed to sweeten any PCOS dessert recipe.
Can I have these desserts every day? The answer to this question depends on your existing dietary habits, your long-term health goals, and your time horizon. If you’re currently consuming sweet foods every day, then switching to more healthy alternatives will be a step in the right direction. If you want to follow a more advanced PCOS diet though, keeping desserts and sweet treats to a minimum is preferable.
What type of chocolate do you recommend? When making PCOS dessert recipes, I’ll primarily use raw cacao to provide a chocolatey hit. Raw cacao doesn’t contain dairy or sugar. If I need pieces of chocolate though, I find that dairy-free, 85% cacao dark chocolate is best. This typically contains 15% sugar. But the total quantity per serve is small and unlikely to have a significant impact on health.
Since 2010, Kym Campbell has used evidence-based diet and lifestyle interventions to manage her PCOS. After getting her symptoms under control and falling pregnant naturally, Kym now advocates for dietary change as part of any PCOS treatment plan. Combining rigorous science and clinical advice with a pragmatic approach to habit change, Kym is on a mission to show other women how to take back control of their health and fertility. Read more about Kym and her team here.
1Barrea, L., et al., Source and amount of carbohydrate in the diet and inflammation in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Nutr Res Rev, 2018. 31(2): p. 291-301.
2Ramadan, M.F., H.A. Gad, and M.A. Farag, Chemistry, processing, and functionality of maple food products: An updated comprehensive review. J Food Biochem, 2021: p. e13832.
3Cianciosi, D., et al., Phenolic Compounds in Honey and Their Associated Health Benefits: A Review. Molecules, 2018. 23(9).
4Bobiş, O., D.S. Dezmirean, and A.R. Moise, Honey and Diabetes: The Importance of Natural Simple Sugars in Diet for Preventing and Treating Different Type of Diabetes. Oxid Med Cell Longev, 2018. 2018: p. 4757893.
5Ramli, N.Z., et al., A Review on the Protective Effects of Honey against Metabolic Syndrome. Nutrients, 2018. 10(8).
6Prakash, I., A. Markosyan, and C. Bunders, Development of Next Generation Stevia Sweetener: Rebaudioside M. Foods, 2014. 3(1): p. 162-175.