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PCOS Diet Made Easy: Foods to Eat & Avoid + Meal Plan PDF

Kym Campbell

By Kym Campbell, BSc. | Updated September 23rd, 2023
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Sarah Lee, M.D & Dr. Jessica A McCoy, Ph.D

Key Takeaways

PCOS can be managed with a diet that reduces inflammation and improves blood sugar regulation.

A good diet for PCOS is high-fat, low-carb, and protein-adequate. It emphasizes the importance of non-starchy vegetables and gut-health-supporting foods.

Gluten, dairy, sugar, “vegetable oils”, and processed foods are avoided.

This companion, 3-day PCOS Meal Plan puts these ideas into practice.

This article describes what a PCOS diet is and why it’s important.

For help putting these ideas into practice, download this free 3-Day PCOS Diet Plan (pdf) and this PCOS Diet Cheat Sheet.

If you’d like to try a PCOS diet within a supportive online community, then you can also sign up for my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge.

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS is an endocrine disorder that affects roughly 1 in 10 women of childbearing age.

The most common symptoms are irregular periods and difficulty losing weight. Facial hair, hair loss, and acne are also common telltale signs.

Approximately 70% of PCOS has a genetic basis [1]. But it’s triggered during gestation by imbalances in the womb [2-5]. Toxicant exposure, for example, plays an important role in fetal programming of PCOS [6, 7]. Your diet, lifestyle, and environment also drive the development of PCOS [8, 9].

How Diet Affects PCOS Symptoms & Insulin Resistance

An unhealthy diet is one of the key causes of PCOS [10]. More specifically, imbalances within the gut microbiome can account for all aspects of a PCOS diagnosis [11, 12].

PCOS is driven by two diet-related mechanisms. Inflammation and poor blood sugar regulation. These mechanisms cause the hormonal imbalance that drives the wide range of common PCOS symptoms [13-18].

Foods that aren’t well-tolerated affect the intestinal lining. This causes an inflammatory response which then makes all PCOS symptoms worse. Starchy and sugary foods that raise blood sugar levels quickly are also a problem. These readily digested carbohydrate-rich foods result in elevated insulin secretion. When your diet frequently causes high insulin levels, insulin resistance can develop.

Insulin resistance drives weight gain making weight loss exceptionally difficult. It also leads to high blood pressure and increased risks of cardiovascular disease. What’s more, insulin resistance exacerbates other PCOS symptoms. This includes challenges with fertility, skin, hair, and mental health.

So, what is the best diet for PCOS? A good diet for PCOS improves gut health and insulin levels while reducing inflammation. This is achieved with the right macronutrient balance sourced from healthy whole foods. Avoiding gluten, dairy, sugar, vegetable oils, and highly-processed foods is also important.

Here are a few women from my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge that learned how powerful a healthy diet can be for managing PCOS symptoms.


Diet is important for PCOS. It influences the underlying mechanisms that cause all PCOS symptoms and related health issues. Diet impacts gut health, inflammation, and insulin regulation. A PCOS-friendly diet can improve PCOS symptoms by addressing these factors.

Best Foods for PCOS

The best foods for PCOS meet at least one of three criteria. They’re good for blood sugar regulation, they promote better gut health, or they reduce inflammation.

The combination of fat, protein, and carbohydrate-rich foods is key for getting blood sugar regulation right. Women with PCOS generally see the best outcomes with a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet. Getting up to 60% of calories from whole food sources of fat is a powerful way to drive weight loss and reverse insulin resistance. Achieving adequate protein intake also promotes these outcomes [19]. Around 20-30% of energy should come from high-fiber foods that are rich in carbohydrates. High-fiber foods tend to have a low glycemic index (GI) which helps combat insulin resistance. Learn more about the best macros for PCOS here.

Gut health can be improved with foods high in prebiotic fiber and those containing probiotics. Probiotics are live cultures of “good” gut bacteria. Foods high in prebiotic fiber provide the nutrients they need to thrive.

Non-starchy vegetables should be the largest portion on your plate. Non-starchy vegetables improve gut health and help to reduce insulin resistance. They also provide vitamins, minerals, and unique phytonutrients that make them anti-inflammatory foods.

Here are some of the most PCOS-friendly foods. For a more comprehensive list, download my PCOS Diet Cheat Sheet here.

Healthy fat-rich foods

  • Avocado
  • Coconut products
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fatty fish (for omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Olives and olive oil

Healthy carbohydrate-rich foods

  • Black, red, wild, and brown rice
  • Peas and beans
  • Root vegetables
  • Sweet potato
  • Quinoa

Healthy protein-rich foods

  • Meat and eggs
  • Fish and seafood

Probiotic foods

  • Coconut yogurt
  • Natto, Tempeh, and Miso
  • Kimchi, sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables

Prebiotic-rich vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Beetroot
  • Cabbage
  • Fennel bulb
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Leek
  • Snow peas

Non-starchy vegetables

  • Leafy greens, like Romaine lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard.
  • Cruciferous vegetables like bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale.
  • Gourd vegetables like cucumber and zucchini.
  • Nightshade vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant.


Fats, protein, and carbs should be balanced for optimum blood sugar regulation. Gut health should be fostered with probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods. Non-starchy vegetables should cover half your plate.

Foods to Avoid

There are several key foods to avoid with PCOS. These are all foods that can impact gut health, inflammation, or blood sugar regulation.

Reducing sugar and readily digested carbohydrates improves blood sugar regulation. To minimize inflammation and improve gut health, it’s best to avoid anything that causes noticeable symptoms. This includes things like acid reflux, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. For example, many people see noticeable improvements after eliminating gluten from their diet. Learn more about gluten and PCOS here.

PCOS and dairy, also share a fraught relationship as explained here. It’s not just a matter of lactose intolerance. Many people with PCOS have a sensitivity to milk proteins without being aware of it. Like gluten sensitivity, an undiagnosed dairy intolerance can damage the intestinal wall lining. This drives inflammation and worsens the effects of PCOS.

Processed foods are also best avoided. These foods often contain industrial “vegetable” oils and food additives that cause inflammation.

The following foods are best avoided or minimized. For a more comprehensive list, download my Foods to Avoid checklist here.

Foods that are bad for blood-sugar regulation

  • Anything with a lot of sugar or refined carbohydrates
  • Soda and energy drinks
  • Cereals
  • Cookies, cakes, ice cream
  • White bread, brown bread, and bagels
  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Pasta, white rice, white potatoes
  • Chips and pretzels

Foods that drive inflammation

  • Any food that’s bad for blood-sugar regulation.
  • Gluten, from wheat, spelt, rye, barley, and other whole grains.
  • Dairy, including cheeses, yogurt, and protein powders.
  • Industrial seed oils from soybeans, sunflower, canola, cottonseed, etc.
  • Processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, sausages, and luncheon meats.


A good PCOS diet plan excludes foods that negatively affect gut health, inflammation, or blood sugar regulation. Sugar, gluten, dairy, and industrial “vegetable” oils are the most common problem foods. This is why processed foods are discouraged by most PCOS diet experts.

Companion 3-Day PCOS Diet Meal Plan

To help you put a PCOS diet into action, I’ve put together a free 3-Day PCOS Diet Plan which you can download here.

You can also sign-up for my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge. Each week you’ll receive a 7-day PCOS diet plan pdf as well as video lessons and activities. This program has launched thousands of women toward better health and fertility. You can see some of their success stories here.

A PCOS diet is a unique approach to nutrition. But it shares nutritional principles with other evidence-based diets.

For example, a PCOS diet is an anti-inflammatory diet. This makes it similar to the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet [20]. The key problem with the Mediterranean diet for PCOS is that it includes low-fat dairy and gluten. The problem with the DASH diet is that it unnecessarily restricts saturated fat and salt. Studies show that these restrictions are outdated [21, 22]. Saturated fats from whole food sources shouldn’t be excluded from the “healthy fats” category. This reduces the importance of consuming only lean protein. For example, there’s now compelling evidence that beef from well-raised animals can be good for human health and the environment [23, 24].

A PCOS diet is rich in plant foods, like a vegetarian or vegan diet for PCOS. But the problem with plant-only diets is that it’s hard to get adequate protein without consuming too many carbs. This is especially important for weight loss or the treatment of insulin resistance. The same “clean” diet, with the addition of whole food sources of animal protein, is likely to result in better health outcomes.

That’s why a PCOS diet includes whole food sources of eggs, fish, and seafood. This makes it well suited to people following a PCOS pescatarian diet. The inclusion of wholefood sources of meat also makes it attractive for people wanting to follow a paleo diet. But unlike the paleo diet, healthy whole grains like rice, corn, quinoa, and buckwheat can be included in a PCOS diet.

A PCOS diet incorporates the high-fat benefits of a keto diet for PCOS without suffering the downsides of this approach. A PCOS diet is easier to follow than a keto diet. This makes it better suited to people that have experienced disordered eating in the past.

Intermittent fasting can also be included within a PCOS diet framework. Research looking at the effects of fasting specifically on PCOS is limited [25-28]. But many non-PCOS studies show the potential for intermittent fasting to further enhance a PCOS diet [29-31]. Limiting your food intake to 8-12 hours per day is safe for most people [31-35].

Unlike many fad diets, a PCOS diet is balanced and sensible. It’s designed to be a sustainable lifestyle intervention.


A PCOS diet is a unique approach to nutrition. It incorporates the best aspects of other evidence-based diets while avoiding their shortcomings. This includes the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, the ketogenic diet, the paleo diet, and more.

Other Ways to Manage PCOS Symptoms

A healthy diet is one of the best interventions for PCOS. But other evidence-based lifestyle changes are well known to further improve health outcomes.

Both aerobic exercise and resistance training can improve PCOS-related hormonal imbalances [36-39].

Studies show that improving sleep quality can reduce food cravings making it easier to eat well [40, 41].

Stress is a known co-morbidity of PCOS [42]. It increases inflammation and can exacerbate insulin resistance [43, 44]. One study found that the most stressed women were twice as likely to suffer from infertility compared to more relaxed women [45].


Exercise, sleep, and other stress management tools enhance the benefits of a PCOS-friendly diet.

The Bottom Line

Diet is a powerful way to manage PCOS symptoms. That’s because it treats the underlying mechanisms. The right diet can influence gut health, insulin levels, and systemic inflammation.

The most important foods to avoid are gluten, dairy, sugar, “vegetable oils”, and highly processed foods. A PCOS diet is whole-food based and rich in non-starchy vegetables. Macronutrients are balanced to optimize blood sugar regulation.

A good PCOS diet includes the best aspects of other healthy diets. But it overcomes their shortcomings. The right diet can help you lose weight and then maintain a healthy weight long term. It can also help overcome all the other associated symptoms of a PCOS diagnosis. This includes overcoming infertility.

Take back control of your health and fertility today by joining my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge today. This free 3-Day PCOS Meal Plan is also another great way to get started.

Ready to Take Action?

  • Join my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge here. This is a unique program where you'll receive weekly meal plans, shopping lists, and helpful video lessons. You'll also be part of a motivated and inspiring community of like-minded women.

  • Download my free 3-Day PCOS Diet Meal Plan here. This is perfect for getting started if you aren't ready to commit to 30 days.

  • Join my PCOS Monthly Meal Planning Service here. This service includes hundreds of PCOS recipes within a pre-populated, yet customizable meal plan. It's designed to save you time and help you apply a PCOS diet.

  • Sign up for my Beat PCOS 10-Week Program. This is a comprehensive program that covers diet, PCOS-centric emotional eating, exercise, stress management, and much more. All within a support group environment. The 10-Week Program includes the same recipes and meal plan as my monthly meal planning service.



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