This post was updated on April 3rd, 2023
By Kym Campbell, BSc. | Updated April 3rd, 2023
Drinks play an important role in how we celebrate, relax, and soothe ourselves. Some drinks can even be helpful for PCOS.
One of the many things I’ve learned from the women taking part in my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge is that beverages need more attention. There are ingredients to avoid and many handy substitutes. In this article, I explain what you need to know about the best drinks for PCOS.
What to Avoid in Drinks
There are four ingredients in drinks that you want to avoid with PCOS. But if you don’t understand why then it’s hard to get motivated to put good ideas into practice.
Sugar is bad for PCOS because it disrupts insulin regulation and promotes inflammation [1, 2].
The fructose component of sugar is processed by the liver. This is why high sugar consumption has been linked to liver disease and insulin resistance [3, 4].
The glucose component of sugar causes blood sugar levels to rise quickly. Over time, this can drive the underlying mechanisms behind all PCOS-related symptoms [5-10].
It’s harder to draw a direct link between milk consumption and PCOS. But for most people with PCOS, it makes sense to at least experiment with a dairy-elimination diet. I explain why in my PCOS and dairy article. The best evidence we have to date shows that dairy can be inflammatory [11, 12]. A 2020 study found that in women with PCOS, high dairy consumption may be a predictor of insulin resistance . Dairy has also been associated with ovulatory infertility and PCOS acne [14-16].
From a nutritional perspective, alcohol is one of the most obvious ingredients to avoid. This is because even rare consumption has been associated with liver disease in women with PCOS [17, 18]. Alcohol is bad for sleep and may impact hormones and fertility [19-21]. And as everyone who’s had one too many knows, it reduces self-control and increases cravings .
That said, it’s still reasonable to want to drink alcohol. That’s why I’ve created a list of the best alcoholic drinks for PCOS in my PCOS and alcohol article.
The question is coffee bad for PCOS makes for an interesting debate. Many studies show a positive effect [23-28]. When it comes to added caffeine though, this is likely bad for PCOS. Studies show that caffeine by itself reduces insulin sensitivity and raises blood glucose levels .
Caffeine also activates the stress response. This may be particularly harmful to people that have an enhanced reactivity to stress . Inaccurately referred to as “adrenal fatigue”, this symptom puts energy drinks for PCOS on the chopping block.
Good Drinks for PCOS
With all this bad news, you might be wondering what drinks are good for PCOS.
Water is the most obvious, but boring choice.
Scientists have hypothesized that low water consumption increases metabolic health risks. This includes things like diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease . These chronic conditions all have a huge overlap with PCOS.
Adequate intake for women is >2.0 L/day (67 fl. oz/day) as defined by the European Food Safety Authority . In the US, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine recommends 2.7 L/day.
According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, “The vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide.”
PCOS-Friendly Drink Substitutes
There are many drink substitutes that, on balance, are good for PCOS. Many of these benefits come from the fact that they’re nutritionally “better” than what you’d drink otherwise:
- Substitute coconut water, kombucha, or seltzer water for soda.
- Make tea, turmeric lattes, or chicory root your morning drink for PCOS. This is much better than coffee.
- Enjoy coffee alternatives like Mud/Wtr, and Crio Bru. Get 10% off Crio Bru orders by using the discount code SMARTPCOSCHOICES10OFF at checkout.
- Hone also makes a great PCOS drink using matcha and cordyceps mushrooms. Get 15% off at checkout when you use this link.
- Substitute nut milk for cow’s milk. Use SMARTPCOSCHOICES for 15% off Nutpods non-dairy creamers.
- Substitute a PCOS-friendly smoothie for fruit smoothies or juice.
PCOS Drinks with a Benefit
My view is that choosing PCOS-friendly substitutes gets you at least nine-tenths of the benefits from changes to your drink habits.
That said, some beverages may improve your health (slightly). The strength of the evidence and the size of the effect of these drinks is small. But if you enjoy these drinks anyway, they may be worth including in your diet.
Here are seven PCOS drinks with potential benefits:
- PCOS teas like spearmint tea, green tea, and marjoram
- Other herbal teas like cinnamon, chamomile, turmeric, and fenugreek tea
- Apple cider vinegar
- Aloe vera juice
- Unsweetened nut milks
- Unsweetened turmeric latte using nut milk and black pepper
Of course, nutrient-dense PCOS smoothie recipes can also be a valuable part of a PCOS diet. This PCOS-friendly supercharged green smoothie is a great example.
The Bottom Line
There’s no one best drink for PCOS. Water might be the obvious candidate. But this oversimplifies the complex factors that influence our drink decisions.
Beverages containing sugar, dairy, or alcohol are best avoided. This is best done by making healthy substitutions. Many exciting drinks have modest health benefits. While the size of the effect may be small, they can help you celebrate, relax, and soothe yourself like a pro.
Ready to Take Action?
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.
Quick Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. This means that when you use them to purchase something, it won't cost you more but I may get paid a commission for referring you. In order to avoid any prejudice, I only recommend products that I personally use or would have recommended anyways.
1DiNicolantonio, J.J., et al., Fructose-induced inflammation and increased cortisol: A new mechanism for how sugar induces visceral adiposity. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 2018. 61(1): p. 3-9.
2Jones, N., et al., Fructose reprogrammes glutamine-dependent oxidative metabolism to support LPS-induced inflammation. Nat Commun, 2021. 12(1): p. 1209.
3Jensen, T., et al., Fructose and sugar: A major mediator of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. J Hepatol, 2018. 68(5): p. 1063-1075.
4Dornas, W.C., et al., Health implications of high-fructose intake and current research. Adv Nutr, 2015. 6(6): p. 729-37.
5Carvalho, L.M.L., et al., Polycystic Ovary Syndrome as a systemic disease with multiple molecular pathways: a narrative review. Endocr Regul, 2018. 52(4): p. 208-221.
6González, F., Inflammation in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: underpinning of insulin resistance and ovarian dysfunction. Steroids, 2012. 77(4): p. 300-5.
7González, F., et al., Hyperandrogenism sensitizes mononuclear cells to promote glucose-induced inflammation in lean reproductive-age women. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 2012. 302(3): p. E297-306.
8Popovic, M., G. Sartorius, and M. Christ-Crain, Chronic low-grade inflammation in polycystic ovary syndrome: is there a (patho)-physiological role for interleukin-1? Seminars in Immunopathology, 2019. 41(4): p. 447-459.
9Rudnicka, E., et al., Chronic Low Grade Inflammation in Pathogenesis of PCOS. Int J Mol Sci, 2021. 22(7).
10Wang, J., et al., Hyperandrogenemia and insulin resistance: The chief culprit of polycystic ovary syndrome. Life Sciences, 2019. 236.
11Bordoni, A., et al., Dairy products and inflammation: A review of the clinical evidence. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 2017. 57(12): p. 2497-2525.
12Ulven, S.M., et al., Milk and Dairy Product Consumption and Inflammatory Biomarkers: An Updated Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials. Adv Nutr, 2019. 10(suppl_2): p. S239-s250.
13Janiszewska, J., J. Ostrowska, and D. Szostak-Węgierek, Milk and Dairy Products and Their Impact on Carbohydrate Metabolism and Fertility-A Potential Role in the Diet of Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Nutrients, 2020. 12(11).
14Juhl, C.R., et al., Dairy Intake and Acne Vulgaris: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 78,529 Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Nutrients, 2018. 10(8).
15Dai, R., et al., The effect of milk consumption on acne: a meta-analysis of observational studies. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol, 2018. 32(12): p. 2244-2253.
16Chavarro, J.E., et al., A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility. Hum Reprod, 2007. 22(5): p. 1340-7.
17Hossain, N., et al., Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Scand J Gastroenterol, 2011. 46(4): p. 479-84.
18Gambarin-Gelwan, M., et al., Prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol, 2007. 5(4): p. 496-501.
19Ebrahim, I.O., et al., Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep. Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 2013. 37(4): p. 539-49.
20Gill, J., The effects of moderate alcohol consumption on female hormone levels and reproductive function. Alcohol Alcohol, 2000. 35(5): p. 417-23.
21Anwar, M.Y., M. Marcus, and K.C. Taylor, The association between alcohol intake and fecundability during menstrual cycle phases. Hum Reprod, 2021. 36(9): p. 2538-2548.
22Remmerswaal, D., et al., Impaired subjective self-control in alcohol use: An ecological momentary assessment study. Drug Alcohol Depend, 2019. 204: p. 107479.
23Alperet, D.J., et al., The effect of coffee consumption on insulin sensitivity and other biological risk factors for type 2 diabetes: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr, 2020. 111(2): p. 448-458.
24Ding, M., et al., Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and a dose-response meta-analysis. Diabetes Care, 2014. 37(2): p. 569-86.
25Jiang, X., D. Zhang, and W. Jiang, Coffee and caffeine intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Eur J Nutr, 2014. 53(1): p. 25-38.
26Poole, R., et al., Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. Bmj, 2017. 359: p. j5024.
27Crippa, A., et al., Coffee consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: a dose-response meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol, 2014. 180(8): p. 763-75.
28Ding, M., et al., Long-term coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Circulation, 2014. 129(6): p. 643-59.
29Emami, M.R., et al., Acute effects of caffeine ingestion on glycemic indices: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials. Complement Ther Med, 2019. 44: p. 282-290.
30Benson, S., et al., Disturbed stress responses in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2009. 34(5): p. 727-35.
31Armstrong, L.E., C.X. Muñoz, and E.M. Armstrong, Distinguishing Low and High Water Consumers-A Paradigm of Disease Risk. Nutrients, 2020. 12(3).
32Sontrop, J.M., et al., Association between water intake, chronic kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease: a cross-sectional analysis of NHANES data. Am J Nephrol, 2013. 37(5): p. 434-42.