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5 Tips for a PCOS Diet, According to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

10.14.2022 / Liz Bissell
5 Tips for a PCOS Diet, According to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a chronic health condition that affects as many as 5 million women across the U.S. — and it's known as as one of the main causes of infertility in women. While there is no cure for PCOS, women can manage their PCOS symptoms in a variety of ways, including shifting to a PCOS diet that works for them.

What is a PCOS diet     PCOS diet plan     Foods to avoid

What is a PCOS diet?

A PCOS diet, or often called a “PCOS-friendly” diet, is a flexible term. In general, it refers to a diet made up of complex carbohydrates, adequate protein, healthy fats, ample fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds. 

For some people with PCOS, it may be necessary to eat less carbohydrates. For others, eating more carbohydrates might be necessary depending on their goals (for example, if they are trying to boost fertility). 

>>RELATED: How Your Diet Can Affect Fertility

Having a PCOS diet means taking this framework for healthy eating and individualizing it to your life. 

PCOS diet plan

When trying to find the right PCOS diet, it is so important to remember to start small.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you read about “PCOS diets” online, so start with one goal. Once you get comfortable with this one goal, then move onto the next thing. Here's a PCOS diet plan I recommend working towards.

Embrace nuts and seeds

An easy dietary strategy I use with almost all my clients is incorporating more nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds pack a serious nutritional punch in small amounts so don’t be afraid to experiment. 

Try adding ground flaxseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds to things you would already be eating like yogurt, cereal, or a smoothie. 

Fit in more fish

My other go-to tip for a PCOS diet is to find ways to incorporate more seafood. Most people have trouble eating enough seafood, especially fatty fish. It is recommended that individuals eat at least two servings of seafood per week. This can be challenging but seafood is key for getting in omega-3 fatty acids. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats found in fatty fish (salmon, tuna, herring, etc.) and in nuts and seeds (flaxseed, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, etc.). 

For people with PCOS, a diet with omega-3s can help improve cycle regularity, lower inflammation, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and improve egg quality and implantation.

If you can’t consume seafood twice a week, you might consider talking to your doctor about starting a fish oil supplement. 

Boost your vitamin and nutrient intake

Some of my favorite vitamins and nutrients for a PCOS diet include inositol, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, and n-acetylcysteine (NAC). 

>>MORE: Fueling Your Body for Fertility: 9 Essential Vitamins and Nutrients


Inositol is really a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to PCOS. It can help lower testosterone and androgens, regulate menstrual cycles, support ovulation, and improve insulin sensitivity. 


Magnesium is a mineral that has been found to be low in women with PCOS. It’s also essential for glucose metabolism, managing anxiety, supporting restful sleep, and reducing PMS symptoms.


Zinc is also another nutrient that is often quite low in women with PCOS. It is known to be beneficial in lowering androgens, reducing acne and inflammation, and improving fertility. 

Vitamin D

More research is still needed to understand the connection between PCOS and vitamin D. However, a link between vitamin D and insulin resistance is suspected. It’s also suspected that women with PCOS have lower vitamin D baseline levels. 

Getting enough vitamin D is essential for proper glucose metabolism, lowering inflammation, and improving mood and fertility. 


N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a precursor to glutathione in the body. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant in the body that helps reduce inflammation. Therefore, NAC can help reduce inflammation, as well as improve insulin sensitivity, ovulation, and lower androgens.

What should you not eat with a PCOS diet?

When trying to start a PCOS diet plan, you again want to focus on diet made up of complex carbohydrates, adequate protein, healthy fats, ample fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds. So, what foods should you avoid?

While you don't need to cut anything out of your diet completely, some foods that might be triggering for people with PCOS include:

  • Fried foods
  • Red meat
  • Processed foods
  • Sugary and alcoholic beverages
  • Refined carbohydrates

It's recommended to avoid these foods in a PCOS diet because they can cause inflammation.

Diet isn’t the only solution

There are many other lifestyle changes that benefit individuals with PCOS, particularly those who are trying to conceive. 

Other changes that can be beneficial include practicing stress-management techniques consistently, lowering exposure to hormone-disrupting toxins, regular exercise, and restorative exercise, such as yoga and spending time outside. 

Liz Bissell is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband, Adam, and two daughters, Eleanor and Madison. While originally from Grand Rapids, Liz spent some time away while getting her Bachelor of Science degree at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan and getting her Master's degree in Illinois.

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