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Provider Perspectives: 5 Tips for a PCOS-Friendly Diet

10.14.2022 / Liz Bissell
Provider Perspectives: 5 Tips for a PCOS-Friendly Diet
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.

She joins us to share some of her go-to tips for eating a PCOS-friendly diet.

What makes a diet “PCOS-friendly”?

“PCOS-friendly” 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). 

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

Start small when making diet changes

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. 

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 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 2 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, 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 PCOS include inositol, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, and n-acetylcysteine (NAC). 

Inositol

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

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

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

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.

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. 

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