This website is all about losing weight and living symptom-free with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). These things are tough to accomplish, but with the right food choices, lifestyle changes, and the right mindset, you can gain the relief you’ve been hoping for.
But, when you start scrolling through all the diet options, it’s totally overwhelming. Which one helps with PCOS weight loss and symptom relief? Low-carb diets (like the Mediterranean diet) usually feel like a safe bet, because fewer sugars mean a healthier body, right? Well, this is partially true, but not entirely.
So, is a low-carb diet good for PCOS? Let me explain:
Is a Low-Carb Diet Good for PCOS
At its core, managing PCOS symptoms with a low-carb diet is a good idea. However, I don’t love the term “low carb.” Instead, let’s say “lower carb.” As in, lower than what you’re currently consuming (maybe). The goal is to feel content after every meal—no intense cravings, fatigue, rumbling tummy, or crazy PCOS symptoms.
In part, you can achieve that from a low-carb diet. But over-restricting your carb and calorie intake can actually deprive your body of essential nutrients and lead to dangerous stress levels. Your PCOS diet should be something you can maintain long-term, not something completely restricting. We’ll get more into that today. But first, here are the benefits and cautions of a low-carb diet for PCOS:
Many women diagnosed with PCOS have insulin resistance. This is when your cells don’t respond appropriately to insulin, and too much sugar gets into your blood. When your blood sugar goes up, you’ll experience excess body hair, irregular periods, and a higher risk for obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Eating a low-carb diet can result in significantly improved insulin resistance! You’ll be consuming far less sugar overall, which will help with that spiking blood sugar. Anything like healthy fats and proteins is great for balancing insulin and blood sugar levels and keeping you satisfied when you lower your carbs. I also recommend grabbing our Ovasitol and Metabolic Plus supplement bundle. It helps stabilize your blood sugars and improves insulin sensitivity so you can better metabolize carbohydrates.
Though a low-carb diet is great for the blood sugar side of things, sticking to a strict keto diet (or something similar) for PCOS can leave you feeling stressed, frustrated, and unsatisfied. This releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone that not only makes you feel overwhelmed and anxious but also leads to weight gain.
Rather counterintuitive, right? We’re looking to lose weight here! But, it’s true, a diet too strict won’t really help improve PCOS symptoms at all. So, pick a diet and a carb amount that is sustainable long term.
There is no one set amount of carbs that everyone should eat in a day. No way! There are so many types of people out there who have different lifestyles, body types, and energy needs. So, of course, they have different carb tolerances too.
Start with 120-150g of carbs in a day, which is a good midrange. Then decrease based on what your body is telling you. Remember, though, if your lifestyle changes, so will your carb needs! Like- if you start or stop working out. If you find a good carb balance now, you may want to reevaluate your lifestyle and your carb intake in a few years. For more resources on discovering your carb tolerance, check out The Cysterhood!
Lots of Cysters struggle with digestive issues that stem from PCOS. This is because of excess inflammation! Sugary foods cause an increase in inflammation that heightens these tummy troubles. Both digestive issues and food sensitivities come from too much inflammation, so going low-carb and eating anti-inflammatory foods can do wonders for your PCOS symptoms!
One of the main symptoms women with PCOS experience is irregular periods. When your body feels stressed, it can react by affecting your period. With a low-carb diet that’s too low, you can stress your adrenal system and push your body into survival mode. With a carb intake that’s too high, you can also throw off your period because insulin sensitivity is correlated with your period regularity (and symptoms like PMS!) So, this is just another caution to discover your carb tolerance.
Acne is a result of high insulin levels, inflammation, and hormone imbalances. Low-carb diets, as we’ve discussed, reduce inflammation and increase insulin sensitivity. But, going too low can have adverse hormonal effects. So once you find the right balance, you should see a difference in your acne! If you don’t, it may be an indication that you’re eating too much or too few carbs.
Women with PCOS are at high risk for cardiovascular disease due to high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Luckily, ditching some carbs can keep your sugars and pressure low. With the risk of heart problems looming over Cysters’ heads, a low-carb diet that reduces these risk factors can be a huge relief.
Weight gain is one of the most frustrating symptoms of PCOS. But, with the right amount of carbs and intentional food choices, you’ll feel full and satisfied after eating a balanced plate. This will definitely help you with your weight loss journey because it will help you with blood sugar control! But, truly, being mindful of your foods is key. You can still eat great foods that also help regulate hormones, increase insulin sensitivity, and keep stress levels to a minimum. This will help you shed pounds, reduce symptoms, and feel great!
Low Carb Foods for PCOS
Eggs are great for PCOS because of their high protein content and low carb count, which means you get full and stay full! Plus, the nutrients inside also help with inflammation, balancing blood sugars, and regulating hormones. You can read more about the benefits of eggs, here. If you find that you may be sensitive to eggs, cut them out of your diet for about 30 days and reintroduce them into your diet to see if symptoms flare up.
Healthy fats are great for PCOS. Salmon is a great source of protein, omega-3 fats, it’s anti-inflammatory, and it increases your insulin sensitivity! And, not only is salmon high in protein and low in carbs, but they’re packed with vital nutrients like B vitamins, fatty acids, iron, potassium, and more. If you don’t like fish but still need your omega-3s, try a fish oil supplement.
Here’s another food for your PCOS grocery list. Tomatoes are low in calories while being high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Plus, they’re anti-inflammatory. Chances are, tomatoes are already in your diet, so use them more often and remember they even make a great snack!
Cucumbers are the perfect appetizer on their own, and they make great additions to lots of healthy dishes! They’re high in fiber, healthy fats, and believe it or not, protein! There’s a lot more to cucumbers than just that refreshing crunch—they’ve got lots of substance too!
Avocados are another healthy fat that alleviates PCOS symptoms, helps you lose weight, and promotes a low-carb diet. They reduce inflammation, improve metabolism, boost energy, balance blood sugars, and regulate hormones! We have a whole post dedicated to the wonders of avocados, here. Check it out!
Strawberries and other berries are naturally anti-inflammatory, low-carb, rich in fiber, and totally delicious. Additionally, strawberries can help with weight management, indigestion, and diabetes. What better snack on your low-carb diet?
Antioxidants, fiber, and protein are all packed inside these healthy seeds! They help lower inflammation and insulin resistance. And, with all that protein, you’ll be better able to control your weight and achieve your weight loss goals. Not sure how to add chia seeds to your diet? Check out this article.
Spinach, swiss chard, and kale are low-carb foods that can fight other PCOS symptoms too. They have lots of B vitamins, which is important because many Cysters are low in vitamin B! And, this is the nutrient that supports energy, metabolism, and healthy brain cells! So many wins.
Rather than focusing on as few calories as possible, find your carb tolerance!
So, at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer to the question: Is a low-carb diet for PCOS a good idea? Too few carbs could worsen your symptoms just as harmful as too many carbs.