Vegetarian Diet for PCOS

Plant based diet has gained much popularity in recent times and researchers have supported its effectiveness on many diseases. Researches show that along with other diseases a plant based diet or the vegetarian diet is great for managing PCOS condition as well. Vegetarian diet for PCOS is great for controlling its symptoms and works as home remedy. PCOS which is a common endocrine disorder in women can be managed by rectifying the eating habits and nutritional intakes.

There are many practitioners who may not suggest you to go for a vegetarian diet if you have PCOS, as eating veggies makes it a little challenging for women to improve their PCOS condition however this does not mean it is impossible. On the other hand there are some dieticians who would suggest you to go for a vegetarian diet to improve the condition as this increases the chance of healthy weight loss and battling insulin resistance. So, I know you must be confused about whether you should go for a vegetarian diet for PCOS or not, but we have the answer for this which we have explained below.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovaries syndrome (PCOS) is a condition which occurs when ovaries produce excess hormones. PCOS causes abnormal production of androgens which are male sex hormones in ovaries. PCOS is one of the main causes of infertility and has affected around 6% to 12% of women in the US. This may include symptoms like unpredictable ovulation, irregular menstrual cycles and missed periods. Some other symptoms are pelvic pain, weight gain, excess stomach fat, acne, hair loss, anxiety and depression.

In this condition some small follicle cysts on the ovaries can be noticed but to have PCOS you don’t need to have cysts on your ovaries. Also, there are conditions when women develop PCOS but don’t have cysts on their ovaries.

What Does Diet Have to Do with PCOS?

Imbalanced diet has a direct link to PCOS. Imbalanced diet causes elevated insulin and this can cause PCOS symptoms.

To explain it further, an unhealthy diet causes an imbalanced gut microbiome which causes PCOS regardless of its type. PCOS occurs due to two main reasons, one is Inflammation and the other one is poor blood sugar. These cause hormonal imbalance and lead you to PCOS symptoms along with other health issues. Inflammation and the poor blood level can be caused by our poor eating habits and choice of foods.

Inflammation which can be caused by eating foods that upset your stomach. Foods that upset your stomach are sure to damage your intestinal lining. This causes an inflammatory response and leads you to have PCOS symptoms. On the other hand, eating starchy and sugary foods or readily digested carbohydrate-rich foods increase the insulin level in our body. The high insulin level can lead your body to develop insulin resistance. The insulin resistance causes unwanted weight gain and other health issues that worsen the PCOS symptoms.

Managing PCOS by Managing Diet

Low-Glycemic Food

PCOS is linked with insulin levels in women’s bodies. Insulin resistance stops the body to identify whether excessive insulin has been consumed or not which is why if sugar has been consumed in excessive amounts this increases the blood sugar level. The increased blood sugar level causes ovaries to produce the influx of the male hormone and this causes creation of cysts in the ovaries. Avoiding sugary foods and beverages and consumption of green and leafy veggies that are low in sugar are recommended.

Reduce Trans Fats and Saturated Fats

PCOS and insulin resistance have a great connection. Insulin resistance can be caused by trans fats and saturated fats if consumed in excessive amounts or may worsen the situation if consumed during the PCOS condition. These come from dairy, meat, and a wide variety of snack food items hence, moving to the vegetarian diet can be helpful to control the PCOS symptoms as this will help you to eliminate these food items from your meal.

Avoid Foods with Animal Protein

Avoid eating animal protein foods because these cause insulin resistance in your body which is one of the main causes to elevate the PCOS symptoms.

Benefits of Vegetarian Diet for PCOS

There is a simple science behind understanding the benefits of entering into a vegetarian diet for PCOS. The above mentioned diet restrictions can only be maintained if you choose to eat plant based foods instead of eating animal based foods. You see animal protein, trans fat and saturated fat are mostly found in carnivorous or omnivorous lifestyles which is why choosing plant based foods is the best option to control the PCOS symptoms. There are few more benefits of eating veggies on controlling PCOS symptoms which we have specified below.

Vitamins and Minerals

Eating fruits and veggies can help you to meet nutritional requirements. You can consume vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, beta carotene and many more from the fruits and veggies. Along with meeting the nutritional deficiency plant based diet helps to control inflammation, blood sugar and support a healthier gut and mind.

Reduces Estrogen

Vegetarian diet helps to reduce estrogen dominance. Estrogen reducing foods such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli. kale, bok choy, brussels sprouts and garden cress help to reduce the dominance of estrogen, support hormonal balance and reduce PCOS symptoms and chances of hypothyroidism. Since excess estrogen causes irregular periods which is one of the symptoms of PCOS, eating veggies can help you to reduce the symptom.

Eating Less Junk Food and Carbs

Vegetarian foods high in fiber help you to reduce weight during the PCOS condition and also eating veggies reduces the chance of eating junk foods. Since there are not a lot of vegetarian fast food options available this reduces chances of eating more carb. Less junk foods means less processed foods consumption which restricts the saturated fats and sugar consumption that help in controlling the PCOS symptoms.

Reduces Risk of Insulin Resistance

Adoption of vegetarian diet for PCOS patients is very much required, here is why. Women with PCOS are shown to be insulin sensitive. Insulin resistance that elevates PCOS symptoms can be managed by adopting a vegetarian diet. Plant based foods are the low glycemic index foods and studies have shown that plant based foods regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.

Weight Management

When it comes to weight management, a plant based diet is the most effective way to reduce weight. Plant based foods are low in calories and high in fiber which is helpful for reducing weight. Since this helps in reducing weight this helps to control the PCOS symptoms as well.

Different Types of Vegetarian Diet for PCOS

There are many types of vegetarian diets available from traditional lacto-ovo diet to vegan friendly vegetarian diet where you don’t consume any animal products. All of these diets can help you to manage the PCOS symptoms by controlling the gut health, weight and many more.

Flexitarian Diet

Flexitarianism or Plant-Forward Diet is an environmentally friendly diet. In this diet you mainly consume plant based foods but you are also allowed to eat meat, poultry and seafood occasionally. This gives you freedom to eat foods that fit for the given occasion. This is the reason why this diet is also called a semi vegetarian diet. At the beginning of becoming from non-vegetarian to vegetarian this diet plan can be adopted as the diet works as a meat-reducer.

Pescatarian Diet

Pescatarian is also a semi vegetarian diet. This allows you to eat fish and sea-foods along with vegetables and grains. The diet does not allow you to eat meat and poultry. Along with PCOS the diet contributes to the heart health as sea-foods are usually packed with omega-3 fatty acids.

Lacto-ovo Vegetarian Diet

The diet allows you to eat plant based foods along with dairy products and eggs but excludes meat, fishes, and seafood. Following this diet you can easily get adequate protein and calcium from dairy products and eggs and you can prepare many delicious food dishes as well. Different people may follow this diet in different ways. Some eat only dairy products along with plant based foods and they are called lacto-vegetarians and on the other hand some eat only eggs along with veggies and fruits and they are called ovo-vegetarian. The choice is yours but both have their own benefits.

PCOS Vegetarian Diet Plan

A PCOS vegetarian diet plan should include all the required nutrition that helps the body to fight, manage and recover the condition. Add these nutrients into your meal plan to experience the benefits.

Nutrients you should add in your meal:
Protein Sources:
  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
  • Tempeh
  • Yogurt (low sugar varieties)
  • Textured vegetable protein
  • Seitan
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Peanut Butter
  • Hemp hearts
  • Almonds
  • Green peas
  • Faux meat products – Impossible meat, Beyond meat, Gardein products, etc
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Milk
High Vitamin-C Sources:
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Garlic
  • Tomato sauce
  • Citrus
  • Bell peppers
  • Berries
Zinc Sources:
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Natural almond butter
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Hemp hearts
  • Chia seeds
  • Tahini
  • Raw cashews
  • Cooked quinoa
  • Cooked brown rice
  • Cooked amaranth
  • Cooked oats
  • Cooked quinoa
  • Cooked kidney beans
  • Cooked chickpeas
  • Cooked lentils
Omega-3 Sources:

ALA which is an essential fat in Omega-3 comes from following resources:

  • Flaxseed oil
  • Walnuts
  • Hemp hearts
  • Ground flax seed
  • Chia seeds
Foods you should add in your meal:

In the PCOS vegetarian meal plan we have further segregated the foods in 3 different categories these are Whole Grains and Pulses, Nuts and Seeds and Fruits and Vegetables. Adding these foods into your meal would help you to improve insulin resistance and let you enjoy other benefits.

Whole Grains and Pulses

Adding foods that contain medium to low glycemic index or glycemic load help to improve insulin resistance and gut health. Grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, millets, quinoa, buckwheat, oats etc. and Pulses and legumes such as and green moong, split peas, dried beans, lentils, chana dal, soybeans and chickpeas help to improve muscle mass, add vitamin to the meal and manage PCOS condition.

Nuts and Seeds

You should eat nuts and seeds to add omega-3 that controls blood lipid levels and supports heart health. Nuts and seeds such as flax seeds, chia seeds, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds etc. help to support PCOS condition by managing blood lipid levels.

Fruits and Vegetables

Vegetables that are high in fiber are great for managing weight and blood sugar level which is essential for controlling PCOS symptoms. High fiber veggies such as mustard greens, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, green beans, snake gourd and carrots should be included in the diet.

Fruits are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fruits are great for meeting your daily craving for sweets. However, as fruits contain carbohydrates which can cause your blood glucose to spike hence you should only consume 1-2 portions of fruits with their skin.

Final Thought:

As per recent studies, PCOS and vegetarian diet are co-related. Vegetarian diet for PCOS help in many different ways such as weight management, insulin resistance, carbs control, hormonal balance etc. Though the vegetarian diet is effective but this has to be balanced and should contain Protein, Carbs, Fat and Fiber. Make dishes with the vegetables that are mentioned above to enjoy full benefits of the vegetarian diet. Balancing nutrition should be the main motto while preparing a meal. The carbohydrate should always be minimized so that you can manage the insulin level and on the other hand fiber and protein play a key role to manage weight.

So with careful planning and meal preparation it is surely going to help you to improve the PCOS condition with the vegetarian diet but it is not going to change everything overnight; your body takes some time to adjust and adapt changes. Keep trying different vegetarian diet plans and discover which one suits you better.

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