Anti-Inflammatory Diet Benefits for PCOS

Inflammation plays a role in PCOS. Compared to women of the same weight, women with PCOS have higher levels of inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein (CRP), pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, and white blood cell count.

While dietary modifications can't completely reduce inflammation in the body, diet plays a role in inflammation. Certain foods are part of an anti-inflammatory diet, while others have been shown to promote inflammation.

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Higher Inflammation and PCOS

Some foods can induce high levels of insulin, oxidative stress, and cause weight gain—all of which stimulate an inflammatory response. Research shows that modifying your diet to reduce inflammation can have a beneficial effect on PCOS.

In a study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences, women with PCOS followed a Mediterranean-style anti-inflammatory diet for 3 months.

  • Participants consumed 2 grams of protein, and 3 grams of carbohydrate for every gram of fat consumed.
  • This diet was designed to be low calorie, low-fat, low-saturated fat, low glycemic index, and moderate-to-high fiber and emphasized anti-inflammatory foods such as fish, legumes, nuts, olive oil, herbs, spices, and green tea.

The results: women lost 7% of their body weight and showed significant improvements in their cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammatory markers. Sixty-three percent of women regained menstrual cyclicity and 12% conceived following this type of diet.

Simple Ways to Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

If you have PCOS, consuming an anti-inflammatory diet can be helpful for controlling your weight, as well as potentially reducing inflammation that may contribute to your condition.

Some tips for adopting an anti-inflammatory diet:

  • Evenly space your intake of carbohydrate foods throughout the day to avoid extreme ups and downs in your blood sugar
  • Avoid sugary foods and beverages
  • Fill half of your plate with vegetables, which are low in calories and high in antioxidants
  • Eat a variety of fruits, which are high in antioxidants and can satisfy your sweet tooth
  • Consume unsaturated sources of fat such as flaxseeds, olive oil, and nuts
  • Eat beans and legumes, which are rich in protein, several times each week
  • Limit red meat, which can trigger inflammation, to once every 2 weeks
  • Eat omega-3 rich fish (salmon, tuna, trout) twice a week, keeping in mind that certain kinds of tuna (albacore, tuna steaks) are not recommended by the USDA to be consumed more than 4-5 ounces (oz) per week due to high mercury content
  • Use herbs and spices such as ginger, chili peppers, black pepper, curcumin, bay leaves, fennel, anise, caraway, cumin, coriander, clove, cinnamon, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme to season food
  • Drink green tea daily

Looking for PCOS-friendly recipes? The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook: 100 Easy and Delicious Whole Food Recipes to Beat PCOS has anti-inflammatory recipes and meal plans inspired by the Mediterranean diet.

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  1. Office on Women's Health. Polycystic ovary syndrome. Last Updated, April 01, 2019.

  2. Salama AA, Amine EK, Salem HA, Abd el fattah NK. Anti-inflammatory dietary combo in overweight and obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome. N Am J Med Sci. 2015;7(7):310-6. doi:10.4103/1947-2714.161246

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