Health Benefits of Nuts for PCOS

Ask any registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) what their favorite go-to snack recommendation is and they will most likely answer: nuts. Loaded with protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, nuts make a satisfying snack or meal addition at any time of the day.

Various salted nuts
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They’re also rich in plant sterols and fat, particularly the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) proven to lower cholesterol.

Research suggests that the health benefits of nuts for those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) extend beyond that of heart health to balancing hormones and reducing insulin.

Here’s what you need to know about how the health benefits of nuts can help women with PCOS.

Health Benefits of Nuts for PCOS

Nuts of any type are great for PCOS! Research has indicated that the MUFAs and PUFAs found in nuts have been shown to improve insulin, androgens, and cholesterol levels in women with PCOS. In a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women with PCOS were chosen at random to receive either walnuts or almonds for six weeks.

While no change in weight was observed, both varieties of nuts reduced low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Walnuts improved insulin sensitivity by 26% and decreased glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), a measurement of average blood glucose, from 5.7% to 5.5%. Walnuts also increased sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), a hormone that binds to testosterone and almonds decreased free androgen levels. The researchers concluded that eating nuts positively affects cholesterol, insulin, and androgen levels in women with PCOS.

Interestingly, a meta-analysis review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported an association between eating nuts and reduced risk for type 2 diabetes.

Ways to Incorporate Nuts

Nuts add fullness to meals and are easy to take on the go as snacks. Even though nuts are calorie-dense, they also are associated with weight loss over the short and long term. To get their health benefits, substitute them for foods high in saturated fat.

  • Toss nuts into a stir-fry
  • Dip fruit such as apples or bananas in nut butters
  • Add your favorite nuts to replace croutons in salads or soups
  • Mix almonds or walnuts into oatmeal or yogurt
  • Snack on flavored nuts such as cinnamon almonds or warm roasted chestnuts
  • Use ground nuts as a breading for fish or chicken
  • Craving chocolate? Try dark chocolate covered almonds for a treat

What Counts as a Serving?

Pre-packaging nuts into small, single-serving containers or bags can help with portion control. To reap the health benefits of tree nuts discussed, include one, one-ounce serving a day or five ounces per week of a variety of nuts.

The following equal a one-ounce portion or 1/3 cup:

  • 24 almonds
  • 18 medium cashews
  • 12 hazelnuts,
  • 8 medium Brazil nuts
  • 12 macadamia nuts
  • 35 peanuts
  • 19 pecan halves
  • 14 walnut halves
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  1. Kalgaonkar S, Almario RU, Gurusinghe D, et al. Differential effects of walnuts vs almonds on improving metabolic and endocrine parameters in PCOSEur J Clin Nutr. 2011;65(3):386-393. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2010.266

  2. Afshin A, Micha R, Khatibzadeh S, Mozaffarian D. Consumption of nuts and legumes and risk of incident ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysisAm J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(1):278-288. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.076901

  3. Jackson CL, Hu FB. Long-term associations of nut consumption with body weight and obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100 Suppl 1:408S-11S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.071332

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