Health Benefits of Nuts for PCOS

various salted Nuts in a bowl

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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.

They’re also rich in plant sterols and fat- particularly the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), proven to lower cholesterol. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a health claim for food labels containing nuts that states “Eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

New research suggests that the health benefits of nuts for those with 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! New 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 recent 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. Nuts are, however, calorie-dense, ranging from 160 calories to 180 calories per ounce. To get their health benefits without breaking the calorie bank, substitute them for foods high in saturated fat and limit them one to two ounces a day.

  • 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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Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • In a Nutshell: The Health Benefits and Culinary Uses of Nut Meats. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.
  • 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-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(1):278-288.
  • Kalgaonkar S, Almario RU, Gurusinghe D, et al. Differential effects of walnuts vs almonds on improving metabolic and endocrine parameters in PCOS. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011;65(3):386-393.