Is Fruit Bad for Women With PCOS?

Plate of fruit

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Diet and exercise are important components of managing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In particular, people with PCOS must focus on how foods affect their blood sugar levels. That's because insulin resistance occurs in many people with PCOS, which means their bodies don't use insulin effectively.

A PCOS diet can help you manage your condition. Your doctor may help you develop an eating plan to help balance hormones and insulin. For example, a low-carb diet may help control insulin resistance.

Eating carbohydrates causes an immediate increase in blood sugar, but this does not mean all of them are off-limits. Fruits, for example, contain carbs but are a cornerstone of a healthy diet. Therefore, most people do not need to avoid them completely.

This article explains what kinds of carbohydrates are in fruits. It also covers how to choose fruits if you have PCOS and need to limit carbs.

People with PCOS are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, more than half of those with PCOS will develop diabetes by the time they are 40.

Carbohydrates in Fruit

The sugar found naturally in fruits is not the same as the sugar you might add to your coffee or use in baking. The latter is sucrose—an easily digestible carbohydrate that enters the bloodstream quickly after you consume it. This leads to a sharp rise in blood sugar and insulin, a concern for people with PCOS.

There are two forms of carbohydrates found in fruits. They are:

  • Fructose: This is a naturally occurring sugar that is not as easily digested as sucrose. Therefore, it has different effects on the body.
  • Fiber: This carb can't be digested and it slows down the absorption of fructose, so its effect on blood sugar and insulin levels is much slower. Additionally, the longer digestion time means fruits are more filling and satisfying than sugary food and drink sources. This helps reduce the risk of overconsumption.

Beyond fructose and fiber, fruit is also a rich source of a range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrients can help improve PCOS and insulin resistance and lower your risk for chronic diseases like cancer.

For most people, balance is key when it comes to eating fruits.

As outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, exact recommendations for daily fruit intake vary by age. Generally speaking, adults should aim for about 2 cups each day. At least half should come from whole fruits rather than 100% juice.

If you have PCOS and are on a lower-carb diet, this may be different for you. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist to determine what is right for your situation.

Choosing Which Fruits to Eat

Not all fruits affect the body in the same way. So, when you manage PCOS and need to eat fewer carbs, some fruits are better choices than others.

Better Choices

Generally, whole fresh fruits are typically high in fiber and tend to have a lower glycemic index (GI). Higher fiber means that these foods take longer to break down, which results in a slower rise in your glucose and insulin levels after eating (lower GI).

Cut points for GI classification are:

  • High GI: ≥70
  • Medium GI: 56–69
  • Low GI: ≤55

Accordingly, these are some good choices:

  • Apples: 44 ± 5
  • Banana: 47 ± 5
  • Blueberries: 53 ± 7
  • Dates: 52 (average of 11 varieties)
  • Grapefruit: 47 ± 5
  • Orange 47 ± 5
  • Peaches, canned: 46 ± 4
  • Pears: 33 ± 4
  • Pineapples: 43 ± 4
  • Strawberries: 40
  • Watermelon: 50 (average of four types)

Fruit doesn’t contain protein or fat. You may want to add fat or protein to feel full longer and manage blood sugar levels. For example, try an apple with nut butter or paired with a hard-boiled egg or cheese.

Fruits to Choose Less Often

Fruits that are preserved in heavy syrup, over-ripe, and some dried varieties tend to have a higher glycemic index. These include things like:

  • Apricots, dried: 56 ± 4
  • Bananas, over-ripe: 57 ± 8
  • Figs, dried: 61 ± 6
  • Lychee, canned in syrup, drained: 79 ± 8
  • Peaches in heavy syrup: 64 ± 3
  • Raisins: 55 (mean of 4 studies)

Many of these are still healthy, but the glycemic index is an important consideration when choosing which fruits to eat more or less often for people with PCOS.

For example, over-ripe bananas are in this group, but they have a medium GI. However, they are rich in potassium, which regulates blood pressure. In addition, they are a good source of B vitamins, which help maintain blood sugar levels.

So, while an over-ripe banana could seem like a fruit to avoid, think about saving them for a delicious banana bread (healthy version of course), and home-made smoothies that are mixed with protein and/or fat content to slow digestion.

It is important to note that only whole fruits and 100% juice are considered good fruit sources. In addition, some foods, such as store-bought smoothies, may seem healthy but often contain other ingredients and added sugars.

Be sure to check the nutrition facts for anything you're eating to fully understand what you're consuming.

What Counts As a Serving of Fruit?

If you have PCOS and are concerned about blood sugars, a serving size is based on 15 grams of carbohydrate. See the list below for examples of fruit portions that contain about 15g of carbs:

  • 1 small apple
  • 1 medium orange, pear, or tangerine
  • 1/2 medium banana
  • 1/2 medium grapefruit
  • 1 cup berries (or, depending on the size of berries, 3/4c blueberries or 1 -1/4c strawberries)
  • 1/2 cup of diced or pureed fruit
  • 1/2 cup of 100% fruit juice
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit

Eating too many carbohydrates at one time can cause glucose and insulin levels to spike. So enjoy a small piece of fruit as a snack between meals. Include fruit alongside a protein-rich, low-carbohydrate meal, such as an omelet with strawberries on the side.


People with PCOS often also have insulin resistance. This places them at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A low-carb diet is often beneficial for people with PCOS because it can help manage hormone and insulin levels. However, since fruit is nutritious but can also be high in carbohydrates, balance is key.

Some fruits are better choices than others. For example, whole fruits with higher fiber content have a lower GI. That means glucose and insulin levels rise more slowly after eating them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the best diet for PCOS?

    A healthy eating plan can help manage PCOS symptoms. Start by choosing a variety of foods from all food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. Look for healthy fats to add to your diet, like olive oil, avocados, fish, almonds, and walnuts. Talk to your doctor or dietitian for help with creating a plan that works for you.

  • What foods should you avoid with PCOS?

    Avoid sugary snacks and refined carbohydrates, which can cause an imbalance in insulin levels. These include processed foods like white bread and white rice. You can help improve PCOS symptoms by limiting these foods and replacing them with high-fiber, low-sugar carbohydrates, like whole-grain bread and brown rice.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Paoli A, Mancin L, Giacona MC, Bianco A, Caprio M. Effects of a ketogenic diet in overweight women with polycystic ovary syndromeJ Transl Med. 2020;18(1):104. doi:10.1186/s12967-020-02277-0

  4. Boston Children's Hospital. PCOS: Nutrition basics.

  5. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition.

  6. Atkinson FS, Brand-Miller JC, Foster-Powell K, Buyken AE, Goletzke J. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values 2021: A systematic reviewThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2021;114(5):1625-1632. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqab233

  7. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. Diabetes: Carb choices.

  8. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Polycystic ovarian syndrome.

By Angela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN
 Angela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN, is the founder of the PCOS Nutrition Center.