PCOS Nutrition Basics: Fats, Protein, and Carbohydrates

Having PCOS means staying on top of the nutrition basics and prevent the inherent risk for a number of related metabolic conditions including diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and metabolic syndrome as much as you can through food. In addition, many women with PCOS have issues with weight gain. You may be able to reduce the risk of complications and symptoms with even a moderate weight loss through proper nutrition. But you may not know where to start? With all the fad diets, diet supplements and contradicting information out there, it can be difficult to distinguish between the false and the reputable. Here we offer up a simple explanation of nutrition basics for PCOS sufferers that has been extremely helpful.

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The Importance of Balance

Any restrictive diet can lead to deficiencies if you are not careful to make sure that you are getting all of the nutrients that you may miss. By following a diet that is low in calories and inclusive of all major food groups, there is no need to deny yourself of fats, carbohydrates or proteins. A healthy, balanced diet must contain all of the essential nutrients necessary to maintain life. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy within the body. According to the United States government's current dietary guidelines, women between the ages of 19 and 30 should consume six-ounce equivalents of grains each day, with half of them being from whole grains. You can get servings of whole grains from breads, oatmeals, and other grains. Make sure the packaging says “100% Whole Grains” to ensure that this counts as a serving. “Twelve Grain” or “Multi-Grain” may not contain the entire grain kernel, where the bulk of the fiber and nutrition are located.


Proteins are responsible for the growth and maintenance of all body cells and structures, like bone, muscle, blood cells, skin and hair. They are also the primary component of enzymes, proteins that help facilitate many of the chemical reactions within the body, including digestion. A healthy diet should include 2-3 servings of lean protein each day. Try baked or grilled chicken, fish and beans. Some grains are also very high in protein. Mixing quinoa with grilled vegetables makes a very satisfying lunch or side dish. It’s important for women to eat enough calcium in their diet. Low-fat dairy products are also excellent sources of protein. Try reduced-fat yogurts, cottage cheese, and milk.


Fruits and vegetables are key in providing many of the vitamins and minerals that are essential for health. Women between the ages of 19 and 30 should consume 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day. Among the different types of vegetables, current dietary guidelines recommend 3 cups of dark green, 2 cups of orange, 3 cups of dry beans and peas, and 3 cups of starchy vegetables each week. There are many easy ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Eat a salad with each meal. Try having an egg white omelet with mixed vegetables in the morning. Substituting cut vegetables or a piece of fruit in the afternoon for a snack instead of chips or other processed snack is an easy way to cut calories.


Fats, or lipids, are an important part of our diet, and must not be eliminated completely. In the appropriate quantities and types, fats will provide much of the energy needed to get us through the day. Additionally, they support and cushion our internal organs, protecting them from harm. Fats are found in almost all types of foods, from butter and oils to dairy products, meats, and processed foods.

Current guidelines recommend that hydrogenated and trans fats should be avoided. Other fats should be minimized whenever possible. Generally speaking, fat should be restricted to less than 30% of your caloric intake each day, and saturated fats should be less than 10%. Try grilling vegetables or chicken instead of frying them. It’s an excellent way of cutting back fats. There are so many marinades and spices that you can use to flavor your food, you won’t even miss the fat. Instead of using fattening salad dressings, a little olive oil with some balsamic or other vinegar is an excellent dressing. Also, try some of the lower-fat varieties of foods like milk, cheese, and mayonnaise.


Finally, one of the staples of a healthy diet is sufficient water and fluid intake. In addition to regulating body temperature, water is found in every cell within the body and is necessary for maintaining their shape. Water is an essential component for many chemical reactions and aids in digestion and excretion of waste products. While the body does produce water as a byproduct of many chemical reactions, it must be taken in regularly to maintain important body functions.

In addition to fluids like milk, coffee, and tea, water is found in most fruits and vegetables. It is important to maintain adequate hydration through regular consumption of water. While other fluids do contribute some water, they also add calories and sugar. Caffeinated beverages like coffee and soda actually promote fluid loss and should therefore not be considered as a part of your fluid intake. If you drink a lot of soda, try mixing a little 100% fruit juice in with some seltzer water. It’s a great substitute.

A Word From Verywell

A healthy diet doesn’t have to be restrictive or difficult to maintain. In fact, it’s easier to stick with a new routine if you make small changes and commit to them. First, just try adding a salad and a glass of water before each meal. Then try switching to low-fat dairy products instead of their full-fat counterparts. As each change becomes more routine and you no longer have to think about them, try implementing another one. Finally, don’t be hard on yourself. Setbacks happen. If and when one does, acknowledge it, and move on. Don’t beat yourself up over one bad decision. Instead, try to remember to make a smarter one next time. Good luck!

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