The Biggest PCOS Food Myths Busted

Bowl of apples, peaches, and grapes

​Verywell / Zorica Lakonic

Let’s face it: There’s an overwhelming amount of nutrition information for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) on the internet. Some of the available information is accurate and based on sound science, but other information is not nearly as trustworthy. Here’s the truth about the biggest nutrition myths for PCOS.

Myth: No Fruit Allowed

Diet fads have led people to believe that all forms of carbohydrates are bad, but this is not necessarily the case for fruits. Fruits provide important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that offer numerous benefits to women with PCOS.

These benefits include:

A study published in the Hormone and Metabolic Research Journal showed that women with PCOS who ate a diet rich in fruits and vegetables lost more abdominal fat and had significant improvements in their insulin sensitivity and inflammatory markers.

Choose fruits with the skin on them (such as apples, blueberries, and strawberries) which tend to have a lower glycemic index than fruits eaten without the skin (such as pineapple and watermelon).

Remember that fruits are carbohydrates, and should be spread out evenly throughout the day. Pair fruit with a protein source (apple and peanut butter) to help stabilize glucose and insulin levels. Be sure to avoid fruit juice altogether, as this will quickly spike insulin levels.

Myth: A Gluten-Free Diet Is Best for PCOS

Many women with PCOS think eating gluten-free will help them lose weight, however, there is no scientific evidence to support it. While some women find they lose weight avoiding gluten, it's more likely due to eating fewer calories overall.

If you are overweight, weight loss can improve most, if not all, aspects of PCOS. Those who lose weight and feel better eating gluten-free may attribute it to gluten when it could have been from weight loss in general.

A small percentage of women with PCOS may also have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. For those women, removing gluten from the diet will reduce symptoms and ultimately help them feel better overall.

But not all women with PCOS who follow a gluten-free diet find it helps them lose weight or improve their symptoms.

Instead, focus on eating sensible portions of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and protein-rich foods that have been proven to help balance out blood sugar, reduce the risk for disease, and help with weight management.

Myth: You Must Avoid All Dairy

Milk is a rich source of calcium and protein and is also considered a carbohydrate due to its high lactose content.

An article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed a positive link between dairy consumption and acne. This report showed evidence that milk, nonfat in particular, can contribute to increased androgen and insulin levels.

For these reasons, it may be advisable for women with PCOS to limit their dairy intake of yogurt or milk. You may not need to completely eliminate dairy, though, and you can consume a few servings per week unless you have a milk allergy or are highly sensitive to it.

Myth: You Can’t Eat Any Sugar

While desserts and other sugary foods aren’t great for PCOS and should be limited, they can be part of a healthy PCOS diet if enjoyed in moderation. A square or two of dark chocolate (70% cocoa) contains antioxidants and can satisfy a craving.

Sometimes being too restrictive with sweets can backfire in a big way with episodes of binge eating. So go ahead and indulge your sweet tooth from time to time, but focus on whole foods in sensible portions the majority of your day.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are some treatment options for PCOS?

    PCOS is treated in various ways, including lifestyle changes, medications to help stimulate ovulation, and metformin to help with insulin resistance. Birth control pills may be used to improve acne and regulate periods for those who do not wish to become pregnant.

  • Are there specific PCOS diet plans?

    There are some specific dietary changes you can make to help with PCOS symptoms and associated conditions like insulin resistance, inflammation, and obesity. The PCOS diet focuses on high-fiber whole foods, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats while avoiding refined sugars, red meat, full-fat dairy, and processed foods.

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6 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. NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Definition and facts for celiac disease. Updated June 2016.

  4. Burris J, Rietkerk W, Woolf K. Acne: the role of medical nutrition therapy. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Mar;113(3):416-30. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.11.016

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  6. Riley JK, Jungheim ES. Is there a role for diet in ameliorating the reproductive sequelae associated with chronic low-grade inflammation in polycystic ovary syndrome and obesityFertility and Sterility. 2016;106(3):520-527. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.07.1069

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