The Biggest PCOS Food Myths Busted

Woman cutting fresh apples

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Let’s face it. There’s an overwhelming amount of nutrition information for PCOS on the internet. Some of it accurate and based on sound science, and some information that’s far from it. Here’s the truth about the biggest nutrition myths for PCOS.

Myth: No Fruit Allowed

Fruits contain carbohydrates, yes, but they also provide important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that offer numerous benefits to women with PCOS. These benefits include lowering blood pressure, insulin, and cholesterol levels, and even cancer prevention.

A study published in the Journal of Human Reproductive Update 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 GI 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: You Must Eat Gluten-Free to Shed Pounds

Many women with PCOS think eating gluten-free will help them lose weight although there is no scientific evidence to support it. Although some women do find they lose weight by avoiding gluten, it could really be due to eating fewer calories overall (no more bread basket at a restaurant).

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

A small percentage of women may have a gluten sensitivity or Crohn's (celiac) disease. In this case, removing gluten from the diet will reduce symptoms resulting in the person feeling better. But certainly, not all women with PCOS who follow a gluten-free 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, in particular, nonfat milk, can contribute to increased androgen and insulin levels. For these reasons, it may be advisable for women with PCOS to limit their dairy intake coming from yogurt or milk to two or fewer servings per day. You may not need to completely eliminate dairy, though, 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 chocolate, especially dark chocolate containing 70 percent or higher cocoa, contain helpful 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.

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Article Sources
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  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Definition and facts for celiac disease. Published June, 2016.

  2. 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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