Summer Diet Plan

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Weight Loss

Food Secrets to Losing Weight

Food is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, poor food habits can cause or exacerbate Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). On the other hand, correct food choices can heal your body, mind, soul… and your PCOS. Food is absolutely among the best medicine.

Modifying your eating habits helps you to balance your thyroid function, improve your gut, detoxify your liver, maintain a stable and happy mood, and boost your energy levels. Each of these is critical for you to lose weight, and keep it off! The right food choices set the foundations for success in optimal health, not just in weight loss.

Strengthening your body is THE best way to help yourself. And it’s also far more beneficial than the toxic hormonal treatments traditionally given to women with PCOS. These only treat one symptom, and may also leave behind a legion of side effects. These side effects may include an increase in insulin resistance and inflammation – the two main drivers of PCOS. [1,2,3]

The ‘RIGHT’ food for your PCOS:

Low Glycaemic Load (GL)

Low GL is key. You need to look to food to overcome the metabolic mess that is PCOS, and low GL will certainly help you here. Oh, and please, do not consider yourself as on ‘a diet’. All the word diet really means is ‘the usual food and drink a person consumes’. Think of your new food habits as your life giving, optimal, healing, food-plan. [4,5]

What food plan will help you to lose weight?

Look to nature!

Nature provides the right mix of nutrients. It also provides low Glycaemic Load (GL). The food plan proven to deal with PCOS and obesity is the ‘Low Glycaemic Load (Low GL) food plan’.

Why Low GL?

Low Glycaemic load is the best way to combat insulin resistance and obesity - two formidable opponents in PCOS. Low glycaemic index (GI) foods are now quite well known. However, as helpful as this tool is, it does not take into account the amount of carbohydrates eaten. Fantastic foods such as watermelon are high GI, but low GL and perfectly healthy. If we just look to GI, we would avoid these great foods. GL gives you a better measure of the affect a food or drink will have on your insulin levels. [6]

Tip: Do not be misled into believing low carb food plans including large amounts of only meat, egg and cheese are healthy for weight loss. You need nutrients to successfully and healthily lose weight, and keep it off. [3,4]

A food plan that includes foods consisting of complex carbohydrates is important. Complex carbohydrates are those that break down slowly during digestion and release a steady supply of sugar in our body rather than causing sudden spikes.

Due to the insulin resistance of PCOS, it is important for you to control your blood sugar levels. Including foods like some fresh fruit, and vegetables, small amounts of gluten free grains, and nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, are very helpful.

Tip: Do not starve yourself to lose weight. This is not sustainable, and not healthy. Very low carbohydrate food plans are successful in weight loss, but very low calorie has been shown to cause means arterial stress.

“A word of caution: Choose your low GL foods very carefully. As close to nature is best. Many of the low carb foods on the supermarket shelf are loaded with harmful fats, artificial sweeteners and additives. Trying to avoid one harmful item may just land you with another. Make sure your low GL foods are high in healthy proteins or fibre, while free from additives and altered fats.”

Tip: Although we do not yet know why, milk has been shown to spike your insulin levels as much as wholemeal bread. This really is best avoided.

Protein Power

Good lean proteins are a must when you are trying to lose weight. Proteins have a low GL. They help to maintain balanced blood sugar levels, and theyhelp to lower insulin fluctuations. Research studies have proven that including good lean proteins along with a low GL foods boosts your body’s metabolism, helps in weight loss and insulin resistance in women with PCOS [5,6]

Proteins provide your body with a steady supply of amino acids that help in building and repairing all our body tissues. Also, they are one of the important ingredients in the manufacturing our hormones and enzymes. Protein helps maintain your muscle mass, which is important for your metabolism. Plus, they keep you full, longer [6,7]

How to meet your daily protein goal:

There are many different ways of including healthy proteins in your daily food intake. Starting with breakfast - try an omelette with organic free-range eggs, mix in some broccoli and cauliflower.

Snack on a handful of delicious (unsalted) nuts as you go through your day. Check out some healthy dips like hummus - a savoury middle-eastern dip. Steamed fish seasoned with fresh herbs, lemon with a dash of extra virgin olive oil is packed with lean protein for dinner. Toss in some cooked black beans, garbanzo beans, sprouts, grilled organic chicken or turkey breast or chopped hard-boiled eggs in your salads, and voila you have met your daily protein goal. [1,8]

Friendly Fats

I cannot overstate how important it is for you to include good fats in your food plan - daily. This is pivotal in weight loss. I know it may sound odd that in order to loss fat, you must eat fat. However, the right types and right amounts of fats - like the Omega 3 fatty acids- are a must. Good fats help improve insulin sensitivity. You cannot healthily lose weight without eating enough good fats.

Where can you get the ‘good fats’?

Oily fish like salmon, mahi mahi, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are rich in healthy fats. Organic free-range eggs are very beneficial. You can also choose a variety of vegan sources for your healthy fats like olives, avocados, nuts like almonds, pistachios, chestnut, cashews, pecans, and seeds like sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds etc. However, stay away from the unhealthy fats like those that have been heated, exposed to oxygen or damaged in processing. [10]

Going nuts

Nuts like almond and walnuts are great sources of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, Vitamin E and minerals like copper, manganese, magnesium and potassium. The abundance of antioxidants in the nuts puts them in the category of ‘super-foods’.

Veggie Indulgence

Indulge in plenty of yellow, red, orange, green, blue and purple fruits and vegetables. Bringing variety to your food-plan by including various organic fruits and veggies from different colour spectrums also increases many other nutrients.

Organic is the word

Conventional farming may tarnish your food with insecticides, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and more. Persistent Organic Pesticides (POPs) were shown to increase the risk of Diabetes – an insulin resistant dis-ease, like PCOS. Insulin Resistance increases weight gain, especially around the dangerous tummy area. Choose nutritious and safe organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, and poultry and meat products wherever possible. [12,13]

What not to eat

Refined flour, white rice, sugar, processed foods, and fruit juices containing simple carbohydrates are best avoided. As simple sugars get stored as fat and cause a spike in insulin levels, these simple carbohydrates are a poor health choice, particularly for women with PCOS looking to lose weight. [8,6]

When not to eat carbohydrates

A recent study found looked at people eating a meal including a hamburger on a bread roll. When the meal was eaten at lunch, as opposed to at dinner, the blood sugar changes were much less. When the meal was eaten at dinner, not only did it raise the blood sugars more, but they also remained higher over night. So, if you don’t like the idea of gaining weight in your sleep, limit (or remove) carbohydrate intake after approximately 5pm.

By eating the right foods, at the right time, you can healthily lose weight and keep it off!

If you would like to know more about weight loss and how to conquer your PCOS, and to get your 3 FREE chapters of ‘Conquer Your PCOS Naturally’ head to now.

Dr Rebecca Harwin is an international author, PCOS expert and experienced clinician who has been helping women improve their health for many years.


1. Diet and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome by Martha McKittrick, RD, CDN, CDE

2. Successful weight loss maintenance by Rena et al.

3. Weight loss in obese infertile women results in improvement in reproductive outcome for all forms of fertility treatment- A. m Clark.

4. Postprandial ghrelin, cholecystokinin, peptide YY, and appetite before and after weight loss in overweight women with and without polycystic ovary syndrome by Lisa et al.

5. The Lived Experience of Women Diagnosed With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Barbara S. Snyder.

6. Evaluating compliance to a low glycaemia index (GI) diet in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) by Nicola et al.

7. Weight control and its beneficial effect on fertility in women with obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome by R.Pasquali.

8. Obesity and the polycystic ovary syndrome- A Gambineri.

9. The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome: A pilot study- John C Mavropoulos.

10. Long-term weight loss maintenance- by Rena et al

11. Influences of weight, body fat patterning and nutrition on the management of PCOS- P.Lefebvre.

12. Influences of weight, body fat patterning and nutrition on the management of PCOS- P.Lefebvre.

13. Weight loss results in significant improvement in pregnancy and ovulation rates in anovulatory obese women by A.M. Clark

© Copyright Dr Rebecca Harwin

Article published with the approval of Dr Harwin.
The PCOS Professional

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