Last modified on October 2020
With inputs from Parvathy Menon - Dietitian and Nutritionist
Addressing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) as a public health priority and mobilising awareness-raising efforts has never been more important than now, as the condition is becoming increasingly prevalent among women all over the world today.
This is not to say that the condition is new: PCOS was first recognised as early as in the year 1935 by Drs. Stein and Leventhal. Recent years have, however, seen a significant spike in the incidence of PCOS.
A study conducted by ‘Conquer PCOS’, a CSR initiative of Metropolis Healthcare Limited, shows that 1 out of every 10 women in India is affected by PCOS.
Most women who suffer from PCOS do not have adequate information about their condition or what they can do to manage their symptoms. This causes their health condition to spiral out of control
and quickly sets off a chain reaction of other diseases. If left untreated, PCOS may increase a woman’s risk for endometrial cancer.
Diet is said to play a vital role in controlling PCOD and here is a detailed guide on an Indian diet during PCOD, which includes what to eat and what to avoid to manage the condition.
Many research studies have uncovered that a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle are the main reasons for PCOD in women. Urban living has been one of the key culprits that has encouraged more sedentary behaviour and consumption of foods with much lower nutritional
benefits. The prevalence of the disease is also, therefore, found to be higher in urban India.
Although Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS is not life-threatening by itself, it is attributable to a higher risk for more serious conditions, such as:
It is easy for many women to have the condition and not know it, as PCOS is a silent syndrome.
What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS?
The National Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Association, a leading authority, however, describes it as “a serious genetic, hormone, metabolic and reproductive disorder that affects women”.
When there is such a hormonal imbalance, it can create problems in the ovaries. Ovaries play a vital role in releasing a mature egg (ovulation) every month. This is an important part of a healthy menstrual cycle.
However, with PCOS, a hormonal imbalance resulting from an excess amount of male sex hormones called androgens or testosterone interferes with this normal reproductive function.
Ovulation may not take place as the egg does not develop as it should or the follicles, which contain the immature egg, fail to release it.
This phenomenon can cause irregular or missed periods and may result in the development of fluid-filled sacs called cysts in the ovaries. These cysts are called ‘polycystic ovaries’. However, not all women with PCOS develop cysts.
Based on the severity of the condition, PCOS symptoms can range from hirsutism or excessive hair growth on the face and chin, excessive acne, weight gain, male pattern-baldness, insulin resistance, infertility and irregular menstrual cycles.
How Does Diet Affect PCOS?
Although the exact cause of PCOD in women still remains unclear, insulin resistance and associated hyperinsulinemia have been identified as strong potential contributing factors. Diet in PCOD, therefore, has a lot to do with causing and worsening the syndrome.
Women who regularly eat foods that are high in sugar, starch, saturated fats and/or refined and processed foods and do not get enough physical activity are at an increased risk for PCOS. These foods can sometimes
spike blood sugar levels in the body and may reduce the cells’ ability to absorb blood sugar.
When cells are unable to absorb and regulate the amount of blood sugar in the bloodstream, the pancreas releases more insulin to help cope with the situation. As more and more insulin is released into the body, the cells gradually become desensitised to it and develop insulin resistance.
Increased insulin stimulates higher production of androgens by the ovaries. High levels of androgens, along with insulin resistance, can cause irregular periods and absent ovulation in women with PCOS. So how to reduce PCOD symptoms? Regular exercise and a healthy and balanced meal plan have been proven effective when it comes to managing PCOS.
– Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is an endocrine and reproductive disorder that typically occurs in women of reproductive age.
– Lifestyle choices and diet in PCOD play an important role in managing its symptoms.
“PCOD/PCOS is more common than we think in India. 1 out of every 10 women in India is affected by PCOS. A good and well-balanced diet does play a role in controlling the condition. Foods such as fibrous fruits and vegetables, lean protein such as fish, chicken, yoghurt help in controlling it while processed meat, starchy vegetables, sugary foods, fried foods, processed and refined grains, vegetable oils are a big NO-NO.”
– Parvathy Menon, Dietitian and Nutritionist
To get expert dietary advice for PCOD, consult top dietitians on MFine!
Ayurveda, India’s ancient medical practice has always underlined that aahar (food) and vihaar (lifestyle) when regulated, restricted
and practised daily, can greatly help in the cure of PCOD.
Indian food generally comprises a healthy balance of grains, legumes, beans, fruits and vegetables all of which are power-packed with essential and healthy doses
of fibre, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
The liberal use of spices and herbs such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cumin, saffron and cloves also provide important antioxidant defences
against various diseases and conditions. An Indian diet during PCOD consisting of an amalgamation of the above has plenty to offer to those suffering from the disease.
The following are some of the best foods for PCOD that can be included:
1. High-Fibre Vegetables
High-fibre vegetables such as broccoli, mustard greens, spinach, sweet potato, green beans, cauliflower, snake gourd and carrots should be included as a part of the Indian diet during PCOD.
Vegetables that are high in fibre will help to maintain blood sugar levels and also reverse insulin resistance by slowing down digestion in the body and decreasing the workload of the pancreas.
The diet for PCOD patient should potentially include at least 25 grams of fibre daily.
Fruits such as mangoes, bananas, plantain, apples, berries, guava, pineapple, papaya, melon, pomegranate and guava are recommended as part of a PCOD diet plan. Fruits can help satisfy sweet cravings, are highly nutritious and also rich in fibre.
Being on a fruit diet alone or eating too much fruit at once, however, is not a recommended option for the PCOD diet plan. These fruits for PCOD, although rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants also contain varying amounts of carbohydrates that can cause blood sugar to spike.
Hence, it is generally recommended that the diet chart for PCOS patient include only a small serving or a piece of fruit between their meals.
Fruits eaten along with the skin are also recommended over fruits eaten without the skin, as they have a lower glycemic index (GI). A lower GI will ensure that food is digested more slowly and there is a slower rise in the blood glucose levels.
Pulses such as split peas, green moong, yellow moong, dried beans, chana dal, lentils, soybeans and chickpeas are a great addition to the Indian vegetarian diet plan for PCOS. Pulses are also low glycemic food and, therefore, beneficial for regulating insulin levels.
4. Whole Grains
Whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, oats, poha, muesli and barley are a great PCOS foods. Whole grains are rich in fibre and unprocessed carbs. They also take longer to digest and can, thereby, help in controlling blood sugar levels.
5. Lean Protein
An Indian diet for PCOD must consitute of a substantial amount of lean protein. Protein stimulates metabolism and digestion and also plays a key role in the synthesis of hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and insulin. Thus, including lean protein is beneficial for managing symptoms of PCOS.
Lean protein sources may include egg whites, lean poultry such as skinless chicken, fish such as shrimp, salmon, tuna and cod, skimmed milk, curd and tofu. Dairy intake from milk and yoghurt should, however, be limited to fewer than two servings per day.
6. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds such as almonds, hazelnuts, flaxseeds, pine nuts and sesame seeds are a great source of healthy fats and recommended to cure PCOD. Women are advised to include a handful of nuts and seeds (not more than 20 grams) in their daily PCOS Indian diet plan.
7. Indian Spices and Herbs
Indian spices and herbs such as fenugreek, cinnamon, turmeric, mint, tulsi, basil, ginger and cloves are all helpful in regulating insulin levels and fighting various symptoms of PCOD in women. Women with PCOD are, therefore, advised to flavour their diet with these antioxidant herbs and spices.
– PCOS can be controlled by including a number of easily available Indian foods in their daily diet.
– An Indian diet during PCOD includes fibrous fruits and vegetables, lean protein such as fish, chicken, yoghurt as well as various pulses, whole grains, spices, herbs, nuts and seeds.
Consult top dietitians on MFine to find out what foods to avoid for PCOD!
Traditional Indian food is rich in wholesome grains, lentils, immune-boosting ingredients and healing spices and herbs. However, Indian
food has also evolved to include unhealthy, and nutrient-devoid ingredients such as refined and processed flours saturated fats and sugars as well. Many of these foods can exacerbate symptoms of PCOD and should be avoided completely.
Here is a list of Indian foods to avoid in PCOD diet plans:
1. Starchy Vegetables
Consumption of starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, yam, peas, corn, taro and squash should be limited in your PCOD diet plan. Starchy vegetables are rich in carbohydrates and can quickly raise a person’s blood sugar levels, causing an imbalance in hormones.
2. Fruit Juices, Processed Fruit Concentrates and Canned Fruit
Fruit juices, canned fruit and processed fruit concentrates should be eliminated from the PCOD diet chart as they are likely to contain high doses of added sugar. The Indian diet for PCOD should ideally contain fresh or frozen fruit as they posess more beneficial fibres and nutrients.
3. Vegetable Oils
Vegetable oils are highly processed and can be inflammatory for women with PCOD due to their high ratio of omega-6 fatty acids. They are also linked to obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Therefore, in the diet plan for PCOD, healthier alternatives such as coconut oil, ghee, olive oil or avocado oil should be included.
4. Sugary Foods
India has a variety of decadent desserts such as gulab jamun, kulfi, gajar ka halwa, cakes, cookies and Kheer. Most of these desserts are a high-calorie affair and are loaded with large amounts of sugar that can adversely impact PCOD in women.
5. Fried Foods
Fried foods such as pakoras, samosas and fritters are high in saturated and hydrogenated fats. These unhealthy fats can increase estrogen production and are not preferred in the diet chart for PCOS patient.
6. Refined and Processed Foods
Refined and processed carbs and foods such as white bread, white rice, instant oatmeal, rice cakes and white pasta are stripped of fibre and their original nutrient content and should be eliminated from the PCOD diet food chart.
7. Red Meat
Women with PCOD should limit their consumption of red meats such as pork, beef and mutton. These foods can aggravate existing hormonal problems as they are high in cholesterol
and saturated fats. In addition, processed meats are especially high in sodium and treated with various preservatives and additives. These include sausages, bacon, ham and salami, foods that should be excluded from the diet chard for PCOD.
8. Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine can be problematic for women with PCOS. While alcohol consumption increases the risk of liver disease, caffeine can promote anxiety and kick-in stress hormones which in turn can spike up insulin levels.
9. Dairy Products
Dairy has a hormone called IGF-1 which can mimic insulin in the body, thereby causing blood sugar levels to spike and worsening symptoms of PCOS in women. Plus, regular dairy products might be laced with hormones or
antibiotics that are commonly fed to animals. This can interfere with the hormones of a woman and may make it increasingly difficult to manage symptoms of PCOS.
– Women with PCOD need to avoid or limit many foods as these may raise their blood sugar levels and aggravate symptoms of their conditions.
– Foods to avoid for women with PCOD include red meat, starchy vegetables, sugary foods, fried foods, processed and refined grains, vegetable oils, fruit juices, dairy, alcohol and caffeine.
Consult top dietitians on MFine for a personalized PCOD Indian diet chart
Women with PCOD should try to maintain a PCOS diet chart to ensure that they are including an adequate proportion of all nutritional elements and a healthy balance of a wide variety of foods in their diet.
The following is a 7-day sample PCOD diet chart for vegetarians and non-vegetarians:
Sample Indian Vegetarian Diet Plan for PCOS:
Sample Indian Non-Vegetarian Diet Plan for PCOS:
We would also recommend consulting a dietitian before you make too many changes to your diet.
– Maintaining a PCOD diet plan is a simple way to manage what to eat in PCOD and keep track of your weight.
– Your diet plan should always include a variety of foods, especially green leafy vegetables, low glycemic fruits and adequate amounts of lean protein.
To get lifestyle tips and cures for PCOD, consult top dietitians on MFine!
Besides a healthy diet plan, doctors often recommend making certain lifestyle changes to manage symptoms of PCOD. Physical activity and exercise are one of the highly recommended lifestyle changes that are advised for women suffering from PCOD.
As obesity and sedentary behaviour increases a woman’s risk of developing and complicating symptoms of PCOS, exercise is one of the best ways to counteract
the unhealthy consequences of this condition. The following are some lifestyle approaches that Indian women can adopt to manage their symptoms:
1. Regular Exercise
For women suffering from PCOS, maintaining a healthy weight is a priority for managing the condition. Regular exercise is, therefore, both effective and essential.
Along with a sample Indian diet during PCOD, a regular exercise routine for PCOD can include brisk walking, cycling, jogging or swimming. These activities help to reduce insulin resistance, aid in weight loss and are
also helpful in boosting fertility and improving symptoms of depression and anxiety.
It is recommended that women with PCOS do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 days a week. Strength training exercises and core strength exercises are also advised at
least two times a week to boost metabolism, build body mass and alleviate symptoms such as lower back pain.
Along with PCOS diet and exercise, yoga is a complementary practice that is found to be increasingly helpful for promoting hormonal balance, managing, improving anxiety and managing blood sugar.
Restorative yoga, gentle yoga and yin yoga are some of the best practices for women suffering from PCOS. These yoga practices help to reduce muscle tension, deactivate stress hormones and improve symptoms such as irregular periods and mood instability.
3. Keeping a Check on Mental Health
PCOS is a complex condition and can sometimes cause symptoms of anxiety and depression in women with the condition. Hormonal imbalances and frustrating symptoms such as excess body and facial hair, acne, obesity and infertility can contribute to depression and anxiety.
A study conducted in India revealed that 28% to 39% of women with PCOS in India suffered from anxiety, while 11% to 25% of Indian women with PCOS suffered from depressive disorders.
Women with PCOD are, therefore, advised to keep a close check on their mental health. Practising mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises are some complementary and alternative therapies that can help fight depression and anxiety.
– Women with PCOS are advised to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. Pilates, yoga, walking, strength training, and cardio are all good exercises for PCOS.
– Yoga and other complementary practices such as mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises can also help regularise hormones and blood sugar levels and improving symptoms of depression and anxiety.
To get started on your PCOD treatment, consult top dietitians on MFine!
Many women with PCOS are wary of taking over-the-counter medications and drugs to treat their condition. This is because they worry that some of the common treatments for PCOS could have adverse side effects.
For women with mild PCOD symptoms, home remedies might be recommended by doctors in order to manage the condition. The following are some of the all-natural PCOD food and home remedies that can be safely included in the Indian diet plan for PCOD that have found to be effective for the condition:
The use of amla or Indian gooseberry to boost fertility has been documented in ancient texts of Ayurveda. Amla is power-packed with antioxidants and is a rich source of iron, calcium and Vitamin C and is one of the best fruits for PCOD. It supports reproductive health by regularising
hormones, flushing out toxins and regulating periods. Amla is also effective in the cure of PCOD symptoms such as fighting obesity and unwanted hair growth.
How to Use Amla for PCOS?
Amla can be eaten raw, powdered or juiced. Women with PCOS are advised to drink amla juice diluted in warm water in the morning daily.
Pure organic honey is a naturopathic remedy that is commonly recommended for PCOS. Honey helps in the metabolism of fat and aids in weight loss.
How to Use Honey for PCOS?
Add a spoonful of honey along with a few drops of lemon juice to a glass of warm water. This drink should be had on an empty stomach early in the morning. Doing this regularly along with following your Indian diet for PCOD can significantly promote better gut health and even weightloss.
3. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are a superfood packed with B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorous and antioxidants. This PCOD food is also high in omega-3 fatty acids and fibre and promotes detoxification and weight loss.
How to Use Flax Seeds for PCOS?
Flax seeds are best-consumed ground. They can be added to smoothies or simply had with a glass of warm water daily. You will see that the benefits of including flax seeds in your daily PCOD diet food chart are endless.
4. Methi Seeds
Methi or Fenugreek seeds have high antioxidant content and can aid in weight loss, reduce insulin resistance and correct hormonal imbalances.
How to Use Methi Seeds for PCOS?
Methi seeds can be soaked overnight in water and had the next morning. A fantastic addition to your Indian diet for PCOD, they can also be boiled in water, filtered and had after it has been allowed to seep for at least 5 to 6 hours.
– Home remedies are mostly safe for treating symptoms of PCOS.
– However, some home remedies can sometimes interfere with certain prescribed medications and drugs. Therefore, it is advisable for PCOD patients to talk to a doctor before trying any home remedy.
Consult top dietitians on MFine to get expert advice and guidance on a suitable PCOD diet plan for you!
Q1. How is PCOS diagnosed?
Most doctors use the Rotterdam criteria to diagnose PCOS. Women who have at least two of the following symptoms may have PCOS:
Q2. Can PCOS be cured completely?
There is still no definite cure for PCOS. However, exercise, diet and certain medications can eliminate or decrease symptoms of PCOS.
Q3. What are commonly prescribed medications for PCOS?
Birth control pills, anti-androgens, insulin-sensitising drugs and other fertility treatments and drugs such as Clomid may be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of PCOS.
Combined birth control pills contain both progestin and estrogen. These hormones help to regulate the menstrual cycle, improves symptoms such as acne and hirsutism and also decreases the risk of endometrial cancer in women.
Q4. How can women with PCOS improve their chances of pregnancy?
Successful weight loss for women who are overweight, medications to induce ovulation, and in some cases, surgery may help to improve the chances of pregnancy.
Q5. Are natural sugars safe for women with PCOS?
No, women with PCOS are advised to avoid even the most natural sources of sugar such as coconut sugar and maple sugar from their PCOS diet plan as they contain high amounts of fructose.
Stevia is considered a relatively safe sweetener for women suffering from PCOS. This plant-based sweetener is completely free of glucose and fructose and can be included as part of the Indian diet plan for PCOD in limited amounts.
Q6. Should fats be eliminated from the PCOD diet completely?
No, fats should not be completely eliminated: they are a vital part of the Indian diet during PCOD and should be had in appropriate quantities. Trans fats and hydrogenated fats should, however, be avoided.
Healthy fats to consider in your PCOD diet food chart include avocados, oily fish, olive oil and unsalted nuts and seeds.
Q7. What are some safe dairy alternatives for women with PCOS?
Lactaid, a type of dairy milk that has lactose removed, is safe for women with PCOS. Apart from this, soy milk is also a safe alternative.
Q8. What are some safe dairy alternatives for women with PCOS?
Tea is not only safe; it is also considered a great addition to the PCOD diet chart. Green tea and Spearmint tea especially are shown to reduce symptoms of PCOD in women.
Some of the best herbal teas that you could include in your Indian diet for PCOS also include liquorice root tea, dandelion root tea and cinnamon tea, among others.
Q9. Why is weight loss important for women with PCOS?
Most women with PCOS tend to gain weight. While the exact cause is not known, weight gain is possibly triggered by high androgen levels.
For most women who are overweight, weight loss alone helps to regulate their menstrual cycle and improve their cholesterol and insulin levels. Following a workout routine and PCOS diet chart for weight loss can help in weight regulation.
Strength training can stimulate metabolism, reduce insulin resistance, lower cholesterol and aid in weight loss, all of which are useful in treating PCOS. However, too much exercise can increase the levels of cortisol or stress hormones in the body and worsen symptoms of PCOS.
Q10. Can goods baked with almond or coconut flour be included in the PCOD diet plan for weight loss?
While almond flour and coconut flour are a healthier substitute to refined white flour as these flours are made from nuts. Nuts are calorie-dense and should, therefore, be restricted or had only in limited quantities in your Indian diet for PCOD,
As a healthier alternative, besan or chickpea flour has a low glycemic index and is, therefore, safe to include in the diet chart for PCOS patients.
Q11. Can a lack of sleep cause PCOS?
Lack of sleep can definitely aggravate symptoms of PCOS in women. Researchers found that women who had disturbed or inadequate sleep were at a much higher risk of having menstrual irregularities and developing insulin resistance.
PCOD is a lifelong condition, and while there is still no definitive cure or treatment for the condition, it can be managed and controlled in several ways. The best way to treat PCOS is to find out what diet and lifestyle changes gives you positive results!
The symptoms and severity of PCOS may vary from woman to woman, and there is, therefore, no one-size-fits-all approach to treating this condition. Eating healthy and staying active can prevent most long-term complications associated with PCOS.
Consult top dietitians on MFine to get expert advice and guidance on a suitable diet plan for you!