How to keep insulin levels down for the ideal PCOS diet

on Wed 14 Oct


Because young women with PCOS often have higher levels of insulin in their blood, it can be tricky avoiding weight increase.


If you can eat well, stay active AND maintain a healthy weight this will improve your PCOS symptoms so let’s look at the ideal PCOS diet:


Insulin levels rise the most when you have eaten or drunk something which contains carbohydrates. The highest levels of carbohydrate can be found in grain (rice, cereal, pasta, bread) and many snack foods (like chips, biscuits and cake)


According to the type of carbohydrate that you eat there is a different effect on your body.  Carbohydrate foods with fibre work best if you’re trying to keep insulin levels down, whereas refined or sugary foods can cause insulin levels to rise.


The very best foods within a PCOS diet will be low sugar high fibre carbohydrate foods like brown rice and whole wheat pasta but even those should be in small portions. These should be eaten alongside a healthy balance of lean meats, fruit, vegetables, plant based protein (like Quorn) and healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) as found - for example - in olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish (sardines, herring, trout, mackerel, tuna and salmon)


Try to limit your consumption of full fat cheese, mayonnaise, margarine and butter.


In terms of vegetables, fresh or frozen vegetables like broccoli, carrots or spinach will be better for you than starchy vegetables like peas, potatoes or corn


Do watch out a lot of fat-free foods contain high levels of added sugar which will have an adverse effect on your insulin levels.  These should not make up more than 5% of your daily calorie intake – that’s about 30g of sugar – so do check the labels.


Speaking of sugar try to go for water or unsweetened fruit juice instead of sugary drinks, similarly choose tinned fruit in juice instead of syrup.

It’s important not to cut out carbohydrates all together as these give your body energy – you will only put on weight if you are eating too many for the amount of exercise you do.

It’s also important to include good levels of protein in your food because these slow down your body’s absorption of carbohydrate and keep insulin levels low.


Serving size is important; three cups of pasta will push your insulin levels up three times as much as one cup of pasta. so take notice of the portion advice on any packets.


Finally – and complementary to the PCOS diet -  exercising after a meal is good for lowering insulin levels so if possible take a walk after a large meal.




Although every effort is made to ensure that all health advice on this website is accurate and up to date it is for information purposes and should not replace a visit to your doctor or health care professional.

As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals Dr Vanderpump cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can he be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link.

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