Do I need to cut out grains or go gluten free for PCOS?
Going gluten free for PCOS and many other health conditions is a hot topic. Many women are lead to believe gluten could be the culprit for their PCOS symptoms, or maybe even more than gluten, it’s all grains that are the problem. Women managing PCOS are met with an overwhelming amount of information (and misinformation) on the internet about what to eat and what to avoid. However, avoiding gluten or grains is often not the solution! Carbohydrates are a necessary part of the diet, and grains can be incorporated in a way that is healthy for women with PCOS.
There is a significant lacking in the evidence to support going gluten free for PCOS (unless with a diagnosed condition like celiac disease). It is important to recognize that gluten free carbohydrates do not necessarily mean “healthier” carbohydrates. A gluten free diet can also be low micronutrients like iron and folate, as well as fiber.
So which carbohydrates can you eat? You can really eat all carbs! Though it is helpful to often choose complex carbohydrates. When it comes to grains, that means whole grains with lots of fiber. This doesn’t mean you’re left with eating brown rice with every meal! There are so many grains that can add variety to your dishes.
Need help putting meals together? We’ve also written a blog about the best diet for PCOS.
Whole Wheat Orzo
Whole wheat pasta is a common one on the shelves. Orzo’s small, rice-like appearance makes it perfect for soups and salads. With 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein per serving, it’s a a great pasta option. Orzo makes a great addition to a Greek salad. Check out this recipe with lamb meatballs and tzatziki!
If you want to be a little more adventurous, try some of the ancient grains: quinoa, farro, kamut, or freekeh!
Quinoa is a small “grain” and is one of the few plant foods that contains all of the essential amino acids. A serving of quinoa contains 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. Check out this kale and quinoa salad with a sweet vinaigrette, dried cranberries, and pecans from our Mayhem to Mealtime program! So tasty!
One of my favorite ancient grains is farro. I love using it instead of rice, adding it to Margarita Chicken Mason Jar salads, or even for breakfast! I created this breakfast bowl with farro, roasted sweet potato, sautéed spinach, caramelized onion, and a fried egg. A great way to start the day!
Kamut is similar to farro, and is a great substitution for rice. A serving of kamut provides 4 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein. I love adding it to sautéed onions, bell pepper, jalapeño, black beans, and all those wonderful tex-mex spices (cumin, paprika, cayenne, and chili powder). Spicy and delicious!
Last but not least, what in the world is freekeh? This is not as common, but it is highly versatile. It contains 4 grams of fiber and a whopping 8 grams of protein! One of my favorite ways to utilize freekeh is in a breakfast porridge. I cooked the freekeh according to package directions, with a little butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Once cooked through, I added milk, diced apple, dried cranberries, and sweetener and cooked until thickened and the apples were soft. Serve with chopped pecans, and you have a delicious replacement for your typical oatmeal.
Check out these resources for more PCOS tips!
If you are struggling with managing PCOS and are interested in meeting with a Registered Dietitian, please call (301) 474-2499 to make an appointment!
Blog updated June 2020
An award winning recipe developer, Dietitian Kaitlin’s mission is to empower others to reach their health goals by encouraging them to get back into the kitchen. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating and Cooking with Diabetes.