Is there a list of worst foods for PCOS? What should I be avoiding?

The internet will make you believe that there are foods you must eat for your PCOS and also the worst foods for PCOS that dare not touch your lips. Here’s the reality, there’s a whole lot of BS on the internet and while there aren’t foods you should avoid for PCOS, there are certainly diets and trends that you can go ahead and trash.


What does the world tell us to avoid for PCOS?

  • Carbohydrates (all of them) and maybe even go keto
  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Eating regularly. The answers to your problems come in avoiding hunger cues and doing intermittent fasting.

What do we actually know about PCOS?

The benefit of working with a registered dietitian, and particularly one with knowledge of PCOS, is that we make evidenced based recommendations. Meaning, we pay attention to the science and also our clients’ lived experiences to make recommendations. The fact of the matter is, most of the trendy diets for PCOS aren’t necessary or sustainable.

Myth Busting PCOS Diet Trends

Keto/no or very low carbohydrate

While insulin resistance is a very real problem for the majority of women with PCOS, and insulin can lead to an increased production of androgens (causing anovulation, excess hair, acne, etc), that doesn’t mean cutting out all carbohydrate is the answer. The keto diet is unnecessary and way too low in fiber.

Gluten free

There is no science behind cutting out gluten for PCOS. If you have celiac disease, yes, by all means, stay away from gluten. It may also help with IBS management. I don’t discredit that some people may feel better without gluten. If you try a gluten free diet, and feel better, that’s great for you. But the majority of the people do not need to cut it out.

Dairy free

Also no science to support cutting out dairy (unless you have an intolerance). Dairy is not inflammatory, and actually, full fat dairy has been linked to better fertility outcomes. Again, if you feel better without dairy, that’s great for you! But most people do not need to cut it out. 

Soy free

While soy is considered a phytoestrogen, that doesn’t mean it has a negative effect on our natural hormones. Actually, soy consumption may benefit our hormone health. Aim for 2-3 servings of tofu, soy milk, tempeh, or edamame per week.

Intermittent Fasting

While intermittent fasting studies may show promising effects on symptoms like insulin resistance, the studies were done with men. Not women. For those who have a menstrual cycle, intermittent fasting can have opposite effects and wreak havoc on hormone health, and disrupt the menstrual cycle. Also, eating larger meals less frequently typically causes a larger insulin response because more food is consumed per eating occasion.

So What do I Eat if I have PCOS?

The answer isn’t necessarily exciting, and a list of foods to avoid can sometimes feel easier. But the best eating pattern for PCOS involves a focus on protein, while also incorporating sources of fat, fiber, and carbohydrate. Yes, too much carbohydrate can cause a bigger insulin response, so we do want to be mindful of the portion and types of carbohydrate. Higher fiber carbohydrates (whole grains, beans, etc) are a better option than sweets and sugar sweetened beverages because they cause a slower rise in blood sugar, and require less of an insulin response. Protein, fat, and fiber will also help balance the carbohydrate.

Do you need to avoid the sweets, refined carbs, and sugar sweetened beverages completely? No. Complete avoidance is not necessary, and fun foods are still allowed. But overall, we do want to aim for balanced meals. This will feel more sustainable and less restrictive.

If you’re looking for more info on PCOS, check out these blogs:


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.