Read to learn about the best diet plan for PCOS fertility and ways to increase your chances of falling pregnant with diet and lifestyle changes.
Women with PCOS can struggle to get pregnant. I am a Halifax dietitian and in this blog post, I will walk you through the best diet for PCOS and trying to conceive. Nutrition plays a huge role in PCOS and a PCOS diet can be a tool used to boost fertility.
PCOS and Its Effect on Fertility
As you might already know, getting pregnant with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be an uphill battle. PCOS is a very common hormonal disorder characterized by the presence of multiple small cysts in the ovaries, as well as a range of other symptoms such as irregular periods, high levels of male hormones (androgens) in the blood, and insulin resistance.
One of the primary issues with PCOS is the disruption of the normal ovulation process. So, if you have PCOS, you may struggle getting pregnant because you may not be able to ovulate.
When ovulation doesn’t happen, the ovaries can develop many small cysts. These cysts make hormones called androgens that cause many of the symptoms of PCOS.
The reasons for the irregularities in ovulation in PCOS are complex. They originate from insulin resistance, which interferes with the usual communication between the pituitary gland in the brain and the ovaries.
Without regular ovulation, it becomes challenging to conceive.
It’s important to note that while PCOS can significantly affect fertility, it does not necessarily mean that you are infertile. Many of my patients with PCOS have been able to conceive naturally or with medical assistance.
In addition to working with a fertility specialist and endocrinologist, a nutritionist can help you create a diet plan for PCOS trying to conceive and boost fertility naturally. If you have PCOS and are trying to conceive but are experiencing difficulties, it is essential that you reach out to a nutritionist. You can book with me if you are looking for a Canada dietitian to support you.
Let’s chat about the best diet to get pregnant with PCOS.
How a healthy diet for PCOS and fertility can help you conceive
A fertility-boosting diet can improve egg quality and increase chances of conception, a healthy pregnancy, and a baby.
Insulin resistance can disrupt hormone balance, leading to irregular ovulation and difficulties in conceiving. A diet that focuses on low-glycemic index foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, can help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
Certain foods can help balance hormones related to PCOS. For example, consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish, chia seeds, and flaxseeds) may reduce androgen levels and improve ovulation. Additionally, foods rich in antioxidants, such as colorful fruits and vegetables, can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation often associated with PCOS.
PCOS is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation, which can negatively impact fertility. A diet that includes anti-inflammatory foods, such as turmeric, ginger, and oily fish, may help reduce inflammation and promote a healthier reproductive environment.
In addition, proper nutrition is also beneficial to egg quality, increased rate of pregnancy, and reduced risk of miscarriage in women undergoing fertility treatments, such as IVF. PCOS fertility nutrition is a great tool to pair with medical fertility treatments.
What is the best diet for PCOS fertility?
The best diet for PCOS and fertility is one that focuses on promoting insulin sensitivity, hormonal balance, and restoring ovulation. While there is no one-size-fits-all diet, the following principles are generally key components of the PCOS diet plan for fertility:
Lower your Glycemic Index (GI)
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking system that measures how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. It assigns a number to various foods from 1-100, indicating their potential impact on blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI are rapidly digested and cause a spike in blood glucose, whole foods with a low GI are digested more slowly, resulting in a more gradual increase in blood glucose. Here’s how the GI values are categorized:
- Low GI (55 or less): Foods with a low GI are digested and absorbed slowly, leading to a gradual rise in blood glucose levels. Examples include most non-starchy veggies, legumes, and some whole grains.
- Medium GI (56 to 69): Foods with a medium GI have a moderate impact on blood sugar and are usually comprised of whole grains, some fruits, and certain starchy vegetables.
- High GI (70 or more): Foods with a high GI are rapidly digested and cause a quick spike in blood glucose levels. You should aim to decrease your consumption of starchy high-GI foods like potatoes, white rice, and white bread, and decrease your consumption of sugary foods like cookies, cakes, candy, and soft drinks.
Time and time again, it’s been proven that replacing high-GI foods with low-GI foods in meals, snacks, and desserts has a significant benefit for conceiving in PCOS.
Print out this list of low, medium, and high GI foods to keep on your refrigerator.
Eat High Quality Proteins
Protein can help stabilize blood sugar levels and support ovulation. High-quality protein sources, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, and plant-based proteins like tofu and legumes, contain essential amino acids that are the building blocks of hormones needed to get pregnant. Adequate protein intake supports the production and regulation of reproductive hormones, including those involved in ovulation and the menstrual cycle.
When protein is eaten with healthy fats and complex carbohydrates, it also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which may positively influence fertility.
You should include a palm-sized portion of lean or plant-based protein at each meal. Ideal sources include low-mercury fish, eggs, legumes, poultry, and tofu.
Include Omega-3 Fats
Research has shown that in PCOS, omega 3 fats can help to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, improve pregnancy success rates.
Omega 3 fats, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are involved in hormone regulation. Balanced hormonal levels are essential for the proper functioning of the reproductive system, including regular ovulation and the development of healthy eggs. They also have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce inflammation.
Include sources of omega 3 in your diet, such as enriched eggs, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and fatty fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel). Omega 3 supplements can also be considered to help you boost your fertility.
Eat Your Veggies
Veggies and fruits are rich in all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support reproductive health. These nutrients are crucial for hormone regulation, ovulation, and the development of healthy eggs. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and selenium help protect cells from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. As mentioned above, in the context of fertility, antioxidants may also improve egg quality.
Consume a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables to obtain a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support reproductive health and reduce inflammation. Choose plenty of low-glycemic fruits and veggies, such as lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, and green beans.
Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Both eggs and sperm are vulnerable to oxidative damage. Free radicals, which are unstable molecules, can attack and damage these reproductive cells, potentially affecting their quality and viability. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, preventing them from causing harm and supporting the health of both eggs and sperm.
Antioxidants include vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, zinc, and various phytonutrients and are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Common antioxidant-rich foods include berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, tomatoes, and colorful vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers. Spices like turmeric and ginger are also packed with antioxidants.
Take Your Supplements
Consult with your healthcare provider to determine if you need any supplements, such as folic acid, inositol, or vitamin D, to address specific nutrient needs in PCOS. I have a full blog post about supplements in PCOS which can be found here.
Foods to Avoid
While there are no strict rules, certain foods are generally advised to be limited if you’re trying to get pregnant with PCOS. These include:
- High-glycemic index foods: To avoid spikes in blood sugars, avoid or limit sugary foods, sugary beverages, white bread, white rice, and processed snacks.
- Trans fats and unhealthy fats: Saturated fats found in fried foods, processed snacks, and commercially baked goods may promote inflammation and hormonal imbalances. Instead of these, choose for healthy fats like those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
- Excessive caffeine and alcohol: While moderate caffeine and alcohol consumption is generally considered safe, excessive amounts may affect hormone levels and fertility.
- High-mercury fish: Certain fish may contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful to health, fertility, and your future little one. Limit your intake of large, predatory fish like swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
PCOS Fertility Nutrition FAQ
How does a healthy diet for PCOS fertility actually work?
A diet for PCOS and infertility focuses on improving insulin sensitivity, hormone balance, and regular ovulation. Further, insulin resistance can disrupt hormone balance, leading to irregular ovulation and difficulties in conceiving. A diet that focuses on low-glycemic index foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, can help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
What is the best diet for PCOS infertility?
The best diet for PCOS fertility is one that includes low glycemic index foods, high quality protein, omega 3 fats, fruits and veggies, and antioxidants.
How can I improve my PCOS fertility nutrition plan?
People often overlook seemingly minor aspects to improve their diet for fertility in PCOS. For example, for best effects, you should limit excessive caffeine and alcohol. You should also avoid high-glycemic index foods to avoid spikes in blood sugars, and avoid or limit sugary foods, sugary beverages, white bread, white rice, and processed snacks. These changes will help you improve your fertility.
How can I get support for my diet for PCOS fertility?
Connect with a dietitian. To book with me, click here. I am a registered dietician in Halifax specialized in women’s health and I’d be thrilled to guide you along your fertility journey.
What is the best breakfast for PCOS fertility?
Looking for the best breakfast for PCOS fertility? Read my post about the best breakfast ideas for you!