• Alyssa Fontaine, RD
  • Feb 02, 2024

PCOS vegan diet & plan

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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a very prevalent hormonal issue, affecting 8-13% of women who are of childbearing age. Those with PCOS experience a range of symptoms like hair loss, acne, and unintentional weight gain, which can affect both their physical and emotional well-being.

PCOS is not curable, but you can manage the symptoms through positive lifestyle changes including diet. However, planning a balanced diet that addresses PCOS needs, particularly carbohydrate intake can be very challenging. 

This is further complicated for those on a vegan diet, requiring more knowledge and consideration. To make your life easier, our team of vegan dietitians provides a 3-day sample PCOS vegan meal plan to ensure you savour delicious, nutritious meals while managing your symptoms

What Nutrients are Helpful in Managing PCOS?

Fibre

One of the most common problems people with PCOS may encounter is insulin resistance. Fibre is essentially helpful for glycemic control because it slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and does not cause a spike in blood sugar. In the meantime, it promotes weight management and decreases blood cholesterol. And that’s why having a sufficient fibre intake is critical for women with PCOS. 

Those on a plant-based diet usually get enough fibre. But if you lean towards processed vegan foods or refined grains, you might not get as much.

Here are the foods where you can find a lot of fibre:

  • Fruit: especially berries, prunes, pears, kiwi
  • Veggies: broccoli, asparagus, celery, squash, and peas
  • Whole grains: barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa
  • Beans: Lentils, chickpeas, soybeans
  • Nut and Seeds: almonds, Chia seeds, flaxseed

It is recommended to have 25 grams of fibre per day. Therefore, it is better to incorporate fibre-rich food in every meal and snack.

Omega 3 Fatty Acid

Research recommends that omega-3 fatty acid supplements can be used as a treatment for PCOS because it not only enhance the lipid profile but also aid in tackling insulin resistance. Beyond supplements, including foods rich in omega-3s in your diet can have anti-inflammatory benefits, which might help manage PCOS-related acne.

You can find omega-3 fatty acids in the following foods:

  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts
  • Algae oil
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds

If you’re thinking about supplements, it’s better to chat with a registered dietitian before starting.

Vitamin D

Research shows that between 67-85% of women with PCOS might have a vitamin D deficiency. Furthermore, low levels of vitamin D can worsen PCOS symptoms like insulin resistance, weight gain, higher male hormone levels, and a greater chance of heart disease.

Vitamin D primarily comes from animal products and is also naturally made in our bodies when exposed to sunlight. However, in places like Canada, getting enough sun, especially in the winter, can be a challenge.

In terms of plant-based foods, you can find vitamin D in:

  • Fortified plant-based milk
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Mushroom

Yet, the amount of vitamin D from these foods is quite small compared to what’s needed. Therefore, for Canadians aged 19-50 years old, it’s recommended to take a 400 IU vitamin D supplement from October to May. Those over 50 years old should consider a 1000 IU dosage during the same months. 

Calcium

Along with a lack of vitamin D, many women with PCOS also have low calcium levels. The hormonal imbalances from PCOS can affect bone health, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. This underscores the need for adequate daily calcium intake

You can find calcium in:

  • Soy foods
  • Lentils, beans, peas
  • Fortified plant-based milk and oranges
  • Almonds
  • Dark leafy greens

Adults between 19-50 years should aim for 1000 mg of calcium daily, and those over 50 should target 1200 mg. If you’re uncertain about your calcium intake, consider consulting with one of our plant-based dietitians to assess and enhance your diet.

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Vitamin B12

Metformin is commonly prescribed to women with PCOS to help manage blood sugar, induce ovulation, and infertility. However, a side effect is that it can reduce vitamin B12 levels, which raises the risk of anemia.

For vegans, getting adequate vitamin B12 is already a challenge since it’s primarily found in animal products.

So, if you’re a vegan with PCOS, it’s important to include more B12-fortified foods, like plant-based milk and cereals, in your diet. And if you’re still concerned about not getting enough, a vitamin B12 supplement is then recommended.

What should your vegan PCOS meal plan be like?

Taking into account all the necessary nutrients, let’s zoom out and look at the bigger picture: What should your vegan PCOS meal plan entail?

A balanced and diversified plant-based diet + Whole Foods

For a vegan PCOS diet, it’s essential to include a diverse range of foods from every food category. This means:

  • Eating lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Choosing whole grains
  • Adding nuts and seeds
  • Including plant-based proteins, such as lentils, beans, and peas
  • And incorporating healthy fats

At the same time, try to cut back on processed foods. Whole foods naturally offer more vital nutrients, like fiber, which are especially beneficial for managing PCOS symptoms.

Low Glycemic

Many people with PCOS are wary of carbohydrates because they majorly influence blood sugar levels. Some might even choose to cut them out entirely, but that approach isn’t healthy or sustainable.

Instead, if you have PCOS, it’s crucial to understand the glycemic load (GL) of foods. You might have come across the term glycemic index (GI), which indicates how foods can affect blood sugar. However, GI doesn’t consider portion sizes, making it less applicable in day-to-day situations. On the other hand, GL uses the GI value but adjusts for portion size, making it more relevant for real-life decisions.

So, rather than steering clear of all carbs, you should go for low glycemic foods. These often include fiber-rich foods and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash.

Additionally, eating smaller meals more frequently and making balanced snack choices can further assist in managing blood sugar levels for those with PCOS.

Protein 

It’s essential to include plant-based protein in every meal and at least one snack. Protein is key because it keeps you feeling satisfied longer and slows down carb absorption, helping prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar.

Moreover, many women with PCOS face challenges with weight management. Ensuring adequate protein intake can help maintain muscle mass, which boosts metabolism and aids in managing weight.

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Sample Vegan PCOS Mealplan 

Check out our 3-day vegan meal plan designed for PCOS! It’s packed with ideas for delicious and nutrient-rich meals to help you on your journey.

This meal plan provides a daily energy of 2000 kcal and 60-70 g of protein. If you would like to reduce the overall energy intake, you can either skip one snack or decrease the portion size of meals.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Please note that it is only a general example for you to get an idea and should be adjusted based on your personal needs and preferences. 

Vegan PCOS Meal Plan, Let’s chat!

Living with PCOS can be a challenge, both physically and emotionally. It’s crucial to prioritize your well-being by indulging in meals that are not only nutritious and balanced but also delightful.

If you would like to receive more professional support in managing your PCOS symptoms and obtaining all the essential nutrients that you need. Don’t hesitate to book a discovery call with our vegan dietitians to get a tailored meal plan that fits your needs and likes.

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