Vegetarian Diet And PCOS

You are diagnosed with PCOS and hear you have trouble metabolizing carbohydrates and need more protein. You’re vegetarian so you’re wondering how that’s even possible. Although you may like protein, your body is constantly asking for carbs. So what’s a girl to do in this carb friendly society? How can you incorporate protein into your vegetarian diet?

First let’s discuss the importance of protein. Most women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which is a result of higher levels of androgens in the body. Insulin resistance means although your body is asking and craving for carbs, once you ingest them, it increases those cravings rather than satisfying them.

The amount of carbs per meal you are able to metabolize is variable depending on your level of insulin resistance. Eating more protein and healthy fats, with less emphasis on carbohydrates will assist with fewer cravings, improved energy and ultimately an easier time with weight management. If you are an ovo-lacto vegetarian, getting enough protein isn’t as big of a challenge as vegan diets.

Easy Protein Ideas

Greek Yogurt. Having a cup of plain Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup fruit and 2 to 3 tablespoons of sliced almonds packs almost 30 grams of protein for a healthy meal or snack.

Eggs. Eggs contain the highest quality protein there is since the amino acid profile is impeccable. Concerned about cholesterol? New research shows cholesterol in eggs does not increase your cholesterol levels. The yolks contain choline, which actually lowers stress in the body, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin which help with healthy eyes, so eating a few eggs a day helps your health bank. Two eggs provide 15 grams of protein and are an easy protein source for any meal. Enjoy hard-boiled ones for a portable and healthy snack.

Cottage or Ricotta cheese. Both cottage and ricotta cheese are easy vehicles for protein and can be dressed up with sweetness by adding fruit, nuts, and cinnamon, or savory when topped with tomato, cucumber and avocado. They both have approximately 28 grams of protein per cup.

Cheese. One of the most vilified foods around, cheese is a great source of protein and calcium. Cheeses that come from grass-fed or European cows contain higher levels of omega 3 fats, which are anti-inflammatory. A snack of 2 ounces of cheese packs 15 grams of protein to add to your protein bank account.

Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are versatile and provide 7 to 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons. Have as a snack with fruit, or add to salads, yogurt, and veggies to add extra protein, fiber, healthy fats, and nutrients. Current research shows that there is an inverse relationship between nuts and weight: those who consume nuts on a regular basis weigh less since they are more satisfied and have higher levels of fiber in their diets.

Nut butters. Don’t just settle for peanut butter. Now there’s almond, cashew, pecan, sunflower and a few others. They all have different tastes and provide flavor, and satisfaction as well as 7 to 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons. Stick to the natural for the healthiest fat and have with a square or two of dark chocolate for a treat.

Beans and Lentils. Beans and lentils have approximately 15 grams of protein per cup, along with almost half the recommended amount of fiber per day. Beans also contain approximately 40 grams of carbohydrates per cup so if you are watching your carbs this is something to take into account at a meal.

Protein Powder. If all else fails, having a smoothie can be a good option with protein powder. Looking at the integrity of the protein powder is essential: i.e. how many ingredients, it contains what is the source of the protein, etc. I recommend ones with protein coming from whey, pea, and hemp that have minimal ingredients, and no sweeteners or extra fillers in them.

Mix and match your protein sources to satisfy not only your taste buds, but quell hunger, help cravings, and assist with blood sugar balance. A little protein goes a long way towards helping your metabolism and insulin resistance besides assisting with mood, energy and sleep; key essentials to every woman with PCOS.

Susan dopart

Susan Dopart, MS, RD, CDE is a Los Angeles based dietitian in private practice and is the author of A Recipe for Life by the Doctor’s Dietitian, Healthy You, Healthy Baby: A Mother’s Guide to Gestational Diabetes, and A Healthy Baker’s Dozen: Gluten-free, Low Carb Cookies. You can connect with her at


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Comments (5)
  • Pragya Gupta

    August 25, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    i am pcos patient since i was 13 year old and under medical supervision till now. now i am 25 year old and my weight is only 36 kg with small breast size.. i want some wain gain,kindly help me asap.
    thank you..

  • Hale

    July 25, 2017 at 12:40 am

    Thank you for publishing this article, its very informative for someone like me who was diagnosed of having PCOS. I have a medication which is Duphaston from my Obgyne to correct my period and at the same time be fertile for possible pregnancy.But I’m aware that the downside of taking that medication is that I will Gai more wait . Now I’m taking the option to be healthy and eat proper diet and get rid of PCOS the natural way . Please help me with my selection of food intake . Thank you

  • Angela Grassi

    July 26, 2017 at 8:09 am

    HI Hale, Happy the article is helpful. We provided personalized nutrition coaching in-person, online, or via phone. Contact us at for more info. You may also be interested in The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook which has 100 Easy and Delicious Whole Food Recipes along with a 4-week meal plan. Many of the recipes are vegetarian or vegan:

  • Diana Myers

    October 23, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Hey there,

    Not sure how this list is relevant for women with PCOS since there are dairy products on here.

    From the research that I read, dairy products tend to create a lot of the issues women face when dealing with PCOS.

    Is there a blog or article that’s well-researched and that adheres to the scientifically proven guidelines behind an effective PCOS diet?

  • Angela Grassi

    November 5, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Some vegetarians eat dairy. Here is an article about the nutrition management of dairy for PCOS:

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