Fruit For PCOS: Should You Avoid It?
I think you will agree with me when I say searching online for information on diet for PCOS can be confusing and overwhelming.
A question I frequently get asked is, “Should I avoid fruit for PCOS?”
So, in this post, I am going to answer this question. You will find out the benefits of fruit for PCOS and any potential drawbacks. I will also tell you which fruits are best for PCOS and which may be bad. Ultimately, you will learn whether you should avoid fruit for PCOS.
Let’s get started.
Should I Avoid Fruit For PCOS?
Fruit does not have to be avoided if you have PCOS. Contrary to what you may have heard about fruit for PCOS, it isn’t bad. But I understand why some women stop eating fruit. They hear sugar is toxic and that they need to avoid it to balance their hormones and reverse their PCOS.
But, avoiding the sugar found in fruit isn’t the same as avoiding the sugar found in something like a cookie. Fruits contain fiber, vitamins and minerals that are great for hormonal balance and reversing PCOS. So, fruit is a PCOS friendly food that you can include in your diet.
Let me get into why...
Why Fruit Can Be Part of Your PCOS Diet
Here is why you can enjoy fruit and include it in your PCOS diet.
Low in Fructose
Fruit contains a sugar called fructose. This sugar cannot be used as energy by the body until it is turned into glucose by the liver. But, overconsuming fructose can lead to the liver clogging up. When the liver overflows with fructose, it starts turning the fructose into fat. Which over the long term can cause fatty liver disease.
Now does this mean fructose in fruit can be bad for you? Not really. You see, you could never really eat enough fruit for it to be harmful.
But the problem is not the fruit. You see, over the last 50 years, people have been consuming a lot more fructose in their diets. This is due to synthetic sweeteners like High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) being added to processed foods and drinks.
It is the sugars from HFCS that are harmful to the body not the small amount of fructose in natural fruits. You can check out this list of foods that contain lots of HFCS. I suggest limiting the number of foods high in HFCS that you eat as they can lead to weight gain, which will not help your PCOS. Instead, try getting your sugars from fruit instead. It is far healthier for you and in my opinion tastier too!
Fruit has Nutrients
You cannot compare a piece of fruit to a cookie. Yes, they both contain sugar, but there are key nutritional differences between them. This means the sugar found in each food will have a different effect on the body.
Fruit is a whole-food which means it is unprocessed and contains its nutrients. A cookie, on the other hand, is processed and contains little if any beneficial nutrients.
High in Fiber
Most women with PCOS need to be adding fiber to their diet.
This is because around 70% of women suffer from Insulin Resistant PCOS. This is a condition where the cells in the body have become unresponsive to the effects of insulin. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar levels.
As the body has become unresponsive to insulin, blood sugar levels remain high. Which in turn affects the ovaries and causes them to produce excess amounts of testosterone. Causing many of the PCOS symptoms.
Studies show fiber can lower blood sugar levels, by slowing down digestion and the release of sugar. Ultimately helping you balance your hormones and reverse your PCOS.
Source of Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals are compounds found in fruits and they give fruits their specific color. Research suggests phytochemicals act like antioxidants in the body. We need antioxidants because they help protect the body’s cells and tissues from damage.
Dr. Greger, a physician, states that these phytochemicals can stop the uptake of glucose to the intestinal wall and into your bloodstream. As a result, there is no spike in blood sugar or insulin.
You now know why fruit can be a great addition to your PCOS diet, let’s address a few more frequently asked questions around fruit for PCOS.
What fruits are good for PCOS?
Another common question I get asked about fruit for PCOS is, “which is best?”.
So, here’s the deal.
All fruits are good for PCOS because each fruit has its own beneficial nutrients. So to reap these benefits, it is a good idea to include a range of fruits in your PCOS diet.
But there are a few things to be aware of.
Choose Low Glycemic Index Fruits
While all fruits can be beneficial for PCOS. I recommend choosing fruits with a low Glycemic Index (GI). Essentially, the index ranks fruit (or any other carbohydrate), by how it will affect blood sugar levels after consumption. So a piece of fruit with a low GI value will be digested and absorbed into the body more slowly. Causing a slower rise in blood sugar levels, that will be lower overall. The opposite would be true for a piece of fruit with a high GI value.
A low GI is 55 or below, medium 56-69 and high is anything over 70. By choosing low GI fruits, you are better able to balance your blood sugar levels. As, even though there is nothing wrong with eating fruit sugar, it is still a good idea to manage how much you consume. Because at the end of the day, the sugar we consume still adds up.
So what fruits have a low GI value?
Low GI fruits include
- Berries including strawberries (GI score 41), blueberries (GI score 53), blackberries (GI score 25), and raspberries (GI score 32),
- Cherries (GI score 20),
- Peaches (GI score 42),
- Pears (GI score 38),
- Apricots (GI score 31),
- Apples (GI score 39),
- Plums (GI score 40),
- Oranges (GI score 40),
- Nectarines (GI score 30),
- Kiwi (GI score 47)
Focus on Balancing your Blood Sugar Levels
So, while all fruits contain beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They all have a different effect on blood sugar levels. As a woman with PCOS, it is important to choose low GI fruits. This will help you better manage your blood sugar levels and avoid insulin spikes. Which is especially important if you have Insulin Resistant PCOS.
Ultimately, managing your blood sugar levels is an important step towards balancing your hormones and beginning to reverse your PCOS.
Are any fruits bad for PCOS?
Here’s the thing.
There isn’t necessarily ‘bad’ fruits for PCOS. But because high GI fruits have a greater impact on blood sugar levels. I recommended that you limit your consumption of these high GI fruits.
High GI fruits include:
Watermelon (GI score 72),
Guava (GI score 78)
But get this.
You can still enjoy Watermelon
Well, luckily you don’t.
You see, although watermelon has a high GI value, it actually has a low Glycemic Load (GL).
GL takes into account both the GI value and the amount of sugar in a serving of food. As with GI, GL is split into low (10 or less), medium (11 - 19) or high (20 or more). Using both GI and GL can be very useful when deciding what fruit to enjoy.
If you would like to find out the GI and GL of food and fruit that you eat, here is a list of more than 100 items. Or you could even download an app on your mobile phone that will give you the values of anything you want.
The GI and GL isn’t Everything
While the GI and GL can be helpful they are not everything. We are all individuals and the effect different fruit can have on our blood sugar levels will vary. Factors like your average activity level and sleep quality will also have an effect.
The only certain way to find out the impact of fruit on your blood sugar is by experimenting. So, try buying a glucometer and measuring your blood sugar levels after eating fruit. This will give you a clearer idea of what fruits are better for you and your PCOS.
So, you now know which fruits may be better for your PCOS. But you might be wondering.
What’s better Fresh, Frozen or Dry Fruit?
One of the great things about fruit is its versatility. Fruit can be bought fresh, frozen or dried.
But is either better?
Frozen vs Fresh
It is often believed that frozen fruits lose their nutrients once frozen. But, this is far from the truth. You see, frozen fruit is actually picked and frozen at its peak ripeness. Which means that it keeps all the nutrients locked in.
Whilst frozen fruit do lose some nutrients during storage and transportation as a result of oxidation. Fresh fruits actually lose nutrients far quicker. So while the fresh fruit we get in a store is great. By the time it's picked, packaged and shipped to the shops, a good proportion of its nutrients has gone.
Is eating Dry Fruits good for you?
Removing the water from fruit, decreases its size and causes the sugar to become more concentrated. But dry fruit still retains its nutrients. In fact, a study suggests that dehydration causes the nutrients in dried fruit to also be more concentrated. For example, nutrients are more concentrated in raisins than in grapes. Meaning you are getting more nutrients in a serving of dried fruit compared to the same fresh fruit.
Eat In Moderation
Because of the decrease in size, it is much easier to overeat dried fruit than fresh fruit. So, if you are watching your calorie and sugar intake, know your servings. Decide how much you should be eating and stick to it!
Dried fruit often contains sulfur dioxide to help preserve the color and shelf life. While sulfur dioxide is considered safe. Individuals who have asthma or a sulfite allergy should avoid eating dried fruits. Remember to check the label before buying dried fruit.
As you can see all types of fruit are healthy and generally contain the same nutrients as each other. So you don’t have to avoid either type. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you prefer.
Fruit Pesticides can affect your PCOS
As you may know, farmers use pesticides to protect their crops from pests, like insects, fungi and weeds. Now, this is useful for stopping fruit from being spoilt, keeping them fresh for the consumer. But unfortunately, pesticides can be bad for our health and the environment.
Pesticides are endocrine disruptors. An Endocrine disruptor is any chemicals that can interfere with the production of and normal functioning of hormones. As women with PCOS, we already suffer from hormone imbalances so we need to avoid anything that could further disrupt our hormones.
So while we cannot get away from fruit pesticides completely, we can limit our exposure in 3 easy steps.
- By knowing which fruits are the worst offenders.
- Buying fruits that are organic.
- Cleaning our fruit properly before eating them.
Which Fruits Have Pesticides?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report stating that "nearly 70% of the produce sold in the U.S comes with pesticide residues". They created the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of common fruits and vegetables that contain the highest pesticide residue. The report revealed strawberries contained the most amount of pesticide residue. The fruit from the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list
As you can see, there are many popular fruits on the list that you may be consuming on a daily basis. It is so important to be aware of the fruits which contain high levels of pesticides because they can have a huge impact on your hormones and PCOS. Luckily the EWG also compiled a list called the ‘Clean Fifteen’ of fruits and vegetables that have the lowest pesticide residue. The fruit from the ‘Clean 15’ list
Do Organic Fruits Have Pesticides?
Well, unfortunately, yes they do. Organic farmers also spray pesticides onto their produce, so organic does not mean ‘pesticide-free’. ‘Organic’ means the pesticides used are obtained from natural sources and are not man-made. Unlike conventional farmers who use man-made pesticides.
Having said that organic farmers use far fewer pesticides. And the EWG report found that people who choose organic produce showed less exposure to pesticides when tested. So all things considered, it is better to go organic.
How can I remove pesticides from my fruit?
According to the New York Times, a good way of removing pesticides from the fruit is to soak them in baking soda solution for 15 minutes. This was a lot more effective than simply washing them with water.
But be aware that some pesticides can penetrate the skin of a fruit. So peeling the fruit may be the best way to remove pesticides completely, just be aware that some fruit peels contain a lot of good nutrients!
When Should You Eat Fruit?
Well, to be honest, there is no best time to eat fruit. Feel free to eat fruit at any time throughout the day.
The idea that if you eat fruit with a meal, it will slow digestion to the point where food will sit on your stomach and rot, is a complete myth. It will also not cause gas and bloating. But yes, your digestion will slow down a little and this can be a good thing! Especially if you want to lose weight as it will make you feel more full and eat less throughout the day.
Another thing to note is that if you are diabetic, eating fruit with a meal/snack is actually recommended. This is because the fiber in fruit helps reduce the rise in blood sugar after a meal.
Don’t Be Afraid of Fruit
In summary, you can eat fruit if you have PCOS. They are high in fiber and contain phytochemicals which help slow down the release of sugar. Which, as a result, prevents spikes in insulin.
There are not necessarily any ‘best fruits for PCOS’. What I do recommend, is choosing low Glycemic Index fruits to help balance your blood sugar and insulin levels. This is especially important for women who suffer from insulin resistance PCOS. Low GI fruits include blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and kiwi.
As always, eat fruit in moderation. Fruit still contains sugar, so avoid eating a plate full of it. Aim to eat 2-3 servings of fruit per day.
Hey there! I am Despina Pavlou, founder of PCOS Oracle and online coach. I want to share with you the diet and lifestyle changes I made to naturally reverse my PCOS and achieve hormonal balance. I believe using my holistic approach you too can take back control from PCOS.