Confused about what an anti-inflammatory diet is? Or how to actually follow it? Will it help your PCOS? Need a free printable anti-inflammatory diet plan?

We all need some resources to help us achieve optional health and that is where this article comes in.

This printable anti-inflammatory diet is the perfect tool to help you implement this eating pattern as it includes a 7 day anti-inflammatory meal plan with easy and delicious recipes you can mix and match.

What is inflammation and why is it bad for PCOS?

There are two kinds of inflammation: acute and chronic. 

Acute inflammation is an immune system response that is short-lived. It’s like a flaming fire that produces painful, red, hot, swollen symptoms at high levels in a small localized area in response to an infection or some kind of damage to the body. It’s necessary for proper healing and injury repair. 

Chronic inflammation is different. 

It’s more of the slow-burning and smoldering type of fire. This type of inflammation can exist throughout your whole body at lower levels. Symptoms aren’t localized to one particular area that needs it. 

Instead, they can appear gradually, and can last much longer—months or even years. 

This is the “bad” kind of inflammation and unfortunately it’s the kind that is common in women with PCOS.

Women with PCOS have been found to have chronic low-grade inflammation in the body, independent of weight (1).

Chronic inflammation is often invisible without immediate or serious symptoms, but over the long-term it’s been linked to many chronic diseases such as:

  • Acne, eczema, and psoriasis
  • Allergies and asthma
  • Autoimmune diseases (arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis) 
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Lung diseases (emphysema)
  • Mental illnesses (anxiety, depression)
  • Metabolic diseases (type 2 diabetes)
  • Neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s)

Individuals with PCOS are at higher risk for diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression/anxiety and GI disorders so it’s extremely important to address chronic inflammation.

The Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Women with PCOS

Following an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best ways to help address the chronic low-grade inflammation found in most individuals with PCOS. There are the added benefits that it protects against other chronic conditions.

Research shows that an anti-inflammatory diet for PCOS, like the one in this free printable, can significantly improve the metabolic and reproductive aspects of PCOS (2)

Infographic of 8 Benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet for pcos with a background of colorful fruits and vegetables in a rainbow pattern.

One particular study showed that after only 3 months of following an anti-inflammatory diet (2):

  • Moderate weight loss (+/- 7% of body weight)
  • Significant improvement in body composition (decreased visceral fat)
  • Improvements in hormone levels
  • Improvements in menstrual cycle regularity
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Decreased inflammation makers
  • Improved glucose balance and blood lipid levels
  • Decreased measure of cardiovascular disease risk

AND 63% of study participants got their cycle back and 12% got pregnant! All in 12 weeks!

What makes a food anti-inflammatory?

The anti-inflammatory effects of foods is due to it vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and type of fat content the food contains. These are the compounds that provide the anti-inflammatory effect. That is why eating a nutrient dense diet for PCOS is so important. 

Foods to Include in an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Women with PCOS

The best part of an anti-inflammatory diet pattern is that no matter what type of cuisine you enjoy eating, you can implement these anti-inflammatory diet principles.

Infographic with Foods to include in an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for PCOS with background of colorful fruits and veggies in a rainbow pattern.

Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables

  • Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemical and fiber that can help reduce inflammation.
    • Cruciferous vegetables like brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli  and kale.
    • Whole fruit rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits

Increase whole grains intake daily

Research shows that whole grain consumption is associated with significant improvement in inflammatory markers (3).

Add 3-5 servings of nuts/ seeds per week

This research study shows that frequent nut and seed consumption is associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers and decreased risk of diabetes and heart disease (4).

Choose fish and poultry more often over red meat and processed meats

Research shows that higher red meat consumption is linked to higher blood levels of inflammation (5).

Add a serving of legumes (beans, lentils) in daily

“Recent research has shown that legumes have bioactive compounds like peptides, polyphenols and saponins, which exhibit antioxidant, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory and other biological activities” (6)

Healthy fats from mainly mono- and polyunsaturated fats

These healthy fats include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, nuts/seeds, avocado and fatty fish.

Add foods high in antioxidant polyphenols

Pay particular attention to foods high in antioxidant polyphenols, including colorful plants such as:

  • berries
  • cherries
  • plums
  • red grapes
  • avocados
  • sweet potatoes
  • onions
  • carrots
  • beets
  • turmeric
  • green tea
  • dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale.

Choose sources essential omega-3 fats

Essential Omega-3 fats can help to reduce pain and clear up inflammation and are found in salmon, trout, mackerel, soy, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds.

High fiber foods (whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes) encourage friendly gut microbes to help reduce inflammation.

Research has also found that increasing fiber and magnesium (whole grains, beans/legumes and dark leafy greens are great sources) intake improves insulin resistance and reduces androgen levels in individuals with PCOS. (7)

Add herbs and spices to your meals

Herbs and spices are rich in antioxidant properties plus they make food taste delicious so you’re more likely to eat that cauliflower.

Try adding some of these herbs and spices:

  • cinnamon
  • turmeric
  • rosemary
  • cayenne pepper
  • fenugreek
  • mint
  • saffron
  • thyme
  • ginger
  • glove
  • sage
  • garlic
  • oregano
  • black pepper.

Foods to Avoid in an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Women with PCOS

As a Registered Dietitian that specializes in PCOS and mindful eating, I help my clients implement an “All Foods Fit” philosophy into their life. 

This approach reduces stress around food and feelings of guilt about what they “should be eating”. A more mindful approach to eating for PCOS allows for more pleasure and enjoyment in food. 

What you are consistently eating or not eating is going to make the biggest difference in your PCOS symptoms, not the “once-in-while” meal.

On that note, these are the foods that are recommended to be reduced (not completely avoided) in an anti-inflammatory diet.

  • Avoid charring foods when cooking at high temperatures (8)
  • Limit inflammatory foods such as red and processed meats (lunch meats, hot dogs, hamburgers)
  • Limit fried foods (fries, chicken fingers, doughnuts)
  • Limit unhealthy fats like shortening and lard
  • Limit sugary drinks and food (sodas, candy, sports drinks)
  • Limit refined carbohydrates (white bread, cookies, pie, white flour, white rice)
  • Limit ultra-processed foods (microwaveable dinners, dehydrated soups)

These foods can cause more inflammation in the body or increase insulin resistance in individuals with PCOS, which will just cause more inflammation.  

The other reason to limit these foods is because they don’t contain any anti-inflammatory properties.  Health, especially when it comes to PCOS, is more about what you ADD to your diet and less about what you take away.

Printable Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Women with PCOS

This 7-day printable anti-inflammatory diet meal plan contains low-glycemic, anti-inflammatory recipes aimed at:

  • stabilizing blood sugar
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • normalizing hormones
  • promoting healthy digestion
  • reducing inflammation associated with PCOS and so many chronic diseases.

All of our delicious recipes are extensively tested and feature whole food ingredients with easy-to-follow directions for people of all cooking levels.

Your anti-inflammatory PCOS meal plan emphasizes the preparation of whole, plant-based foods. 

Research suggests that these life-giving foods should make up at least 75% of your plate. The other 25%? That’s easy… We’ll suggest high-quality proteins that can be simply prepared.

You can utilize this anti-inflammatory meal plan with grocery list as a guide, inspiration for new recipes, or follow as written.  This meal plan is gluten free, so it is acceptable for individuals with celiac disease or who are gluten sensitive. 

Tips for Meal Planning and Preparation of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Cooking is not convenient, easy, or even enjoyed by some people – but it is necessary, on some level, to achieve most health goals, especially PCOS since nutrition is 

So how do we make it MORE convenient, MORE approachable, and MORE successful? (Besides joining The PCOS Kitchen Cooking Course?!)

CONVENIENT:

There is absolutely no shame in starting with store-bought. Grocers are increasingly doing a great job of offering minimally processed, prepped ingredients to give us a head start. 

Store-bought favorite = roasted chicken and prepped veggies

Utilize frozen foods – I’m not talking about frozen meals, I’m talking about frozen ingredients like cauliflower rice, butternut squash, quinoa, brown rice, berries, select proteins. 

Frozen favorite = frozen spinach and cauliflower rice {literally have a freezer shelf full}

APPROACHABLE:

Select recipes that won’t make you break a sweat in the kitchen. Stick to recipes with 6 ingredients or less that have flavors you know you will like. 

Favorite simple recipe = chia puddings. ALL chia puddings.

SUCCESSFUL:

Success in the kitchen, for the most part is about satisfying your preferences and those of your family without spending hours preparing a meal. 

Planning is the most important indicator of success in the kitchen. Spend less than 30 minutes at the beginning of each week to plan then shop for at least four of your meals. 

Increase the number of servings so you have leftovers for lunch and perhaps the other dinners for the week [soups and stews are great here.] 

Favorite planning tool = our meal plans, of course! 😉

FAQ

What is the easiest anti-inflammatory diet?

The easiest to follow anti-inflammatory diet is the Mediterranean Diet or the DASH diet. These two diets are actually voted each year as either the 1st or 2nd “Best Diet” by U.S. News & World Report (9).

What is the number one inflammatory food?

There isn’t a defined number one inflammatory food, but as I reviewed above, foods that can cause inflammation include:

  • Red meats and processed meats
  • Sugary drinks and foods
  • Fried foods
  • Unhealthy fats like trans fats, lard, shortening
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Ultra Processed foods

Again, the quantity and frequency that these foods are consumed will have the biggest impact on inflammation. 

What are the 3 best anti-inflammatory foods?

The best anti-inflammatory foods are nutrient-dense foods like plants (fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes/beans, herbs and spices, olive oil) and cold water fish high in omega 3. 

Final thoughts…

Nutrition and lifestyle interventions, specifically balanced diets, are considered the first line in approach to managing PCOS. So implementing a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet for PCOS is critical.

This printable anti-inflammatory diet plan can be your guide to easily implementing this eating pattern.

I also want to point out that if you want to know the best dietary approaches for your individual needs, it is best to consult with a Registered Dietitian who can assess your personal needs, goals, and medical history, especially if you have PCOS.