Dietitian’s Guide: Is Oatmeal Good for PCOS?

You may have seen one of the many delicious looking oatmeal recipes going around on social media and thought to yourself, “is oatmeal good for PCOS”? Maybe you are also wondering about which oats to choose. 

Well I’m glad you made it here because many of my clients have been there and I am about to answer this burning question for you!

Stay tuned for an explanation about what oats are, the nutrients they contain, if you should eat them and when you should eat them if you have PCOS. 

What is PCOS and why does this matter?

PCOS is a syndrome that may cause irregular periods, excess levels of androgens, and polycystic ovaries (1). It affects many parts of the body including the reproductive system and endocrine system. 

Insulin Resistance

The cause is unknown, but one factor that has been well researched is the relationship between insulin resistance and PCOS (1). People with insulin resistance have higher amounts of insulin in their bloodstream and this can contribute to excess production of androgens (1). 

As a dietitian, my main focus in managing PCOS is targeting insulin levels. You may have heard that a low carb or a keto diet is the best one for PCOS, insulin resistance is usually the culprit for this line of thinking. 

While people with insulin resistance do need to be more mindful of the type and amount of carbs they are eating, they do not need to avoid them completely. You can still improve your insulin levels while eating carbs (2).  

Carbs and PCOS

There are many studies that look at how carbohydrates affect PCOS and insulin resistance. Many studies show a significant improvement on symptoms, insulin levels, and health markers when people with PCOS implement a low carb diet (3,4). 

I know that when I say low carb diet, many people reading will think this means they need to avoid carbs, but this is far from what I mean!

Low-Carb Diet

A low carb diet is one that includes around 45% of calories from carbohydrates (4). To put this into more simple terms, for the standard 2,000 calorie diet, this would be 900 calories from carbs and 225 grams of carbs. 

So as you can see, this is far from a no carb or a keto diet. Based on the research, this is the amount of carbs that I recommend for PCOS management (3,4,5). You do not need to track your calories or carbs to follow this!

Following the plate method will ensure that you are eating the right amount of nutrients. Check out my post on meal planning with PCOS here. If you’d like a pdf of my guide to meal planning with PCOS and an example plate, click the link here

Types of Carbs

 Now that we have talked about how much carbohydrates you should be consuming, let’s talk about the types of carbs. All carbs are not created equal and they act differently once eaten. 

There are three types of carbs which include starches, sugars, and fiber (6). 


Starches are long chains of sugar molecules that are digested slowly and broken down into glucose (6). They are found in some vegetables, grains, and legumes. This type of carbohydrate is considered a complex carb (6). 


 Sugars are short chains of one or two sugar molecules joined together. These are considered simple carbohydrates. 

These are also digested and broken down into glucose, but this is done much quicker than with starches (7). This type of carb is found in fruit juice, candy, honey, table sugar, and table sugar. 


This is a non-digestible type of carbohydrate which does not break down into glucose, instead it provides great benefits to our gut microbiome and digestion (7). Fiber can help to slow down the digestion of sugar, therefore releasing glucose slower and reducing blood sugar spikes. 

Increasing fiber intake can reduce risk of insulin resistance, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and obesity (8). 

Best types of carbohydrates for PCOS

The most beneficial type of carbs for PCOS are starches and fiber, but sugar can be included in a balanced diet (9). Aim for 70% of your carbs to come from complex carbohydrates that are rich in fiber and nutrients, the other 30% can be simple carbohydrates or a mixture of both. 

This ensures that the majority of your carbohydrates are not spiking your blood sugar too quickly and therefore not contributing to worsening insulin resistance. With simple carbohydrates, just be sure to eat these with a source of fats, fiber, and protein (10). 

Adding fats, fiber, and protein to simple carbohydrates helps them to digest more like complex carbohydrates, meaning that they will be digested slower and will have a reduced blood sugar spike (11). 

What type of carbohydrate is oatmeal?

Oatmeal is a whole grain, meaning that it is a complex carbohydrate (12). This means that it is a great option for PCOS. 

Benefits of complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates digest slower than simple carbohydrates meaning that they will give you a more stable blood sugar increase instead of a spike of sugar all at once (7). Complex carbohydrates are also a great source of fiber which is beneficial for your gut microbiome (13). 

Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber which is a type of fiber that dissolves in water. Once it’s digested, it creates a jelly-like consistency which slows down digestion. This helps with blood sugar control, gut health, and cravings (14). 

How to Incorporate Oatmeal into a Balanced Diet

Since we have now established oatmeal as a great option for people with PCOS, let’s discuss how to add it into your diet! 

What kind of oatmeal is best?

The best oatmeal for PCOS is an oatmeal that does not spike your blood sugar and leave you in a hunger cycle all day. This means we want an oatmeal that digests slowly. 

Types of Oatmeal 

  • Rolled
  • Quick cook
  • Steel cut
  • Pearled
  • Oat flour

The types with the lowest glycemic response are steel cut, pearled, and rolled oats (15). This does not mean that quick cook and oat flour are not still a good choice, they are still great! All in all, oatmeal in general is beneficial for health regardless of the type (15). 

How to lessen glycemic response

Eat your oatmeal cold! Yes, you heard it right, it’s as simple as that. Whether you’re baking with oat flour, eating leftover cold oatmeal, or you’re eating overnight oats, eating them cold lowers the amount of available carbohydrates that are able to turn into glucose (15). 

Starch Retrogradation 

This happens when any starch is cooled down. The chemical structure of the starch changes during the cooling process(15). This starch is called resistant starch.  

Resistant Starch 

This type of starch does not get digested and broken down into glucose in the small intestine like other starches. Instead, it acts as a source of food for your gut bacteria. This means that overnight oats are great for your gut health!

Best time to eat oatmeal

Anytime that you want to eat your oatmeal is the best time to eat it! Most people think of oatmeal as a breakfast food, but it can be eaten any time of the day. 

Oatmeal makes a great meal option for any meal, especially if you’re craving something sweet.

What to have oatmeal with 

Since oatmeal is a carbohydrate, you want to pair it with a source of protein, fat, and more fiber. Like stated earlier in the post, adding these things to your carbs can help to lower the glucose response (11). 

Oatmeal Combinations

Below are a few of my favorite oatmeal combinations and recipes!

Infographic about oatmeal for pcos. List 5 benefits of oatmeal for pcos.


Are steel-cut oats better for PCOS than rolled oats?

Both options are excellent, but steel-cut oats may offer slightly better glucose control due to their lower glycemic response.

Why are overnight oats good for PCOS? 

Overnight oats undergo starch retrogradation, converting some starch into resistant starch, which supports gut health without causing blood sugar spikes.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, we have discussed what oatmeal is, how it affects PCOS, and whether or not you should eat oatmeal with PCOS. 

I outline how oatmeal is a whole grain that includes many beneficial things for PCOS. It can be easily incorporated into a well balanced diet. 

Any type of oatmeal is great, but the best types are rolled oats, steel cut, and pearled oats. So I hope you go and enjoy a bowl of oatmeal and feel confident about your choice!  

If you are wondering how to incorporate oatmeal into your breakfast, read my blog post all about the best breakfast for PCOS here.

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