If you’re a woman in your reproductive years, your body goes through four distinct hormonal fluctuations every month (also known as the four phases of your menstrual cycle).
These changes affect literally everything else going on in our bodily systems and biology, from our energy levels to our metabolism to our body temperature and brain function….and each shift relies on specific macro and micronutrients to support it.
This is why food is such a powerful tool, as it not only powers hormone production and regulation, but can make all the difference in how we feel and experience each phase of our menstrual cycle as a result, ultimately helping us mitigate and completely reverse hormonal imbalance symptoms such as pms, period pain, fertility challenges, weight gain, bloat, fatigue and acne.
While eating a wide variety of nutrients to support each phase of the menstrual cycle is important, this post is focusing on the ovulatory phase, which is your fertile window that happens midway through your cycle (making it an optimal phase to focus on if you’re trying to conceive!).
So let’s get started, with what to eat during ovulation to help you naturally balance your hormones, boost fertility and feel your best. Snag all of the details below!
The ovulatory phase is one of the four phases of a menstrual cycle. It typically begins midway through your cycle, when a surge of luteinizing hormone, LH, causes the dominant follicle in your ovaries to burst open and release an egg into the fallopian tube, where it waits to be potentially fertilized by sperm (aka this is your fertile window where conception can take place).
Ovulation typically occurs somewhere between days 12-17 of your menstrual cycle and is short, usually only lasting 2-3 days. Right before ovulation, you get a surge of luteinizing hormone, LH, which causes the dominant follicle to burst open and release an egg into the fallopian tube. The egg will be viable for roughly 12-24 hours, and if it’s not fertilized by sperm (which can live up to five days in the female body), it will disintegrate.
Hormonally, levels of estrogen and testosterone are at their peak during this phase, helping you feel magnetic, energetic, outgoing, confident and sexy while optimizing your creativity and communication skills. Your libido is running high, in order to naturally get you in the mood during your fertile window and attract a mate with “genetic potential.”
Physically, your uterine lining continues to thicken in preparation for a potential pregnancy, while your cervix opens and starts producing wetter quality cervical fluid (similar to the consistency of egg whites), designed to help sperm travel and survive the long journey to the egg in order to conceive.
Consuming specific macro and micronutrients during your ovulatory phase works to support cyclical hormonal fluctuations, helping your body keep peaking estrogen levels in check and providing it with the energy it needs to release an egg. Not only that, but because ovulation is often considered the most vital part of your cycle, it lays the foundation to optimize your biology for the phases that follow, mitigating uncomfortable symptoms and empowering you to feel your best the rest of your menstrual cycle, leading to specific benefits including:
Due to the hormonal and biological fluctuations that take place during our ovulatory phase, it’s important to consume plenty of nutrients that support uterine lining growth, healthy liver function, regular bowel movements, effective estrogen metabolism and optimized gut health, as well as have a naturally cooling effect on the body. See below for specific nutrient requirements, as well as the foods rich in said nutrients. *You’ll notice many of these foods overlap in nutrient categories, with multiple benefits to consuming!
A healthy vascular system (also know as your circulatory system) is key to healthy ovarian function and egg quality, as well as ensuring once you ovulate your ruptured follicle seamlessly transitions into a corpus luteam that produces enough progesterone to sustain your menstrual cycle (and a healthy uterine lining if trying to conceive!) Some optimal foods to incorporate during ovulation for vascular support include:
During ovulation, estrogen levels are at their peak, working to thicken your uterine lining in preparation for a potential pregnancy. While estrogen production is important during this phase, excess levels can lead to uncomfortable symptoms later on in your cycle such as period pain, pms, mood swings, weight gain, bloat and depression. Consuming cruciferous vegetables assists your body in safely eliminating any excess estrogen in order to keep levels in check and symptoms at bay the remainder of your cycle. Some optimal cruciferous vegetables to consume during ovulation include:
The liver plays a key role in detoxing estrogen, as it is tasked with repackaging any leftover estrogen not used by the body into an intestinal-friendly form that can exit the body via our bowels. If we have a sluggish, overburdened liver, the estrogen can sit in our intestines for too long and become reabsorbed, circulating the body and leading to excess estrogen. Thus it’s important to support optimal liver function, especially during our ovulatory phase when estrogen peaks. Some optimal liver supportive foods include:
Oxidative stress in our body tends to be high during ovulation, so eating a colorful, well-rounded diet rich in antioxidant loaded foods help to fight off free-radicals and support detoxification. Some optimal antioxidant and glutathione-rich foods to incorporate into your ovulatory phase include:
Selenium is an essential mineral (especially important for thyroid health!) and a glutathione cofactor, meaning it’s needed in boosting glutathione levels (which support liver health and the elimination of excess estrogen). Some selenium-rich foods to incorporate during ovulation include:
Fermented and probiotic-rich foods work to support our gut health , which also supports our estrobolome, a unique set of bacteria in our gut that specifically works to break down estrogen and eliminate it safely via the bowels. And you guessed it, one of the most impactful ways to help your gut with this important, hormone balancing task is through the consumption of fermented and probiotic rich foods, such as:
One of the best ways to support estrogen elimination is by consuming enough dietary fiber, which helps flush excess estrogen safely via our bowls. Fiber helps draw water into the colon, adding bulk and softness to your stool, helping it pass more smoothly through the digestive tract and increasing transit time (aka bye bye constipation and bloat!) Some optimal fiber-rich foods to consume during your ovulatory phase include:
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a key role in sex hormone production and regulation, working to increase progesterone levels to support healthy ovulation and balance out estrogen to progesterone ratios by supporting phase 2 estrogen elimination. Magnesium deficiency is also very common as lifestyle factors like chronic stress as well as caffeine and sugar consumption deplete it. Consuming magnesium-rich foods during your follicular and ovulatory phase (as well as the entirety of your menstrual cycle) will help to balance hormones and reduce uncomfortable symptoms. Below are a few of my favorite food sources:
Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that mimic the body’s natural estrogen production. While you wouldn’t want to consume these if you have estrogen dominance, they can be beneficial to consume at the beginning of the follicular phase, when estrogen is lowest. If you don’t have problems with excess estrogen, below are the phytoestrogens I recommend consuming during your ovulatory phase:
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) your ovulatory phase is a “hot” phase of your cycle as your resting body temperature naturally rises. Opting for more fresh, raw vegetables and fruits during this phase (think leafy green salads, smoothies, crudités, fresh berries, etc.) has a natural cooling effect on the body, along with promoting optimal vascular support for your ovaries to create the healthiest egg possible due to the high level of antioxidants.
Speaking of raw foods, incorporating a raw carrot salad into your ovulatory phase routine can be an awesome way to support your body in safely eliminating excess estrogen via our bowels (thanks to a unique dietary fiber). It also contains anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that work to support optimal gut health. You can grab my favorite raw carrot salad recipes here.
The practice of rotating four different seeds (pumpkin, flax, sesame and sunflower) between the first and second half of our cycle phases alleges to regulate our hormones, thereby helping to relieve PMS, reduce period pain, stimulate ovulation, increase fertility and support the body in healing conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis. You can learn more about seed cycling in this post.
Incorporating a high quality probiotic supplement into your daily routine is an easy and beneficial way to support optimal gut health (this is the probiotic I’ve been taking for three years, use code SOFRESH15 to save) while adding in herbs such as nettle, oat straw and peppermint work to balance out estrogen levels, replenish minerals lost during the menstrual phase and balance out androgen levels (helps with acne) respectively. My favorite way to consume these herbs is via tea.
+ All Breakfast Recipes From Phase #3 of The Hormone Balance Reset Plan
+ Spinach Strawberry Salad + Goat Cheese & Poppyseed Dressing (recipe below)
+ All Dinner + Lunch Recipes From Phase #3 of The Hormone Balance Reset Plan
+ All Dessert + Snack Recipes From Phase #3 of The Hormone Balance Reset Plan
While I like to focus on adding in vs. taking away, limiting your intake of certain foods can work to support to hormones and therefore reduce uncomfortable symptoms. These are the top foods to limit/avoid during your follicular phase if possible.
Because our metabolism and digestion is slower during the first half of our menstrual cycle (follicular and ovulatory phases), eating an abundance of heavy, rich or overly salty foods such as fried foods, casseroles, red meat, stews, processed baked goods and carbs (pastas, bread, etc.) can make us feel lethargic and slow down large intestine transit time (leading to constipation and bloat). Ultimately, you don’t need as many calories in this phase and will feel much better sticking to lighter meals and fresh, nutrient-rich foods easy to digest (see all listed above).
Over consuming caffeine and alcohol impacts your hormones in a myriad of ways (burdening our liver, altering our gut microbiome, depleting micronutrients, destabilizing blood sugar), most often leading to imbalances such as estrogen dominance or adrenal dysfunction. If you can’t imagine giving either up (zero judgement here!) try to minimize/reduce your intake or experiment with swaps (half-caff, decaf, mocktails, etc.)
One of the most effective ways we can support our hormones (thereby reducing uncomfortable symptoms) is through consuming a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods based on where we’re at in our menstrual cycle. I always encourage clients to start small, focusing on 1-2 shifts (i.e. eating more salads and smoothies during your ovulatory phase, or switching a side of fries for fresh fruit/veggies, etc.) to avoid feeling overwhelmed and continue adding in more from there. When in doubt, tune into your body and what feels good, and I think you’ll find you naturally crave foods ideal for each phase.
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This salad is not only insanely delicious, but the PERFECT meal or side to incorporate during ovulation, as it’s rich in antioxidants (including glutathione!), fiber, and nutrients that support optimal estrogen elimination, liver health and vascular support (hellllooo healthy egg + ovarian function). It’s also got a naturally cooling effect, perfect for summer and what TCM deems a “hot phase” of your cycle.
Author: Lauren Chambers
Recipe Type: salad, side, entree
For the Poppyseed Dressing:
For the Maple Glazed Almond Clusters:
For the Salad:
*The dressing and clusters make enough servings so that if making for yourself you’ll have plenty to meal prep/eat up throughout the week.
**Store dressing in an airtight glass jar in the fridge and maple clusters in an airtight glass container in pantry for up to a week.
I’m honored to support you on your journey to optimal hormone health + happiness. Thanks for being here babe.