For most women, fertility peaks during their 20s and early 30s. After that, it gradually starts to decline as ovaries produce fewer eggs and less reproductive hormones. During a woman’s most fertile years, certain foods may help preserve fertility by providing nutrients beneficial to enhancing a woman’s ability to conceive.
The follicular phase of the menstrual cycle begins the day your period starts. During this phase, luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones reach your ovaries via the bloodstream. These two hormones stimulate growth for the ovarian eggs that are contained in a “shell” or follicle. Hormonal balance is necessary for limiting the number of follicles eventually maturing. At the end of the follicular phase, only one follicle is left to dominate within one ovary. This is the phase of your monthly cycle which is characterized by heightened estrogen levels. If you’re having trouble conceiving, especially if it is due to endometriosis or fibroids, your body may be flooded with too much estrogen. In this case, try to consume foods that not only support follicle development but also help you metabolize estrogen as efficiently as possible.
Examples include green vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, and legumes. Cruciferous vegetables, like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are packed with a phytonutrient called diindolylmethane (DIM), which helps normalize estrogen levels. While you’re at it, stay away from alcohol during the follicular phase, as it can quickly dehydrate the body, cause hormonal imbalance, and even cause cervical mucus to thicken to an undesirable level.
During the ovulation phase, the body is seeking as much B vitamins as you can deliver. B vitamins are used to encourage and support the healthy release of the egg and a successful implantation. Zinc is another important nutrient during this phase, too. Essential fatty acids, also called EFAs, are a necessary supplement during ovulation, as they help encourage blood flow to the uterus and promote the opening of the follicle to release the egg in a timely manner. Fuel up on foods that are rich in B vitamins, zinc, and EFAs.
Examples include whole grains, meat, fish, eggs, legumes, and leafy greens. Also, ensure you take in plenty of water so your body is always adequately hydrated. Water plays an important role during ovulation, as it helps follicle development, transports hormones around the body, and even thins out cervical mucus, which increases the likelihood of pregnancy during traditional methods of conception. Again, stay away from alcohol. Try to also limit overly processed foods, acidic substances, and coffee.
The luteal phase starts after ovulation. It occurs around day 13, 14 or 15 of a normal menstrual cycle and continues until you start your period. Also called the ovulatory or premenstrual phase, the luteal phase may indicate fertility issues if it lasts less than 10 or 11 days. This part of the monthly menstrual cycle demands nutrients that support and encourage cellular growth. Most nutritionists will encourage a diet rich in beta-carotene and bromelain. The trick is to eat foods that are fertility boosting foods but also support continual progesterone production, which is needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy over the long run.
Examples include pineapple, warm vegetable soups, leafy greens (preferably cooked and served hot), carrots, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes. Stay away from cold foods or raw vegetables, as cold temperatures can cause your system to constrict and create a less-than-favorable environment for cell growth. Ice cream and frozen yogurt are no-no’s during this time.
It is likely that you feel crampy, moody, tired, and bloated during this part of your monthly cycle, which is normal. Over the three days to a week that you’re actively menstruating, lose a good amount of blood, and that can make even healthy women slightly anemic due to the resulting loss of iron. What to eat during menstruation? Try your hardest to consume iron-rich foods during this time.
Examples include leafy green vegetables, lean meats, seeds, grass fed red meat, beans, and fish. Foods that are rich in vitamin C help the body absorb iron from other foods, so consider combing iron rich foods with citrus, potatoes, broccoli and bell peppers as they’re all rich sources of vitamin C. Again, stay away from alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine, as these can cause heavier menstrual bleeding and result in a greater loss of iron.