What to Eat When You're Ovulating

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Often times, the term "menstrual cycle" is used in relation to an individual's period. But technically the menstrual cycle lasts almost a month, and contains four different phases: menstrual (when a woman has her period), follicular, ovulation, and luteal.

Each of these phases has different hormone dips and increases, implying that nutritional needs may vary in different phases. Nutrition can be a helpful tool in aiding hormonal health—understanding what your body experiences in each stage of your cycle allows you to make strategic nutritional decisions that may help you feel your best.

What is Ovulation

Ovulation, the shortest of the menstrual cycle phases, is often a focal point for individuals trying to conceive. It occurs during a very small window in the middle of your menstrual cycle—around the 14 day mark—when an egg is released from your ovary into your fallopian tube. There, it awaits fertilization from a sperm.

Ovulation is the time when the dominant follicle releases the egg from the ovary into the fallopian tube where it is ready to be fertilized by sperm.

During ovulation, your estrogen hormone peaks, triggering another hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH), which quickly surges and triggers ovulation to commence, explains Rebeka Racz, a nurse practitioner in women's health. "This release usually occurs between days 10-14 of your cycle, with your most fertile time the first four to five days before ovulation, and two to three days after."

After ovulation, estrogen dips off to baseline levels and progesterone becomes the dominant hormone until your body realizes it’s not pregnant, and your cycle begins again.

How to Track Your Ovulation

"Whether you are trying to get pregnant, or avoid pregnancy, there are many natural and also technological ways to track ovulation," says Racz.

  • Cervical mucus: "This is something you can monitor to help better understand your body." As Racz explains, cervical mucus naturally changes throughout your menstrual cycle becoming clear, wet, and stretchy around the time of ovulation—ideal for helping sperm swim up towards your released egg.
  • Ovulation calendar: If your periods are regular, the calendar method may be for you. "The luteal phase is consistent at 14 days, so from the first day of your period, count 14 days back. There are many apps that offer an ovulation calendar, such as Clue, Fertility Friend, Glow Cycle and Flo," recommends Racz.
  • Basal body temperature: "Your body temperature will naturally dip right before you ovulate, and then rise for about 12-24 hours immediately after," Racz explains. Start by testing your baseline temperature in the morning around four to five days before you suspect ovulation to occur. "When you see a dip, you are about to ovulate, with the small rise in temperature signaling ovulation has occurred."
  • Ovulation kits: "These are great for predicting ovulation, although keep in mind, they can be troublesome if your cycles aren’t regular." Such kits track your ovulation based on a surge of the LH right before ovulation.

Other ways to track ovulation include keeping an eye on changes to your cervical position, and saliva ferning tests, which monitor chemical changes in saliva during your fertile period.

Foods to Eat During Ovulation

During ovulation, Racz stresses the importance of consuming whole foods, rich with nutrients and antioxidants, that will nurture and nourish your body. Research has also found that a diet full of plant-based food, folic acid, and unsaturated fats, can positively impact fertility outcomes.

Foods High in Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The role of fatty acids, specifically polyunsaturated fatty acids, has been noted in positive fertility outcomes, as they have been found, in some cases, to positively affect both the developing egg and embryo implantation (for those trying to get pregnant).

In addition, omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish oils) can increase nitric oxide production within your blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and promoting better blood flow. This also affects the pelvic region, in turn creating a more optimal environment for successful implantation.

Foods high in omega-3 include salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, as well as flax seeds and walnuts.

Foods Containing Zinc

Evidence points to a positive role of trace mineral zinc in fertilization (as well as throughout pregnancy). "It's also important for helping to increase progesterone production," adds Racz, which occurs due to a rise of FSH that stimulates the growth of eggs. Aside from this, it's also been shown in studies as a complementary supplement for reducing the intensity of menstrual cramps.

Foods containing good amounts of zinc include lean meats, shellfish, beans, nuts, and sunflower seeds.

Foods with Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid

This trio of vitamins can help lower homocysteine (an amino acid) levels in the blood, which is optimal for regular ovulation.

In addition, vitamin B6 in particular has been found to lower mood-related premenstrual symptoms (PMS) in some cases; whilst vitamin B12 helps produce red blood cells to carry oxygen across the body, helping those with anaemia—a prevalent condition among younger women of reproductive age.

Foods high in vitamin B6 include fish, fortified cereals, dark leafy greens, chickpeas, and oranges. For a boost of vitamin B12, increase your intake of seafood, beef, and dairy products. You can find folic acid in eggs, whole grains, sunflower seeds, and beans.

A Word From Verywell

Understanding your body better allows you to make strategic decisions regarding hormonal health. That being said, eating a certain food doesn't guarantee you'll conceive or have normal periods. If you have any concerns about your hormonal balance, periods, or fertility, as well as questions regarding ovulation, seek out advice from a health care professional.

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11 Sources
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