What to Eat During Your Follicular Phase

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It is no secret that the female body undergoes many hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. The cycle can be broken down into different phases. During these phases, the body has different needs.

Nutrition can be one way to provide support during different phases of the menstrual cycle. Here is what to eat during the follicular phase.

What Is the Follicular Phase?

The follicular phase, also known as the proliferative phase, starts at the beginning of the menstrual cycle. It begins on day 1 of the cycle when menstruation starts and continues through ovulation. 

It lasts for roughly the first half of the cycle, from days 6 to 14 on average, but this can vary from person to person. Researchers estimate that the follicular phase lasts nearly 17 days for most.

During this phase, the brain releases two hormones, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which help stimulate the growth of follicles on the ovaries. Follicles are where eggs reside, so this phase helps prepare for ovulation by developing follicles. 

During the last few days of the follicular phase, one of the resulting follicles will house an egg (ovum). When the egg is released, the follicular phase ends and ovulation begins. The lining of the uterus, the endometrium, also thickens during this phase due to the increase of the hormone estrogen.

Nutrients the Body Needs During the Follicular Phase

Aiming for a wide variety of nutrients on any given day is a good idea. But here are specific nutrients you may want to focus on during your follicular phase specifically.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Healthy fats are an important part of any balanced diet, but they’re especially important in relation to women’s health. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). High FSH levels can have complications relating to your menstrual cycle and can be used to diagnose polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Phytoestrogens

Excessive estrogen levels during your menstrual cycle are associated with symptoms like heavy periods, PMS, or fibroids. A type of phytonutrient called phytoestrogens can help reduce the effectiveness of estrogen, which may provide some relief. Examples of foods that contain phytoestrogens include flax seeds, tofu, sesame seeds, garlic, tempeh, and dried fruits.

Magnesium

There is a fluctuation of certain minerals during the menstrual cycle, and magnesium levels are lowest in the follicular phase. Consuming magnesium-rich foods during this time can help magnesium and its role in metabolizing estrogen.

Fiber

Though many Americans do not consume enough fiber, this nutrient is especially important for women’s health. It is associated with healthy digestion, but high fiber intake can also reduce the levels of estrogen in the body.

Foods to Eat During the Follicular Phase

When determining what foods to eat during your follicular phase, consider the following foods, which are sources of essential nutrients the body needs during the menstrual cycle and beyond.

Healthy Fats

Healthy sources of dietary fat are often recommended to support health. During the follicular phase, include healthy fats that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Some include fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs, nut butter, and plant-based oils.

Examples of Healthy Fats

  • Fatty fish like salmon
  • Nuts like almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and cashews
  • Seeds like pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds
  • Avocado
  • Edamame
  • Eggs
  • Nut butter like almond butter and peanut butter
  • Plant-based oils like olive oil and avocado oil


Cruciferous Vegetables

There are many reasons to eat more vegetables, and supporting your menstrual cycle is one of them. Cruciferous vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Many of them also contain phytoestrogens.

Examples of Cruciferous Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Bok choy
  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Rapini (broccoli rabe)
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Arugula
  • Watercress

High Fiber Carbohydrates

A low-carb diet is associated with irregular periods in some women. Some people may crave carbohydrates more in their luteal phase, but they are still important during the follicular phase. High fiber carbohydrates include whole grains, root vegetables, legumes, and some fruits.

Examples of High Fiber Carbs

  • Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats
  • Root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beets, and parsnips
  • Legumes like beans and lentils
  • Fruits like kiwis, oranges, and pears


Other Foods

There are other foods you may want to consider eating during the follicular phase as well. These include sprouted and fermented foods that are high in probiotics like kimchi and sauerkraut. Foods high in fiber like squash, green peas, broccoli, and sweet potatoes can also be beneficial as well as protein-rich foods like chicken breast, legumes, and tofu.

A Word From Verywell

It is important to eat a variety of nutritious foods, but certain nutrients are especially beneficial for people during the various phases of their menstrual cycle. During the follicular cycle, when hormone levels are high, aim for foods that help balance and support hormones.

A well-rounded diet includes a balance of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates. Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are a must, too. Coincidentally, these nutrients are beneficial during your follicular phase.

For many people, consuming a balanced diet with a variety of whole foods like, lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, your body will support hormone balance and reproductive health. However, if you are concerned that you have a hormonal imbalance, reach out to a registered dietitian that specializes in women's health or a healthcare provider.

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9 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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