We all know nutrition is an incredibly important piece to the puzzle when it comes to your overall health. But it’s also integral if you’re in the process of trying to conceive or just looking to optimize your fertility. This bodily process that happens once every 21-35 days for most reproductive-aged women, occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle, during which a delicate balance of hormone communication is happening between the pituitary gland at the base of the brain, the ovaries, and the uterus, explains Lora Shahine, M.D., board certified Obstetrician, Gynecologist and Reproductive Endocrinologist at Pacific NW Fertility and IVF Specialists in Seattle. Here we will break down eight foods that help with ovulation.
During ovulation, a mature egg, or follicle, releases from the ovary and makes its way down the fallopian tube. Where it can be potentially fertilized by sperm. After ovulation, the ovary starts producing progesterone which further develops the uterine lining for embryo implantation. (If egg and sperm have fertilized.) According to Dr. Shahine.,“If no pregnancy results in a cycle—the ovary stops producing estrogen and progesterone,” she adds. “It’s the decline of estrogen and progesterone levels from the ovary that signals the shedding of the uterine lining that starts the next bleed and the menstrual cycle is complete.”
Here, doctors share the foods that help with ovulation:
Ovulation occurs naturally for most women, without any form of intervention. But there are natural ways we can optimize ovulation in our bodies to ensure that it’s happening successfully. “Improving your nutrition is the only way to help your body build stronger, healthier eggs, more reliable hormone cycles and a healthy uterine lining to nourish a fertilized egg and build a baby,” says Amy Neuzil, N.D., naturopathic doctor and health coach.
“In order to initiate ovulation you need strong hormone signals and those are based on cholesterol and other good fats.”
Foods that Help With Ovulation: Avocados
This creamy, green fruit (yes, fruit!) is chock-full of nutrients that are conducive to a healthy menstrual cycle. And that’s especially true of all plant-based fats, protein and also B vitamins including natural folate. That last nutrient is super important, especially when it comes to pregnancy. In fact, folate is one of the most studied nutrients in all aspects of human reproduction and fertility including ovulation. As well as spermatogenesis (the making of healthy sperm), and the healthy growth and delivery of a fetus, explains Dr. Neuzil. “The lack of folate is linked to a number of serious birth defects including spina bifida, cleft palate, and other neural tube defects,” she adds.
Fatty, cold-water fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help build the hormonal base to trigger ovulation, explains naturopath Ashley Margeson, N.D. Omega-3 fatty acids help promote healthy estrogen levels, which are vital to ovulation. “You can’t ovulate if you don’t have rising estrogen, so you want healthy fats to help support estrogen surges that will in turn help to support ovulation,” Dr. Margeson adds.
This tiny brown seed contains the same heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as fatty fish. Along with a few additional nutrients that have shown to be effective when it comes to promoting healthy ovulation. All those factors help make them one of the foods that help with ovulation.
Flaxseeds also contain lignans, a type of plant compound that can help maintain healthy estrogen levels in the body. You can find flaxseeds at your local grocery store. And you can sip them in your coffee or lemon water or add them as a topping to yogurt.
Pumpkin seeds, too, contain lignan, which helps support estrogen, thereby aiding in egg quality. As an added bonus, it also helps support the liver detoxification system, notes Dr. Margeson, which keeps the circulating hormones in check. “Your liver is the system that keeps things stable,” she says. “Anything we can put in that helps support that system is beneficial for triggering ovulation.”
Buckwheat is an ancient grain that contains an ingredient called d-chiro-inositol which boosts ovulation, notes Sandra El Hajj, N-MD, DHSc. “Among its many benefits, some key pros of consuming buckwheat include its ability to strengthen your blood circulation, thereby promoting a much better distribution of nutrients throughout the body,” she says. “It is also very rich in folate that boosts the release of an egg during ovulation.”
Leafy greens, including spinach, romaine and kale, are rich in many micronutrients like iron, folic acid, and several antioxidants. In addition, Dr. El Hajj points out that these leaves get the body rid of free radicals. Which boosts the functions of your organs including your ovaries. Making them one of the great foods that help with ovulation.
“The very high content in folate of spinach, asparagus and broccoli make these green leaves linked to better fertility, much lower rates of loss of pregnancies and a stronger egg,” she says. “Also, green leaves are rich in magnesium, vitamin E and calcium that support the menstrual cycle and the development of a healthy fetus from the very first moments.”
This delicious legume which is most popularly known as the main ingredient in hummus, is rich in isoflavones, which possess significant estrogenic properties, notes Dr. El Hajj. “Their phytoestrogen content can mimic the activity of the body’s normal estrogen hormone,” she says. “Chickpeas also offer the body high amounts of vitamin B 6 that boosts the body’s progesterone levels.”
Yes—the pollen that bees make! Turns out it’s a straight-up super food for what it contains from nutrients. “It helps restore the body’s normal micronutrient levels, which boosts ovulation and fertility,” says Dr. El Hajj. “Bee pollen supports ovarian functions by offering minerals, vitamins, enzymes, fatty acids, lipids, as well as antioxidants like bioflavonoids and carotenoids.”
Foods that Help With Ovulation – In Conclusion
Always check with your doctor before starting a new diet. And discuss any potential diet changes with your gynecologist to see if these foods may help with any and all ovulation issues.
Jenn Sinrich is a freelance editor, writer and content strategist located in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her BA in journalism from Northeastern University and has more than a decade of experience working for a myriad of female-focused publications including SELF, Parents, Women’s Health, BRIDES, Martha Stewart Weddings and more. When she’s not putting pen to paper (or, really, fingers to keyboard), she’s enjoying the most precious moments in life with her husband and daughter.