What To Eat During The Follicular Phase
- The follicular phase falls at the end of a menstrual cycle, and at the start, or right after menstruation.
- It’s crucial to eat foods that facilitate egg development and do not dampen your fluctuating spirits.
- Follicular phase meals must avoid processed foods and packaged items while including healthy alternatives in their place to indulge cravings.
Your menstrual cycle consists of various stages, and with the end of each cycle, there is the start of another one. Now that we’ve looked at the first two stages, i.e., the ovulation phase and the luteal phase, let’s find out about the final phase.
The follicular phase begins with your menstrual period. At this time, the body sheds the uterine lining which takes shape during the luteal phase. In this phase, the follicle, or egg matures, which paves the way for ovulation and the start of a new cycle.
The phase itself lasts anywhere between 12-18 days, well until the egg has matured, and you’re likely to gain physical strength. There’s an increase in the levels of estrogen in the body and energy levels significantly rise, in comparison to the luteal phase before it. You’ll also notice that you feel good mentally and are better able to engage socially.
What does a follicular phase diet include?
During the follicular phase, it is beneficial to focus on a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
1. Protein-rich foods
Include lean sources of protein such as beans, lentils, and tofu. Protein is important for follicle development and hormone production.
2. Whole grains
Much like the other stages, whole grains are perfect for maintaining energy levels. Think of crafting follicular phase meals with brown rice, whole wheat bread, and quinoa. These provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamin B, and are a good, healthy indulgence at a time when the body will want more carbs.
3. Healthy fats
Be it avocados, olive oil, seeds, or nuts, you’ll want to pack in your sources of fatty acids. They’re crucial for hormone production, overall reproductive health, and energy boosts while being tasty garnishes and additions to your meals. Use a variety of nut butters with your carbs, and snack on Brazilian nuts or pumpkin seeds.
4. Fruits and vegetables
Colorful fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Berries, citrus, broccoli, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, bok choy, grapefruit - the options are endless. The more the color and variety, the better your meals. Plus they also add a fine touch to your follicular phase recipes and there’s more room to have fun and experiment as you like.
5. Iron-rich foods
Iron is important for the production of healthy red blood cells and overall energy levels. During your period, there is a significant blood loss that you’ll want to balance and make up for. Include iron-rich foods such as leafy greens, legumes, and fortified cereals. They help in the transport of oxygen in the body and support internal recovery.
6. Calcium sources
Questions about what to eat during the follicular phase will always contain calcium in their answers. Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and muscle function. Include fortified plant-based milk like almond milk or coconut milk, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, and calcium-fortified foods in your diet. Anything from kale and broccoli to Swiss chard or turnip greens is perfect.
7. Vitamin D sources
Vitamin D is important for hormonal balance and reproductive health. While exposure to sunlight is one common way to soak in this vitamin, don’t forget vitamin D-rich foods in your follicular phase meals. Plant-based milk, mushrooms, and fortified orange juice are just some items to have.
Although this isn’t exactly an addition to your meal prep, it’s extremely central to your well-being at this time. Drink copious amounts of water to support the optimal functioning of bodily processes.
Foods to avoid in your follicular phase meals
While we’ve listed a range of items that are a must-have, it’s also important to know the kind of foods to avoid during your follicular phase.
1. Processed and sugary foods
- Drastically decrease your intake of processed foods, sugars, and beverages.
- They add to inflammation and also disrupt your hormonal balance. Whole, unprocessed foods are the way to go, whenever possible.
- High levels of caffeine intake may interfere with hormonal balance and affect fertility.
- While moderate caffeine consumption (1-2 cups per day) is generally considered safe, it’s best if you limit excessive intake, considering how crucial egg formation is during this stage.
- While alcohol itself is a substance with disorder-causing potential and must be avoided as a whole, consumption during the follicular phase is very detrimental.
- Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt hormone levels and affect reproductive function.
- It is advisable to limit alcohol intake or avoid it altogether, especially if you’re thinking of conceiving.
4. Trans fats
- Completely cut down on your consumption of foods high in trans fats like fried foods, baked goods, and processed snacks.
- They increase inflammation and have negative effects on overall health. You’re likely to feel tired easier, and your energy levels are also tampered with.
5. Excessive soy consumption
- While moderate amounts of soy products like tofu and tempeh are generally safe, and recommended, too much of anything is bad.
- Increased intake of such foods that are soy-based can affect hormonal balance, so it's best to consume it in moderation.
- With fluctuations in your levels of estrogen, it’s of extra importance that you strike a balance.
Considering the nature of this phase and your bodily and emotional state, we cannot stress enough the importance of being mindful of what you eat.
Even snacking must be healthy snacking. Don’t worry, with the variety of items available in most convenience stores near you, there should be little to no problem in incorporating healthier, plant-based items in your follicular phase diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
The follicular phase is essentially that stage of the menstrual cycle where the ovarian follicles mature. This stage begins with your period, or the first day of menstruation, and ends until ovulation occurs.
It is an important time for the maturation and selection of the egg that will be released during ovulation. And through this, it sets the stage for potential fertilization and pregnancy.
Nutrition during the follicular phase plays a vital role in your menstrual cycle. Your body needs attention and care, most of which comes from the food you eat. This helps in hormone production, follicle development, and egg quality. Besides, the uterine lining that is formed also needs a well-nourished body. Your general health and reproductive health are also safeguarded by the kind of foods you consume.
Good foods to include during the follicular phase include green vegetables, a variety of nuts and seeds, foods rich in carbs, and legumes as these support follicle development. Besides, some experts also suggest that foods with a good deal of probiotics like kimchi and sauerkraut can also be consumed.
Food to avoid during the follicular phase includes excessively salty or processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol. As we’ve already mentioned above, some types of foods or items must be avoided at all costs to protect your delicate reproductive health.
Supplements may be beneficial during the follicular phase. Based on your dietician’s recommendation, you can consider including prenatal or high-quality multivitamins which can fill any potential nutrient gaps. In addition, supplements for omega-3 fatty acids like EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are supposed to be good for reproductive health. Vitamin D is another supplement you can take. Plus, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), an antioxidant that supports energy production, and iron supplements can be included.
It goes without saying that none of these supplements should be taken without proper consultation, and cannot replace a good, whole, balanced meal. Be sure to plan accordingly.
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