By Cory Levin, RDN
Ever wonder why one week you’re snapping selfies and ready to plan a girls weekend, but at the drop of a hat and the next you’re curled up on the couch desiring nothing but a pint of Haagen Daz and the company of your cat? As a woman, our hormones are in a state of constant fluctuation! These hormones do a lot more for us than we might think– they influence our mood, sleep, energy, sex drive, weight, fertility, digestion, and more.
Hi, I’m Cory Levin, a Registered Dietitian and women’s health expert and this is part two of a four-part series giving you research-backed, evidence-based guidelines on how to eat throughout each phase of your cycle to optimize your hormone balance and mitigate things like PMS.
Your follicular phase is likely the part of your cycle where you’re feeling your absolute best– and you can thank estrogen for that! The duration of phase 2 really varies, but in a textbook 28-day cycle, it will likely last about one and a half weeks and stop around day 14 (when the first day of your last period is calendar day 1). Ovulation marks the end of your follicular phase.
The follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) that gets released during your period triggers your ovaries to mature and prepare follicles (aka the structures that hold your eggs) to release a dominant egg for ovulation. As a result, estrogen levels are on the rise to help thicken your uterine lining. During this phase, you’ll likely feel increased energy, sky-rocketing libido, and might act more friendly and sociable. Be careful, for some, higher levels of estrogen can trigger anxiety. You’ll likely gravitate towards lighter, more vibrant dishes as your premenstrual cravings haven’t kicked in yet and estrogen is naturally lowering your appetite.
During this phase, top foods you want to indulge in are foods that contain high levels of vitamins D and A as well as zinc and selenium. Choose beans, oysters, fish, shrimp, and vitamin-D fortified milk and juice to support ovarian follicle maturation, neutralize free radical damage, and assist healthy ovulation. For snacking, cashews and brazil nuts are great sources of zinc and selenium to promote the development of healthy follicles. Apricots, tangerines, watermelon, Swiss chard, kale, sweet potatoes, romaine, and mushrooms are all great choices to help improve the quality of our eggs and help assist in a strong, healthy ovulation.
Follicular Phase Egg Cups: make on Sunday to have grab-n-go breakfasts throughout the work week that are loaded with ovulation-promoting nutrients
- 12 whole eggs
- 1 Tbsp vitamin-D-enriched milk or plant-based milk
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped yellow onion
- ¼ cup chopped kale
- ¼ cup sliced cremini mushrooms
- ½ cup peeled, diced, and steamed sweet potato
- ¼ cup diced bell peppers
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp salt + ¼ tsp black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup capacity muffin tin with liners or grease each cup with olive oil.
- Whisk eggs and milk in a large mixing bowl. Add in all other ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Pour egg mixture halfway-up into each cup.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until eggs are set. Serve or store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to four days and reheat when ready to serve. Pair two egg muffins with ¼ cup cashews and a tangerine for the perfect follicular phase breakfast!
Want to learn about the other phases in the cycle? Follow these links:
Cycle Nutrition In 4 Parts: The Menstrual Phase
Cycle Nutrition In 4 Parts: Ovulation
Cycle Nutrition In 4 Parts: The Luteal Phase
Cory Levin is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and women's health expert. Cory is the founder and principal of The Women's Dietitian and Instagram account @thewomensdietitian, a private practice and digital platform for women seeking nutrition support for hormone balance, fertility, digestion, and weight management. She specializes in conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, PMDD, Hashimoto’s, and nutrition therapy for infertility and assisted reproductive technology. Cory dedicates her practice to a science-backed eating and lifestyle method she has created called "Cycle Hacking". It is through this program that she customizes nutrition prescriptions for clients phase-by-phase of their cycle to optimize hormone balance and encourage healthy hormone levels.