Your ovaries are paired organs, each about the size of an almond. They produce eggs until menopause and hormones, including progesterone and estrogen, in varying levels throughout your life. While healthy ovaries support overall wellness and reproductive health, conditions such as ovarian cysts can cause adverse symptoms, such as pain, abdominal swelling, nausea and vomiting. Healthy foods can help prevent or manage symptoms of ovary-related disease. If you suspect an ovarian condition, seek guidance from your doctor.
Lean Protein-Rich Foods
Saturated fats increase bodily inflammation and may contribute to ovarian cancer and obesity, which affects many women with polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition characterized by imbalanced sex hormones. A healthy diet for PCOS sufferers emphasizes lean protein sources, says Julie Redfern, a registered dietitian with Brigham and Women's Hospital, and limits animal fats. Protein promotes blood sugar and appetite control, thus supporting weight management. Nutritious sources include fish, skinless white-meat poultry, lentils, beans and egg whites.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are top sources of antioxidants, such as beta carotene and vitamin C. Antioxidants strengthen your body's ability to resist and heal from illnesses, including cancer. A diet rich in tomatoes and onions, particularly red varieties, can be particularly useful in staving off ovarian cancer, says Dr. William W. Li, a physician and president of the Angiogenesis Foundation. Onions contain the cancer-fighting substances apigenin, anthocyanin, myricetin and quercetin. Tomatoes provide the antioxidant lycopene. Fruits and vegetables particularly rich in antioxidants include citrus fruits, berries, dark leafy greens, broccoli and winter squash.
Because whole grains aren't stripped of nutritious parts during processing, they provide more protein, fiber and antioxidants than refined grains. If you have PCOS, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends high-fiber carbohydrate sources for blood sugar and appetite control. The fiber and plant chemicals known as phytochemicals in whole grains could also block estrogen reabsorption in your gut, lowering your risk for ovarian cancer. For best results, replace refined foods, such as white bread and instant rice, with whole grains, such as quinoa, oats, barley and brown rice.
Nuts and Seeds
Healthy fat sources also suit an ovary-friendly diet, says Redfern. The unsaturated fats in nuts and seeds help reduce inflammation and provide nutritious alternatives to foods that may increase your cancer risk. Rather than snack on potato chips, for example, have a modest portion of natural trail mix, mixed nuts or pumpkin seeds. When preparing crackers or sandwiches, use nut butters, such as almond or peanut, instead of high-fat cheese or mayonnaise. To reap the benefits of omega-3 fats, which are particularly anti-inflammatory, add ground flaxseeds to yogurt, cereals and baked goods.
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com