The female equivalent of testes, ovaries play a central role in female reproduction. Ovaries contain several follicles, each with the ability to give rise to one mature egg, or ovum. Healthy ovaries also secrete sex hormones essential for reproductive health. Several factors, including genetics, affect the health and function of your ovaries. Consuming foods rich in a few key nutrients can support ovary function and promote ovarian health.
Vitamin A-Rich Foods
Vitamin A plays an important role in ovary health. During development, vitamin A helps the ovaries begin meiosis — the type of cell growth used to produce eggs — according to a review published in “Nutrients” in 2011. All-trans retinoic acid, a form of vitamin A, also fights ovarian cancer growth, notes a review published in “Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology” in 2011. Your diet should provide a small amount of vitamin A each day — 2,333 international units for women and 3,000 for men, set by the Institute of Medicine. Cod liver oil, eggs, milk, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach and pumpkin all contribute a considerable amount to your goal.
Foods rich in selenium, an essential mineral, also benefit your ovaries. Selenium activates glutathione peroxidases, a family of enzymes that function as antioxidants. As a result, selenium protects your tissues from oxidative damage, which would otherwise increase the risk of genetic mutations that could contribute to cancer. It also activates another protein, called Sep15, that fights cancer development. Following a diet rich in selenium, as well as other antioxidants, lowers your risk of ovarian cancer, according to a study published in “BMC Cancer” in 2012. Whole-wheat bread, Brazil nuts, meats, eggs and shellfish all contribute to your daily selenium intake and help you consume the recommended daily intake of 55 micrograms, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Vitamin C-Rich Foods
Consume foods rich in vitamin C for healthy ovaries. Vitamin C provides natural protection against ovarian cancer, reports a study published in “Immunobiology” in 2012. It activates immune cells, called natural killer cells, that attack cancer cells, fighting cancer growth. Getting enough vitamin C might also promote proper ovarian function by regulating the activity of genes needed for follicle development, reports a test tube study published in the December 2010 issue of “Reproductive Science.” Include fresh produce in your diet to boost your vitamin C intake. Strawberries, oranges, red peppers and broccoli all contribute a significant amount toward the recommended daily intake — 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women, set by the Institute of Medicine.
Prepare meals rich in selenium, as well as vitamins A and C, to promote ovarian health. Top a baked sweet potato with grilled crab meat and steamed broccoli, or serve a fillet of salmon on a bed of steamed kale and roasted red pepper. Serve an ovary-friendly breakfast of poached eggs on toast, then boost your vitamin C intake with a bowl of strawberries on the side. Alternatively, combine milk, mixed berries, spinach and Brazil nut butter in a smoothie for a convenient meal that benefits your ovaries.
- University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center: Normal Ovarian Function
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin A
- Nutrients: Vitamin A in Reproduction and Development
- Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology: All Trans Retinoic Acid and Cancer
- Linus Pauling Institute: Selenium
- BMC Cancer: Total and Individual Antioxidant Intake and Risk of Epithelial Ovarian Cancer
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- Immunobiology: Depletion of Ascorbic Acid Impairs NK Cell Activity Against Ovarian Cancer in a Mouse Model
- Reproductive Science: MicroRNA Expression Profiles are Altered by Gonadotropins and Vitamin C Status During in vitro Follicular Growth
Important Notice: This article was originally published at https://healthyeating.sfgate.com by Sylvie Tremblay where all credits are due.
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