The Best Foods That Reduce Cortisol Levels Naturally
Dealing with chronic stress has become a common occurrence in our modern life. Unfortunately, chronic stress causes an increase in cortisol the stress hormone, and is associated with many health problems.
It’s therefore important that we adopt healthy lifestyle practices including mindful practices like exercise sleeping enough and meditation as well as eating whole nutrient-dense foods to help us fight stress and reduce cortisol naturally.
So in this post, we will turn our attention to the best foods that reduce cortisol naturally, as an essential step towards achieving balance, resilience, and vitality and feeling our best.
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands in response to stress.
However high cortisol is supposed to be transient. It’s supposed to help with fight or flight and then quiet down.
But in many situations in our modern life, stressors such as job stress, or chronic illness the stress never ends so cortisol stays high chronically.
The trouble with this is that too much cortisol over a long time can cause many health problems, including lowering your immunity, heightened inflammation, obesity, sleeplessness, and many more.
The problem with high cortisol
As mentioned, elevated cortisol for long time can lead to many health problems including the following:
- Suppressed Immune System: High cortisol levels can suppress the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections and illnesses.
- Weight Gain: Cortisol is associated with increased appetite and cravings for unhealthy, high-calorie foods. It also encourages the body to store fat, especially in the abdominal area, leading to weight gain.
- High Blood Pressure: Cortisol can increase blood pressure by enhancing the effects of other hormones that narrow blood vessels. Elevated blood pressure can contribute to heart disease and stroke.
- Insulin Resistance: High cortisol levels can interfere with how insulin functions, leading to insulin resistance. This condition can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
- Sleep Problems: Cortisol levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day, being highest in the morning to help you wake up. When cortisol levels are elevated at night due to chronic stress, it can interfere with sleep, leading to insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns.
- Digestive Issues: High cortisol levels can impair digestion and lead to problems like acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or other gastrointestinal issues.
- Anxiety and Depression: Chronic stress and high cortisol levels can contribute to the development or exacerbation of anxiety and depression disorders.
- Cognitive Impairment: Prolonged exposure to high cortisol levels can impair memory, concentration, and other cognitive functions.
- Bone Density Loss: Elevated cortisol levels can interfere with the body’s ability to build and maintain healthy bones, leading to a decrease in bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis.
- Skin Problems: High cortisol levels can lead to various skin issues, including acne, eczema, or psoriasis.
- Muscle Loss: Cortisol can break down muscle tissue and inhibit muscle growth, leading to muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass.
- Menstrual Irregularities: In women, high cortisol levels can disrupt the menstrual cycle, leading to irregular periods or even amenorrhea (absence of menstruation).
But cortisol is not all bad. Cortisol has many health benefits too and performs important functions in the body.
See the many benefits of cortisol, in this post.
So the key is balance, and nutrition is a big part of this balance.
While there isn’t a specific “cortisol-lowering diet,” there are certain foods and lifestyle choices that can help manage cortisol levels and promote overall well-being.
And many amazing and nutritious foods can naturally help lower cortisol levels.
So, let’s delve into these nourishing foods to lower cortisol naturally and bring harmony to our minds and bodies!
The best foods that lower cortisol levels naturally
Lower your cortisol by opting for whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats. These whole grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates and aid in the release of serotonin, promoting feelings of happiness and relaxation.
Consuming whole grains is important for managing cortisol levels due to their rich nutritional content, including essential vitamins and minerals that play a role in stress management.
Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat contain B vitamins, particularly B6 and B9 (folate), which are vital for proper brain function and emotional well-being.
These vitamins are involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which helps regulate mood and reduce stress.
Additionally, whole grains provide a good source of magnesium, a mineral that acts as a natural muscle relaxant and has calming effects on the nervous system.
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to elevated cortisol levels, so consuming whole grains can help maintain adequate magnesium levels and promote relaxation.
Furthermore, whole grains have a low glycemic index, which means they release glucose into the bloodstream gradually, preventing rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels.
Stable blood sugar levels are essential for preventing stress-induced cortisol spikes.
Additionally, the fiber content in whole grains aids in digestion and helps maintain a healthy gut, which has been linked to lower stress levels and reduced cortisol secretion.
In summary, whole grains provide essential B vitamins, magnesium, and dietary fiber that support both physical and mental health.
By promoting stable blood sugar levels, aiding in relaxation, and supporting a healthy gut, whole grains can contribute to the effective management of cortisol,
helping you to better cope with stress and maintain overall well-being
Incorporating lean protein into your diet provides the necessary amino acids for hormones and neurotransmitter synthesis, helps maintain stable blood sugar levels, and supports muscle health.
By ensuring a balanced hormonal response and stable glucose levels, a diet rich in lean protein plays a crucial role in keeping cortisol levels within a healthy range.
Consuming lean proteins can help balance blood sugar levels and reduce cortisol spikes.
Good sources of lean proteins include lead grass-fed beef, poultry, fish, tofu, and legumes, such as beans tofu and lentils.
Dark chocolate in moderation has been linked to reduced cortisol levels.
Choose varieties with high cocoa content and low sugar.
There is a growing body of research suggesting a connection between gut health and cortisol regulation.
Vegetables, particularly leafy greens, are essential in lowering cortisol levels due to their rich nutrient content and various health benefits.
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
These nutrients are crucial for overall health and well-being, and they play a significant role in managing stress and cortisol levels.
Leafy greens are abundant sources of magnesium, a mineral known for its calming effects on the nervous system.
Magnesium helps relax muscles and promotes a sense of calm, which can counteract the effects of stress and reduce cortisol secretion.
Adequate magnesium intake has been linked to lower stress levels and improved stress response in the body.
Furthermore, leafy greens are high in folate (a form of vitamin B9) and vitamin C.
Folate is essential for neurotransmitter synthesis, including serotonin, which regulates mood and stress levels. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps combat
oxidative stress in the body, preventing cell damage caused by free radicals.
By reducing oxidative stress, vitamin C indirectly supports a healthier cortisol response.
Additionally, leafy greens are low in calories and rich in fiber, which aids in digestion and helps maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Stable blood sugar levels prevent rapid spikes and crashes, ensuring that cortisol levels remain regulated.
Moreover, the fiber content supports a healthy gut microbiome, which emerging research suggests is linked to lower cortisol and reduced stress.
Consider other vegetables as well such as broccoli which is a good source of vitamin C, and folate and compounds known to balance hormones such as estrone and cortisol. Keep in mind that any hormone imbalance is a stressor to the body and affects your stress response and cortisol.
nuts and seeds
Seeds such as flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seedsOmega-3 Fatty Acids are great to eat to lower cortisol.
Seeds, especially flaxseeds and chia seeds, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are known to be anti-inflammatory. Inflammation causes diseases and pain which cause stress in the body and elevated cortisol levels.
Avocado, celebrated as a nutritional powerhouse, extends its benefits beyond its delectable taste to play a significant role in lowering cortisol levels.
Brimming with monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, avocados provide a robust foundation for a healthy stress response.
These essential fats not only offer sustained energy but also foster brain health, influencing emotional well-being positively.
Moreover, avocados boast a notable magnesium content, a mineral renowned for its stress-reducing properties.
Magnesium helps relax muscles and nerves, contributing to an overall sense of calm. With an added dose of potassium for blood pressure regulation and B vitamins, including folate, to enhance neurotransmitter function, avocados offer a delightful and holistic approach to keeping cortisol in check, promoting balance and well-being in every bite.
Cinnamon is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice shown in research to have a positive effect on metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is associated with central obesity, high triglycerides, increased insulin and blood sugar, adverse cardiovascular health, and diabetes, which are all very stressful to the body.
Research shows using cinnamon improves blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. And low blood sugar means lower cortisol levels as well.
Herbs like ashwagandha, rhodiola, and holy basil are adaptogens.
They are believed to help the body adapt to stress and maintain balance, including regulating cortisol secretion.
Additional Lifestyle Tips to lower cortisol
- Regular Exercise: Physical activity can help reduce cortisol levels and improve overall well-being. Aim for a mix of aerobic exercises, strength training, and relaxation exercises like yoga or tai chi.
- Adequate Sleep: Lack of sleep can significantly increase cortisol levels. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
- Stress Management: Techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and spending time in nature can help manage stress and cortisol levels.
- Social Support: Maintain strong social connections. Spending time with loved ones and engaging in activities you enjoy can reduce stress.
- Limit Caffeine: While some studies suggest moderate caffeine intake might not significantly affect cortisol, excessive caffeine consumption can lead to cortisol spikes.
- Hydration: Dehydration can increase cortisol levels, so make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day.
- Mindful Eating: Take time to savor your meals and be present while eating. Mindful eating can reduce stress and improve digestion, leading to a healthier relationship with food and your body.
- Limit Caffeine Intake: While a cup of coffee can provide a temporary boost, excessive caffeine consumption can lead to elevated cortisol levels and increased anxiety. Be mindful of your caffeine intake and consider herbal teas as an alternative.
The bottom line on lowering cortisol is that a balanced diet, coupled with mindfulness and self-care, can do wonders for our stress levels.
Embrace these delicious and nourishing foods to find serenity on your plate and invite peace into your life. Let food be thy medicine as you embark on a journey to a healthier, happier you!
Remember, before making significant changes to your diet, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns.