The Ultimate guide for stress-free eating- 30 foods that lower cortisol levels
We all have been stressed at one point or another in our life, it’s a natural feeling of not being able to cope with some events.
We know the feeling of being stressed and anxious before an important meeting, interview, or an exam. Our hearts start beating heavily, our breathing speeds up, we feel a little warm and our thoughts go wild, etc.
This happens because when our body experiences stress, it releases a hormone called cortisol.
So, what is cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is made in adrenal glands. It is also known as “stress hormone” which plays some important function in our body such as
- Blood sugar regulation
- Metabolism regulation
- Memory formation etc.
Cortisol as discussed is released when we are under stress, it’s our body’s built-in alarm system which increases heart rate, raises the blood pressure, rushes blood to the brain and heart, etc.
Cortisol basically prepares our body for ‘fight or flight’ situations.
This thing is helpful in the short run when our body needs to take instant action against a particular stressor. However, in today’s fast-paced world, where we are always stressed about some or other thing, our cortisol levels remain elevated for an extended period of time.
Effects of high cortisol levels
High cortisol levels put an excess of pressure on our brain and heart. This can lead to a number of health-related problems such as
- High risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Type-2 diabetes
- Weight gain
- Emotional eating disorders
- Decreased sex drive
- Moods swing and many more.
Thus, it is essential that we keep our cortisol levels in check, and in order to do that, we must remain stress-free and relaxed. But, if you’re finding it hard to remain calm, it might be because of your eating habits.
Therefore, here I am going to list 30 highly effective foods that lower cortisol levels in your body and help you to stop emotional binge eating.
So, without further ado, let’s begin!
30 Foods that lower cortisol levels
1. BRAZIL NUTS
Brazil nuts are loaded with selenium, which is an effective anti-inflammatory as well as an antioxidant compound that improves mood by reducing inflammation in individuals suffering from chronic stress and anxiety.
However, be sure that you consume only 3-4 Brazil nuts because the recommended intake of selenium is 400 micrograms per day, in excess it can cause various side effects.
Eggs are an excellent source of Vitamin D and protein. In addition, they also contain tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps in the synthesis of serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps in the regulation of mood, memory, behavior, and sleep. Thus, ultimately it improves brain function and reduces anxiety, making eggs an ideal food that calms nerves.
3. DARK CHOCOLATE
Researchers have found that eating 40gms or 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate every day for two weeks reduces the level of cortisol in humans.
Moreover, dark chocolate or cocoa is a good source of magnesium, which is an essential mineral that may reduce symptoms of emotional eating disorders.
Just remember to opt for 70% or more while choosing your dark chocolate.
Turmeric is a superfood that may help lower the cortisol levels by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress that tend to increase in individuals who are suffering from depression, anxiety, and emotional eating disorders.
Studies show that the active ingredient in turmeric known as curcumin helped to prevent anxiety disorders in adults.
Turmeric is easy to incorporate into the meals. It does not have a strong flavor, so add a generous pinch of it in your smoothies, curries, or any other savory dish that you prefer.
Most of us are aware of the soothing effects of chamomile tea. It’s a relaxant and anti-anxiety properties come from the flavonoids that are present in it.
A recent study found that chamomile actually reduces the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Moreover, it is considered extremely safe to consume, so you can take in high doses without a worry.
6. DRIED APRICOTS
Dried apricots are rich in magnesium which as discussed above is really essential for our body when it’s under stress. Additionally, they also contain a good amount of vitamin C, essential to maintain a healthy immune system.
So, go ahead and make yourself a healthy dried apricots trail mix and have it as a go-to snack but refrain from overeating because dried food generally contains high sugar.
Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants called anthocyanins and vitamin C. Studies have shown that consuming blueberries regularly reduces oxidative stress and enhances the immune system.
It is one of the tastiest foods that reduce cortisol in the body, mix them in your smoothies, oats, yogurt, or have them on the go.
Related post: How to practice mindful eating and improve your health.
8. YOGURT, KIMCHI, KEFIR, SAUERKRAUT
Yogurt contains healthy bacteria called lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, it is believed that these bacteria have a positive effect on the health of our brain. A small study found that yogurt may relieve stress and anxiety by reducing activity in the emotional region of our brain.
Eat it plain or mix it with dark chocolate, blueberries, chia seeds, nuts, fruits, etc for added benefits.
Other Fermented foods like Sauerkraut, Kefir, and Kimchi contain probiotics, which effectively reduces anxiety and depression. They are also a good source of vitamins A, B, and C and minerals like magnesium and zinc which are believed to have a positive effect on mood.
9. GREEN TEA
Green tea contains an amino acid called Theanine, and theanine tends to increase the production of serotonin and dopamine thus, this makes it an ideal anti-anxiety food.
A study indicated that a 200mg dose of l-theanine improved relaxation, tension, and calmness in humans.
Low levels of folic acid are associated with increased stress and asparagus contains a high amount of folic acid. In fact, a cup of asparagus contains two-third of the daily required value of folic acid.
So, ensure that you include them in your daily diet. They can be steamed, grilled, or roasted and incorporated as a side dish with your lunch or dinner.
11. FATTY FISH
Fatty fishes such as salmon, trout, sardines, mackerels, etc are high in omega-3 fatty acid and this fatty acid has a strong correlation with maintaining mental health and cognitive function.
The compounds found in these fatty acids reduce inflammation and promote healthy brain function. In addition, salmons and sardines are high in vitamin D, and according to studies the deficiency of this vitamin can lead to depression and anxiety disorders.
Broccoli is one of the most highly nutritious foods that lower cortisol levels, it contains a high amount of vitamin C, and studies show that this vitamin plays an important role in reducing symptoms of anxiety.
Almonds contain loads of vitamins and minerals that can provide positive effects when our body is under stress. For instance, they are high in Vitamin E which boosts immunity, they have a good amount of magnesium in their content which lowers cortisol levels, they have omega-3 fatty acids and are high in vitamin B as well.
These similarly to almonds contain a good amount of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E, which are essential to maintain good heart and brain health because they tend to reduce inflammation, stress, and anxiety.
15. CARROT AND SWEET POTATO
They’re a good source of dietary fibers and complex carbohydrates which helps in the production of serotonin. Moreover, they are a great source of a variety of minerals and vitamins that are essential to maintain good health.
16. LOW-FAT COTTAGE CHEESE
Low fat cottage cheese is high in protein and calcium which helps in strengthening the nervous system and can be a really effective food to fight against stress.
Just make sure that you don’t choose low-fat cottage cheese that has additional fillers, sugars, preservatives, and starches added to it because this can add up to your stress levels.
Drinking enough water per day according to your body’s requirement can help you to regulate cortisol levels better. This is because dehydration is identified as a stressor by the body thus it directly affects the cortisol levels.
A study of young athletes indicated that even mild dehydration can lead to an increase in cortisol levels. Further, note that you should quench your thirst only with water because sugary and fizzy drinks have the capacity to alter your cortisol levels.
Bananas are high in Vitamin B such as folate and Vit. B6 helps in the synthesis of serotonin, thus ultimately they improve your mood and reduce anxiety.
For an extra stress-busting effect, pair bananas with peanut, almond, or cashew butter because nuts are high in magnesium and zinc which are helpful in alleviating emotional stress.
Flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds, they all are loaded with magnesium, making them really effective foods that lower cortisol levels.
Magnesium has been shown to reduce depression, irritability, and fatigue and therefore it may as well help with an emotional eating disorder.
Pineapples are full of essential nutrients and antioxidants that can help you to combat oxidative stress and depression. Plus, they are a prominent source of Vitamin C which directly helps your body to manage stress better.
Researchers suggest that the daily recommended value of Vitamin C is sufficient to lower the stress hormones in the body, and a serving of pineapple provides 131% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C.
21. ONION AND GARLIC
Onions can help to block the compounds in the body which interfere with serotonin levels. Serotonin is the “Feel-Good” hormone that fights off stress, depression, and anxiety.
Moreover, they contain a good amount of Vitamin C and quercetin, a flavonoid that acts as an antioxidant.
A study shows that during chronic stress, quercetin suppresses enzymes required for cortisol release, thus, making it one of the ideal foods that lower cortisol levels.
On the other hand, garlic helps to reduce the number of stress hormones because it has powerful antioxidant properties.
It is a medicinal herb, also known by its botanical name Withania somnifera. Studies show that daily doses of 125mg to 5 grams for 1-3 months have shown to lower cortisol levels by 11-32%
Moreover, it is also seen that Ashwagandha reduces the occurrence of anxiety disorders and lowers the chances of insomnia in people suffering from chronic stress.
Strawberries are loaded with antioxidants and anthocyanins. Researches show that it provides a neuroprotective effect by reducing oxidative stress-induced neurotoxicity.
You can add strawberries in your salad, eat them raw, mix them in yogurt, or cover it with dark chocolate, making it a versatile food that calms nerves.
Cinnamon is a powerful food that reduces anxiety and depression. A study published in the North American Journal of Psychology suggested that the scent of cinnamon enhanced cognitive performance in individuals suffering from anxiety.
Complex carbohydrates can help the brain to synthesis serotonin, and oatmeal is slow-digesting complex carbs. Plus, it also contains tryptophan which helps in the production of serotonin, this chemical also regulates the hunger cues. So, it helps to curb certain emotional eating disorders as well.
Just like oatmeal, quinoa also is a complex carbohydrate and along with that a complete protein. In addition, It helps in regulating blood sugar levels, which ultimately helps in managing your cravings better and may help you with emotional binge eating.
27. OLIVE OIL
Olive Oil has a number of health benefits, mainly because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it contains a compound known as oleuropein, which helps in reducing the cortisol levels.
Put olive oil in the salads which contain other foods that lower cortisol levels such as nuts and seeds for maximum benefit.
Milk contains Tryptophan, which helps in the production of serotonin. Additionally, milk is high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium, antioxidants, protein, and vitamins B2 and B12.
Studies suggest that calcium has anti-anxiety effects and can effectively prevent mood swings.
Avocados are high in vitamin B, particularly B6 that helps in the production of several neurotransmitters, including serotonin which directly affects the mood of an individual. Other Vitamins in the B group like thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin also have a positive effect on the nervous system.
They are also a good source of vitamin E and potassium, a mineral that gets depleted during chronic stress.
30. GREEN LEAFY VEGGIES
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale are high in magnesium, an essential mineral that regulates cortisol levels. They also contain Folate, which helps the body to synthesis “feel good” hormones like dopamine and serotonin.
Make a salad with green leafy vegetables including other foods that lower cortisol levels and enjoy it daily.
Lastly, remember that depression, stress, and anxiety is not something that you should take lightly because with time these disorders can really impact your overall quality of life.
If you are feeling any elevated symptoms of these conditions don’t hesitate to ask the help of professionals.
I hope that this article provided you with relevant information about the foods that lower cortisol levels and fight off stress.
Further, I would love to know your views and if you have anything to add to this article in the comments.
JulianneAugust 9, 2020 at 6:13 pm
It’s amazing that food can have such a huge impact on us! I am definitely going to try and incorporate more of these food into my diet. Thank you for sharing, Sonia!
PearPersonAugust 9, 2020 at 6:20 pm
What an informative post!
MeganAugust 9, 2020 at 6:28 pm
Thank you for making such a detailed list ! 🙂
Nancy RichardsonAugust 10, 2020 at 1:47 am
This is an awesome post that I am bookmarking for myself. I remember when I was working diligently on losing weight, and I ate a lot of these foods. No wonder why I felt so much better. I ate lots of dark leafy greens, and nuts. But I ate pineapple a lot because it is aids with joint pain. What we eat truly does impact how we feel. I need to get back on this for real. Thank you for this!