Health & Wellness

6 Stress-Relieving Foods That Reduce Cortisol

While they’re the very foods we tend to turn to for comfort, the truth is that high-sugar, high-sodium foods actually stress you out! That’s why you should be looking to eat foods that reduce cortisol during times of stress.

Not sure where to start? I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the top stress-busting foods and how they work! Let’s get started!


What is Cortisol?

Simply put, cortisol is a hormone that is released from your adrenal glands to divert your body into a sympathetic “fight-or-flight” state.

This release is your body’s response to encountering stress—whether it’s emotional or mental stress or even physical stress, such as having a disease or illness.

Cortisol has a significant impact on how your body converts fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy. It also regulates blood pressure and cardiovascular function and is responsible for assisting you when you need energy from glucose.

But its main job is to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

The release of cortisol is intended to be highest in the morning and slowly decrease throughout the day, eventually rising right before you wake from sleep.

If you are surrounding yourself with constant stimuli (such as the constant pinging of your smartphone), your cortisol rhythm will change course, resulting in higher-than-normal levels in the evening hours.

This often impacts your ability to fall asleep and will jolt you awake in the middle of the night (often between 1 and 3 a.m.), and make you unable to fall back asleep easily.

As you can see, it’s vital for your health to manage and support your cortisol levels so that they don’t become chronically high.


The Benefits of Cortisol-Lowering Foods

So, now let’s take a look at how eating foods that reduce cortisol can help you support your overall health.

Mainly, too much cortisol in your body can push you into the throes of adrenal fatigue. And depending on your level of adrenal fatigue, you can experience a myriad of symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue and energy surges, such as morning fatigue (difficulty waking up) followed by afternoon lows (feeling sleepy or “foggy”) and surges of energy in the evening
  • Cravings for foods high in salt, fat, and sugar
  • Increased PMS or menopausal symptoms
  • Increased allergies
  • Frequent sighing
  • IBS and other digestive issues
  • Frequent headaches
  • Frequent sickness, such as coughs, sore throats, colds, and flu
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Inability to lose weight

Plus, too much cortisol can contribute to high blood pressure, moodiness, and ever certain chronic illnesses such as diabetes and even autoimmune diseases.

Eating foods that reduce cortisol can help you avoid all the above-listed symptoms and outcomes. Plus, because high cortisol levels can suppress your immune system eating cortisol-lowering foods can help to reduce inflammation and support your body’s ability to heal and fight off illnesses. [1]

Now that you know how eating foods that reduce cortisol can help to support your overall health, let’s discuss some of the specific cortisol-lowering foods you should be consuming on a regular basis.


6 Foods That Reduce Cortisol

Here are six of the top foods that reduce cortisol.

1. Avocados

One of my absolute favorite foods is also known for being one of the best foods that reduce cortisol by supporting your body’s ability to manage stress and anxiety.

As I’ve discussed previously, I believe that chronic stress is the root of many of our major health concerns today. Fortunately, avocado is a great natural source of B vitamins, which are known to help combat both stress and anxiety.

So, how do the B vitamins in avocados help to lower cortisol? A 2010 study on 215 healthy men revealed that B vitamins helped decrease their stress levels, and a 2014 study showed that consuming B vitamins helped reduce workplace stress by 20 percent! [2, 3]

2. Berries

Berries also top the list of foods that reduce cortisol. Here’s how they work ….

Oxidative stress has been shown to decrease as a faster rate by consuming blueberries! [4] And because oxidative stress is linked to so many serious diseases, this is a huge benefit! Plus, the same holds true for strawberries! [5]

Additionally, a 2013 study found that the flavonoids found in blueberries can help to moderate anxiety and even provide anti-depressant effects. [6]

3. Leafy Greens

Did you know that leafy greens help to support your body’s stress response? It’s true!

Basically, leafy greens are rich in vitamin C, which is known to help slow your body’s production of cortisol! [7]

In fact, studies have shown that consuming vitamin c can help to reduce the amount of circulating cortisol in your body after a stressful experience. [8]

4. Pumpkin seeds

Another one of the top foods that reduce cortisol is pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, a trace mineral most commonly known for its ability to help prevent and fight colds. But did you know that zinc also has a powerful effect on cortisol?

Studies have shown that consuming zinc can temporarily inhibit your adrenal glands’ ability to secrete cortisol, thereby supporting your body’s stress ability to manage stress. [9]

5. Walnuts

You know that walnuts are good for your brain, but you may be surprised to learn they’re also one of the foods that reduce cortisol.

According to a 2021 study, people who consumed 15 grams of walnuts each day for six weeks had lower cortisol levels that those who didn’t. [10]

Meanwhile, additional studies have shown that consuming walnuts on a regular basis can help to reduce the effects of oxidative stress. [11]

6. Wild rice or quinoa

Finally, both wild rice and quinoa are rich in the mineral manganese, and here’s why that’s important: Manganese is known to help support your body’s stress response.

In fact, research has shown that people with lower cortisol levels typically consume more manganese and linoleic acid, both of which are abundant in these grains. [12]

Learning to use quinoa can be a little tricky if you’re making it for the first time, so consider giving my Blueberry Vanilla Quinoa Bowl for a fun spin on traditional oatmeal.

 

Foods that reduce cortisol - Dr. Pingel

 

For more foods that can help to reduce your cortisol levels and support your body’s stress response to stress, check out my article on adrenal fatigue.

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