Simple Foods That Reduce Cortisol To Keep On Hand At All Times
If you're feeling stressed and tired all the time, it might be because of your cortisol levels. Cortisol can be affected by your habits as well as what you eat, so you'll want to stock up on foods that reduce cortisol to rebalance your body.
- Cortisol affects your brain and body, both too much or too little is not good for you.
- Dietary changes can both increase and decrease cortisol levels, so you want to keep a balance.
- Mental stress is a huge factor in cortisol levels, too.
What is Cortisol?
In the human body, cortisol plays a variety of roles, including moderating the stress response, regulating metabolism, controlling the inflammatory response, and immunological function. Your adrenal gland releases cortisol when you're in a stressful situation or your body is under physical stress, so it's sometimes referred to as the "stress hormone."
Cortisol is good for a limited amount of time as a defensive mechanism. It provides the energy your body requires to respond to a short-term stressful situation. In the long run, however, too much cortisol causes stress in your body, leading to increased inflammation and blood pressure – the polar opposite of all the benefits it provides in the short term. Additionally, it increases water and sodium retention, controls the production of adrenaline, and also affects the psyche, often provoking euphoria or depression.
Your whole body has receptors that respond to the presence of cortisol, therefore it can affect pretty much every system in your body including:
What Can Raise Cortisol Levels?
Factors such as stressful work, personal problems, and intensive training can result in a long-term, excessive concentration of cortisol, affecting metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure, abnormal bone regeneration and collagen synthesis, and calcium deficiency in the body. While we often have little control over these types of things, we may be able to find relief in foods that reduce cortisol.
When we are stressed and have higher cortisol levels, we naturally crave sugary and fatty foods. This is likely due to the fact that these types of food have a high reward response in our brains. However, the short term boost in mood is often followed by increased cortisol levels and lethargy as sugary, fatty foods often are very nutrient poor.
Furthermore, having lower energy levels due to diet often decreases a person's activity/exercise level. Both diet and exercise are crucial in maintaining low cortisol levels in the body. That being said, if you are looking to reduce your cortisol levels dietary changes are one of the best places to start.
Foods That Reduce Cortisol
Research has shown that there are various nutrients that can help to regulate cortisol within the body. Polyunsaturated fat can reduce stress-induced cardiovascular responses. Omega-3 fatty acids can normalize abnormally low cortisol responses in acute stress tests. B vitamins, especially B12, have been shown to help with metabolizing cortisol. Phospholipids have improved memory in men who reported high levels of chronic stress, and fermented foods have been linked with decreased social anxiety.
Some foods that reduce cortisol and help us to regulate its levels in the body include:
- Foods high in B vitamins - Beef, chicken, eggs, fortified cereal, nutritional yeast and organ meats are all high in B vitamins. In addition to helping regulate cortisol, these foods also directly affect energy levels, brain function, and cell metabolism.
- Foods high in omega-3 fatty acid - Anchovies, avocados, chia seeds, flax seeds, herring, mackerel, olive oil, oysters, salmon, sardines, tuna and walnuts are all high in omega-3’s. These are foods that reduce cortisol and reduce inflammation in the body. This leads to reduced risk of cardiovascular issues like heart attacks and heart disease.
- Magnesium rich foods - Magnesium boosts energy levels, reduces inflammation, aids in the metabolization of cortisol, and is crucial in many other body functions. Avocados, bananas, broccoli, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds and spinach are all magnesium rich foods that reduce cortisol.
- Protein rich foods - Getting protein in every meal is important because it helps the body to balance blood sugar and cortisol levels. Protein also helps keep you feeling full so you can more easily avoid unhealthy food. Almonds, chicken breast, eggs, lean beef, lentils, peanuts, quinoa, turkey breast, tuna, salmon and shrimp are all great protein rich options.
- Fermented foods - Greek yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut are all packed with probiotics that increase the overall health of our microbiome which has a direct effect on our brain. These are also foods that reduce cortisol, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
While it is documented that dietary changes can reduce cortisol, new dietary patterns can trigger psychological stress and are associated with increases in cortisol. In the short term this means that people will often give up on their new healthier diets because it stresses them out.
Psychological stress has been shown to have a negative impact on food quality, weight loss, and metabolic health. Stress can increase the urge to eat highly appealing, calorie-dense foods while also disrupting self-control and goal-directed decision-making by weakening the cognitive processes that drive them.
Basically anything included in the mediterranean diet is a food you want to include on your list of foods that reduce cortisol. There is no one food or one exercise or one activity that can consistently maintain your cortisol levels. The best way to regulate your cortisol levels is by using holistic medicine. This “treatment” involves regular practices to improve physical, mental and spiritual well being. In short it means eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, getting some exercise, staying away from harmful substances and maintaining your mental health.
Written by Kiana St. Onge