If you’re trying to lower your stress levels, you probably already know to start with the basics: self-care, sleep management and exercise. But did you know there are some foods that lower stress levels, too?
Changing your diet could have a profound impact on your brain as certain food groups can help manage your levels of cortisol — the primary hormone responsible for stress.
What cortisol does
Cortisol is a hormone that regulates your adrenal glands. It is generally known as the ‘stress hormone’ and plays an essential role in your body, including:
- Regulating sleep cycles
- Reducing inflammation
- Increasing blood sugar
- Managing how the body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
- Controlling blood pressure
Your body continuously monitors your cortisol levels to maintain a steady level at 5 to 25mcg/dL. Cortisol levels higher-than-normal or lower-than-normal can be harmful to your health. Too high cortisol levels create stress in your body, leading to inflammation and increasing your blood pressure. Too low cortisol levels cause weakness, fatigue and low blood pressure.
The goal is to eat foods that reduce inflammation in your body and help to combat stress and keep cortisol at a normal level.
1. Foods high in vitamin B
Fortified whole grains and some animal sources contain lots of vitamin B, particularly vitamin B12 which can help with the metabolism of cortisol:
- Fortified cereal
- Nutritional yeast
- Organ meats (liver, kidney, etc)
2. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acid
These foods reduce inflammation and can be sourced through fatty fish or some plant sources:
- Chia Seeds
- Flax seeds
- Olive oil
3. Magnesium-rich foods
Magnesium is hugely beneficial when it comes to reducing inflammation, metabolizing cortisol and relaxing the body and mind. It can be found in the following foods:
- Dark chocolate
- Pumpkin seeds
4. Protein-rich foods
Foods such as meat, fish, poultry, beans, and legumes promote balanced blood sugar levels and can be found in:
- Chicken breast
- Turkey breast
5. Gut-healthy foods
Seventy to eighty percent of our immune system is reliant on our gut, so if we take care of our gut, we correct a lot of our immunity. These probiotic-rich and fermented foods can help balance blood sugar and reduce cholesterol:
- Greek yogurt
Foods to avoid
In contrast, some foods has proven to raise cortisol levels. Foods that cause stress in your body include:
- High-sugar foods
- Simple carbs, such as cakes and pastries
Don’t rely on food to de-stress
These foods may help to manage cortisol levels — but they won’t have a significant impact on their own if stress management not a priority. If you have a healthy diet but you’re still incredibly stressed and not sleeping enough, you won’t see the results you’re looking for with food alone.
The key to managing stress is a holistic approach that includes exercising, getting adequate sleep and managing chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and obesity — all of which can prolong inflammation in your body.
Next time your stress level start soaring, fill your plate with food that is scientifically proven to reduce your stress.
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This blog post assumes a general approach to healthy diet principals for the average person and is supported by research papers from https://health.clevelandclinic.org. A dietary approach is not a one-size-fits-all and may require you to adopt one or more diet approaches to fit your unique health needs and lifestyle.