Reduce how stress impacts your life with these cortisol reducing foods

Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. This hormone is key in helping your body deal with stressful situations.

Short-term cortisol release helps you to run from danger, and cortisol levels are meant to drop once the stressful event is over, such as getting away from a lion that was chasing you. When cortisol levels remain high – when the body doesn’t recognize that stress isn’t a physical threat – your body remains in “fight or flight” mode and ends up paying the consequence.

Normally, the release of this stress hormone is a good thing, as it causes your body to quickly mobilize glucose into the bloodstream. This increase in blood sugar is meant to fuel your muscles and give your body a boost of energy so you can respond to the stressor rapidly.

However, several health issues can arise if your cortisol levels remain high, as they do for many people who experience stress at work, at home, and in their daily lives.

Symptoms of high cortisol levels include:

  • Digestive issues like Intestinal Bowel Syndrome

  • Fatigue and insomnia

  • Lowered immune function

  • Weight gain

  • Headaches

  • Increased blood pressure

Seven Foods That Reduce Cortisol Levels

Lowering stress levels, and consequently cortisol levels, comes down to three basics: getting enough sleep, exercising, and managing your mental health. But did you know there are some foods that can lower stress levels, too?

Green Tea

Green tea is high in L-theanine, an amino acid that helps ease levels of stress and anxiety. Although green tea is high in caffeine, low-caffeine green tea has been shown to improve sleep health. 

B-vitamin rich foods

Several studies have linked vitamin B consumption with lowered stress levels due to their ability to regulate the adrenal glands (which control cortisol production) as well as the body’s serotonin and norepinephrine levels. Foods rich in vitamin B can also aid in heart and brain function.

Such foods include:

  • Lean proteins, like chicken, fish, eggs, and turkey

  • Nutritional Yeast 

  • Fortified cereals

Leafy greens

Leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, collards, and Swiss chard are high in folate, which helps your body manufacture mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Higher levels of these hormones are associated with lower levels of cortisol in the bloodstream.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids 

Fish like salmon, cod, tuna and sardines provide essential omega-3 fatty acids, which work to keep cortisol levels from rising during bouts of anxiety. Studies have found that fish oils “inhibit the adrenal activation elicited by stress.”


Avocados are high in magnesium, a vitamin that assists in the regulation of blood pressure. A 2020 study also found that magnesium deficiency can increase susceptibility to stress, which may amplify symptoms of anxiety


Like fish, many seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and several varieties (including almonds and sunflower seeds) are high in vitamins A, C, and E. These vitamins can help prevent cell damage to the brain, allowing your brain to interpret stressors more accurately, resulting in less unnecessary stress on the body.

Fermented foods

Fermented foods, like kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, and pickles, are chock full of good for your gut priobiotics. Probiotics can play a role in “alleviating negative emotions, reducing abnormal behaviors, improving cognitive function...and relieving psychological stress.”

Foods to Avoid for Reducing Cortisol Levels

Comfort food and drink can make you feel better in the moment because they taste good or remind you of a warm memory, but their perceived effects may be short-lived.

When it comes to how diet may affect stress levels, many typical comfort foods are found on the list of foods to avoid, as they contain compounds or ingredients that have been linked to stress, anxiety, and depression.

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