A handful of mixed seeds and nuts daily, as part of a healthy well-balanced diet, can reduce high cortisol levels. They’re packed with B-vitamins, magnesium, omega-3s, and fiber; the most important compounds for reducing cortisol.
Why is cortisol bad for our health?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone. The adrenal glands release it when we feel danger or stressed. It’s synthesized from cholesterol. Cortisol is well-known as the main stress hormone.
This hormone is helpful when we have to physically fight or run away from danger. It instantly increases our strength and energy.
But, high levels of cortisol for too long are harmful. The modern way of life can become pretty stressful, constantly increasing cortisol levels.
High cortisol levels have been linked to high glucose levels, insulin resistance, diabetes, inflammation, weight gain, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, and suppressed immune system.[1,2,3,4]
Reasons for high cortisol levels
There are many reasons for elevated cortisol levels. Stress is the most common. Also, improper function of the pituitary gland, inflammation, high estrogen levels, disease, medication, depression, poor diet, obesity, sedentary life, and insomnia might increase cortisol levels.
Foods rich in magnesium may reduce cortisol levels
According to studies, high magnesium intake is beneficial for reducing cortisol. Moreover, magnesium deficiency has been linked to increased risk of stress, anxiety, and elevated cortisol levels.[5,6]
The daily recommended intake is between 310 and 420 mg, depending on the sex and age. Actually, following a diet high in magnesium is easy.
The richest foods in magnesium are seeds and nuts. Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, peanuts, and walnuts are particularly high in magnesium!
Foods with B-vitamins are crucial for low cortisol levels!
These B-vitamins are vital for lowering elevated homocysteine levels as well. Increased homocysteine has been linked to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke!
Seeds, nuts, banana, avocado, pepper, meat and fish are the richest foods in vitamin B6. Additionally, consuming foods with vitamin B6 promotes weight loss.
Moreover, spinach, turnip greens, chickpeas, peanuts, broccoli, bread, and cabbage are common foods high in folate.
Last, but not least, meat and fortified foods are the only good dietary sources of vitamin B12. Vegans, vegetarians, and people who follow a plant-based diet have a high risk of being deficient in vitamin B12. They might benefit from taking vitamin B12 supplementation.
Foods with omega-3s can reduce cortisol levels
The richest common foods in omega-3s are flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and canola oil. Seafood, fish oil supplements, and certain types of algae are also excellent dietary sources of omaga-3s.
So, we should consume 1-2 handfuls of mixed seeds and nuts daily, in order, to reduce cortisol. We’ll get high doses of magnesium, vitamin B6, folic acid, and omega-3s, which are crucial compounds against cortisol. They can fight stress and anxiety as well.
Eat foods rich in fiber to lower cortisol
Good eating habits preserve a diverse and healthy gut flora, containing high amounts of the “good” bacteria.
We should eat a wide variety of foods rich in prebiotics (a type of fiber). Actually, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are great dietary sources of prebiotics.
Also, we should consume foods with probiotics to improve the diversity of gut flora. Probiotics are live microorganisms which improve and restore the gut microbiota.
The most common food high in probiotics is Greek yogurt. Additionally, fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso are great sources of probiotics.
Consuming foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics reduces cortisol levels, and also, improves the immune system!
Tea can relieve stress
Green and black tea contains compounds which relieve stress and also, reduce elevated cortisol levels. For instance, catechins in tea inhibit the production of cortisol. Green tea has the highest inhibition effect. Chamomile tea and lemon balm have also beneficial effects against cortisol.[13,14,15,16]
Other foods & vitamins which reduce cortisol
Also, you could add turmeric to your food recipes. Curcumin, which is the key active ingredient in turmeric, seems to suppress the cortisol secretion.
Moreover, onions and ginger may have beneficial effects against anxiety and elevated cortisol levels. Also, foods rich in vitamin C may lower cortisol.
Additionally, it’s vital to stay hydrated. Not drinking enough water can increase cortisol levels.
Foods which increase cortisol levels
On the other hand, excess consumption of alcohol, caffeine, sugar, simple carbs, cakes, sweets, and soda may boost cortisol secretion!
Even intense exercise stresses the body, increasing cortisol levels.
On the contrary, low to moderate exercise is good for reducing cortisol. Furthermore, moderate exercise promotes a good night’s sleep which also, is crucial for low cortisol levels.
Supplements which may lower cortisol
First, ginseng supplementation seems beneficial for having normal cortisol levels. Ginseng can regulate cortisol secretion, helping people with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Moreover, rhodiola extract is a well-studied herb which influences the release of stress hormones and decreases cortisol responses. As a bonus, rhodiola may help lose weight, as it boosts energy metabolism.[22,23]
Last, but not least, according to many studies, the consumption of ashwagandha extract can substantially reduce cortisol levels. This herb can relieve stress and anxiety, improving the quality of life! A daily dosage of 250 mg is more than enough for most cases.[24,25]
Certainly, you should consult your physician before taking any supplement, or drastically changing your diet.