How to lower stress hormone (cortisol) through diet?

We can naturally lower high cortisol which is also known as the “stress hormone”. Proper hydration, moderate exercise, maintaining a normal body weight, and following a healthy diet are beneficial. In order to reduce cortisol, you should eat foods high in:

  • B vitamins
  • vitamin C
  • magnesium
  • fiber
  • omega-3s

Is cortisol dangerous?

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 a 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 high in magnesium may naturally reduce cortisol levels

According to studies, high magnesium intake is beneficial for reducing cortisol. Moreover, magnesium deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of stress, anxiety, and elevated cortisol levels.[5,6]

The recommended daily intake for magnesium is between 310 and 420 mg, depending on sex and age.

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!

B vitamins may lower elevated stress hormones!

Foods and supplements containing B vitamins can also help reduce cortisol levels. Especially, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12 are beneficial for reducing elevated cortisol values.[7,8]

Seeds, nuts, bananas, avocados, 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.

Vitamins & supplements that reduce stress naturally.Pin

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.

These B vitamins are also vital for increased serotonin synthesis which is crucial for good mood.

Omega-3s may reduce cortisol levels

Additionally, foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for reducing cortisol levels and dealing with anxiety or stress.[9,10]

Seeds, nuts, and avocados are great natural sources of omega-3s. So, we should consume a handful of mixed seeds and nuts daily in order to reduce cortisol.

Seeds and nuts are good dietary sources of magnesium, vitamin B6, and folate as well.

A healthy gut reduces Stress hormones

Moreover, gut microbiota plays a key role in the regulation of cortisol and the overall health of the body! Good eating habits preserve a diverse and healthy gut flora, containing high amounts of the “good” bacteria.[11,12]

We should follow a balanced diet containing various foods high in prebiotics and probiotics.


We should eat a wide variety of foods rich in prebiotics (a type of fiber). Great dietary sources of prebiotics are whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.


Also, we should consume foods with probiotics to improve the diversity of gut flora. Probiotics are live microorganisms that improve and restore the gut microbiota.

The most common foods high in probiotics are Greek yogurt and kefir. Other fermented foods high in probiotics are sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso.

Tea can relieve stress

Green and black tea contain compounds that relieve stress and reduce elevated cortisol levels. For instance, catechins in tea inhibit the production of cortisol. Green tea has the highest inhibition effect.[13,14,15,16]

Chamomile tea and lemon balm also have beneficial effects against cortisol.

Other foods that naturally 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.[17]

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Onions & ginger

Moreover, onions and ginger may have beneficial effects against anxiety and elevated cortisol levels.

Vitamin C

Also, foods high in vitamin C may lower cortisol.[18]

Pineapple juice

Among the richest foods in vitamin C is pineapple which is also the only natural source of bromelain. This enzyme has potent antioxidant action. Bromelain also plays a beneficial role in depression, as it affects the function of certain neurotransmitters. It has antidepressant action.[19,20]


Flavonoids in dark chocolate may have positive effects on stress and mood as well.

Leafy vegetables, onions, apples, berries, cherries, soybeans, and citrus fruits are also important sources of flavonoids. However, most people who follow the standard Western diet get high amounts of flavonoids from tea or wine.[21]


Additionally, it’s vital to stay hydrated. Not drinking enough water can increase cortisol levels.[22]

Which foods increase cortisol levels?

On the other hand, excess consumption of alcohol, caffeine, sugar, simple carbs, cakes, sweets, and soda may boost cortisol secretion![23]

Even strenuous exercise can substantially increase cortisol levels.

On the contrary, low to moderate exercise is good for reducing cortisol. Furthermore, moderate exercise promotes a good night’s sleep, which is also crucial for low cortisol levels.

A healthy, well-balanced diet, a good mindset, and moderate exercise are only a few key factors that contribute to a happy and productive life!

Certain supplements 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.[24]

Moreover, rhodiola extract is a well-studied herb that influences the release of stress hormones and decreases cortisol responses. As a bonus, rhodiola may help lose weight, as it boosts energy metabolism.[25,26]

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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 in most cases.[27,28]

You can find these extracts on iHerb.

Always consult your physician before taking any supplement or changing your diet.

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