We can naturally lower high cortisol levels. 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:
- vitamin C
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 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 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!
B-vitamins may lower high cortisol levels naturally!
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, 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.
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!
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 avocado are great natural sources of omega-3s. So, we should consume 1–2 handfuls of mixed seeds and nuts daily in order to reduce cortisol. After all, seeds and nuts are good dietary sources of magnesium, vitamin B6, and folate!
A fiber-rich diet may lower high cortisol
Moreover, gut microbiota plays a key role in the regulation of cortisol and the overall health of the body![11,12]
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). 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 which improve and restore the gut microbiota.
The most common food high in probiotics is Greek yogurt. Other fermented foods high in probiotics are sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso.
Consuming foods high in prebiotics and probiotics naturally reduces cortisol levels, and also, improves the immune system!
Tea can relieve stress
Green and black tea contain compounds which relieve stress and 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 also have beneficial effects against cortisol.[13,14,15,16]
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.
Moreover, onions and ginger may have beneficial effects against anxiety and elevated cortisol levels. Also, foods high in vitamin C may lower cortisol.
Additionally, it’s vital to stay hydrated. Not drinking enough water can increase cortisol levels.
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!
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 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 in most cases.[24,25]
You can find these extracts on iHerb.
Certainly, you should consult your physician before taking any supplement, or changing your diet.