We all experience stress from time to time. But when it goes on for weeks, or months, prolonged stress can have an adverse effect on all the body’s systems— especially the adrenal glands, small organs on top of the kidneys that are responsible for releasing important hormones.
One of these is cortisol — the primary hormone responsible for helping you deal with a stressful scenario. Cortisol shuts down functions that aren’t essential during that “fight or flight” situation.
Reasons why you need to lower elevated cortisol levels
A short term release of this hormone can help in dealing with the stressor at hand — which is a good thing.
The problem arises when chronic stress keeps cortisol levels from going back down when the challenge is over.
That’s when it does more harm than good for the body. Elevated cortisol levels over weeks or months can do the opposite of all the good things it does for you in short-term scenarios.
That’s because our body is not adept at dealing with continuous cortisol production because it can lead to inflammation and a host of mental and physical health problems including:
- Body aches
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Low back pain
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Mood swings
- Low energy levels
- Weight gain
Are there foods that reduce cortisol?
Research has shown a strong relationship between an anti-inflammatory diet — which includes fewer processed foods and more whole foods — and improved mental health.
Eating the right foods can help reduce cortisol production and prevent your body from succumbing to the negative effects of stress.
Here are 5 foods that experts say will reduce your cortisol levels and put you in a good mood – naturally!
Include these foods in your diet as soon as possible and you’ll kick your stress to the curb in no time, without any pills needed!
Dark chocolate – A perfect snack for stress relief
Feeling stressed out and overwhelmed? Go ahead and grab a chocolate bar.
New evidence states that daily consumption of solid dark chocolate can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol in highly stressed people.
The study found that people who rated themselves highly stressed, to begin with, had lower levels of stress hormones after eating 40 to 45 grams of chocolate — milk and white chocolate don’t count — every day for two weeks.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids (known for their relaxing properties), which can buffer endocrine reactivity to stress, thereby helping to combat the damages associated with acute oxidative stress in healthy individuals.
Berries – The superfruit to calm the mind
Berries like blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and strawberries are ranked highest among the fruits you should consume to beat stress.
Loaded with vitamin C and super-healthy antioxidants, berries can reduce the production of excess stress hormones.
Also, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice without added sugar can regulate essential brain functions and protect the brain from oxidative stress.
Nuts – Go nutty for stress relief
Many nutrients in nuts have a positive impact on the effects of stress. Perhaps the most significant one is selenium, a mineral that can help elevate mood.
In addition, nuts contain magnesium, which has been linked to better anxiety management. Almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, and brazil nuts, contain B and E vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Eating a handful of these nuts every day helps minimize both the physical and psychological effects of stress in healthy people.
Grab a handful of nuts during stressful times! Don’t overdo it, though: Nuts are high in calories.
Eggs – An egg a day keeps the stress away
Do you like hard eggs or omelettes? Go for it! Eggs are an excellent food for preventing and alleviating the conditions of oxidative stress.
They have a very high content of vitamins, especially those in group B, which are known for their anti-stress properties.
Generous in calcium, magnesium, and B-complex vitamins, eggs make wonderful stress-relieving food.
So the next time you’re under pressure, include one boiled egg on your breakfast plate.
Onions – The stress saviour in your kitchen
Onions are among the richest foods that mitigate cortisol levels. The phytochemicals found in onions enhance the vitamin C-cortisol-reducing action in your body.
Added to phytochemicals is L-tryptophan, a form of amino acid that acts as a natural sedative to help improve sleep and buffer the physiological impacts of stress. Add onions to your salad for combating your stress and anxiety in the long run.
High cortisol levels in the body usually suggest long-term stress — chronic problems, such as high blood pressure, can occur as a result of high cortisol levels in the body.
However, by minimising the concentrations of this hormone, you can stay healthy. Cortisol levels can be reduced by eating foods that lower cortisol.
Also worth noting: If you’re going through a stressful time, practice good self-care by making sure to eat three meals a day and have a snack or two after every four hours.
Also, If stress is keeping you unsettled, it’s best to opt for a stress test to identify the markers and consult a doctor for proper consultation, medication and sound professional advice to manage and slowly overcome stress, completely.