While cortisol is essential for your body to stay protected and work normally, too much for too long may result in negative health consequences. Part of managing cortisol levels can include foods that lower cortisol.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone released by your adrenal glands in response to stress. The function of cortisol is to bring your body back into homeostasis (or normal functioning) following an acute stress response.

It helps the body respond to stressful situations by raising your blood pressure and heart rate, releasing sugar into the bloodstream to provide you with quick energy, and sending more oxygen to your brain so you can think more clearly and fight or flee if necessary.

When your stress levels are low, cortisol levels are too, and when your stress levels are high, cortisol levels rise accordingly so that you’re ready to take on whatever challenge is threatening you or those around you.

Symptoms of high cortisol:

The protective nature of cortisol may sound like a good thing, but high cortisol levels have been linked to conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

The good thing is that you can help keep your cortisol levels under control by choosing foods that lower them.

If you aren’t sure how to do this, here are ten foods that will help you lower your cortisol levels naturally, so you can keep your mood even no matter what challenges life throws at you.

Foods that lower cortisol

There are ways to balance your cortisol naturally, which you can read more about. Other than the most important, stress management, one of the ways to reduce cortisol is through your diet. 

1. Sweet potato

Sweet potato is a great source of vitamin B6, which has been proven to lower cortisol. Potato is also a good source of potassium and magnesium, which promote cortisol regulation.

Moreover, a diet high in potassium is associated with better blood pressure control and a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. With high fiber levels, sweet potato is also filling and incredibly inexpensive to include in your diet.

2. Swiss chard

Swiss chard growing in drought

This leafy green cruciferous vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse, so it’s not surprising that it helps to lower cortisol levels.

Swiss chard contains high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which are important for managing stress and reducing its impact on our bodies.

Also known as silverbeet, swiss chard can be used in salads, steamed, sautéed, or be added to soups, stews, and casseroles.

3. Artichokes

Artichokes are rich in beneficial nutrients, including prebiotics, fiber, and cynarin, one of several compounds that can relieve stress.

They have been used for centuries to combat digestive ailments as well as heart disease and hypertension, both of which are related to chronic stress.

A medium artichoke contains about 12 mg of cynarin or roughly 80% of your daily needs. It’s a great food to include in your diet if you want to naturally improve your mood and help manage physical symptoms associated with chronic stress.

4. Garlic

Garlic is a natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory food. It has been shown to lower cortisol levels, which may explain why it helps reduce stress when eaten regularly.

To get the best results, make sure you crush it before you eat it — or at least chop or dice it very finely so that your body can easily absorb all of its benefits.

5. Broccoli

Broccoli is another cruciferous vegetable jam-packed with nutrients, including sulforaphane, a powerful antioxidant compound that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Sulforaphane also has the ability to suppress cortisol levels by up to 48 percent from only 3 ounces of broccoli.

In addition, broccoli is rich in natural nutrients such as vitamin C, indoles, glutathione, and kaempferol that can also help offset cortisol spikes during stressful times.

6. Blueberries

blueberries close up

Research shows that when participants ate 250 grams of blueberries per day (which is about 2.5 cups), they had decreased cortisol levels and enhanced memory and mental performance.

To reap similar benefits, choose fresh or frozen blueberries over blueberry jams and other blueberry-containing foods.

Moreover, frozen fruits tend to retain more nutritional value than their fresh counterparts because they’re picked and frozen at their peak ripeness.

7. Chickpeas

One cup of cooked chickpeas provides more than half of your daily need for magnesium, a mineral that plays a role in many bodily functions, including regulating blood pressure and keeping your nerves and muscles healthy. Chickpeas also contain vitamin B6, another mineral that helps regulate cortisol levels.

8. Avocado

Rich in Vitamin B6, avocado also contains magnesium and potassium, two minerals that help reduce cortisol levels.

Studies have shown that even a single-serving reduces cortisol levels by as much as 20%. All you need is to consume half an avocado daily and you’re good to go.

In addition, avocado is also rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids known to fight anxiety and stress while improving mood and concentration.

9. Chia seeds

Termed as a magical weight-loss tool by some, chia seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants.

One study found that eating three tablespoons of ground chia seeds per day reduced cortisol levels significantly.

In addition to lowering cortisol levels, eating more Omega-3s has been shown to help boost mood and increase energy levels.

10. Bananas

bunch of bananas on wood surface

Although it’s commonly known that bananas have a host of positive health benefits, many people don’t realize just how amazing bananas are for your health.

According to an analysis published in Food Research International, bananas are high in potassium and low in sodium. They also provide significant amounts of vitamin C, niacin, and dietary fiber.

Additionally, bananas contain tryptophan and phenylalanine — two essential amino acids that can be used to produce serotonin or melatonin, respectively. Serotonin is a feel-good chemical that boosts your mood and happiness, thus lowering your stress levels.

Tryptophan also acts as a natural mood stabilizer and has been shown to reduce depression and fatigue, boost self-esteem and improve sleep quality.

Final thoughts on foods that lower cortisol

If you’re feeling stressed out, it can be hard to think about eating anything at all, much less eating the right foods that help alleviate stress.

The good news is that there are plenty of tasty and easily accessible foods out there that have been shown to improve your mood and reduce stress and anxiety, including lowering cortisol levels in your body.

These include sweet potato, swiss chard, garlic, broccoli, artichoke, banana, chia seeds, and chickpeas. Consuming between 1-2 servings of either of these foods daily can play an important role in lowering cortisol and alleviating your stress levels.

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  5. Vegan Brain Booster Foods

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