Food to reduce stress hormones

Eat These Foods to Reduce Stress and Anxiety – Cleveland Clinic

If you’re trying to lower your stress levels, you probably already know to start with the basics: self-care, sleep management, and exercise. But did you know there are some foods that lower stress levels, too?

Dietitian Courtney Barth, MS, RDN, LD, CPT, explains how certain foods can help reduce your levels of cortisol — the primary hormone responsible for stress.

What cortisol does

Cortisol plays a number of roles in the body, including:

  • Regulating sleep cycles.
  • Reducing inflammation.
  • Increasing blood sugar.
  • Managing how the body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
  • Controlling blood pressure.

Importantly, cortisol is sometimes known as the “stress hormone” because your adrenal gland releases it when you’re in a stressful situation, or when your body is under physical stress (like inflammation). It’s the key to helping your body manage its fight-or-flight instinct — which is a good thing.

“Cortisol is healthy for a short period of time as a protective mechanism,” Barth says. “It gives your body the energy you need to respond to a short-term stressful scenario.”

In the long-term, though, too much cortisol actually creates stress in your body, leading to more inflammation and increasing your blood pressure — essentially, the opposite of all the good things it does for you in short-term scenarios.

“Managing stress is the number one treatment for lowering cortisol levels,” Barth says.

Stress-relieving foods

Foods that are promoted on the Mediterranean diet are the same foods that are good to eat when you’re stressed: fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. In fact, Barth encourages patients to adopt a Mediterranean diet for overall health and wellness, including stress relief.

“The best way to lower cortisol in the body is to focus on an anti-inflammatory diet,” Barth says. “That means fewer processed foods and more whole foods.

The goal is to eat foods that reduce inflammation in your body, thus reducing cortisol levels. Here are some foods that help combat stress by lowering your cortisol.

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Foods high in vitamin B

“Fortified whole grains and some animal sources have lots of B vitamins in them — particularly vitamin B12, which can help with metabolism of cortisol,” Barth explains. Try:

  • Beef.
  • Chicken.
  • Eggs.
  • Fortified cereal.
  • Nutritional yeast.
  • Organ meats.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acid

These foods reduce inflammation. “The best activated form is through fatty fish, but you can also get it from some plant sources,” Barth says. Such foods include:

  • Anchovies.
  • Avocados.
  • Chia seeds.
  • Flax seeds.
  • Herring.
  • Mackerel.
  • Olive oil.
  • Oysters.
  • Salmon
  • Sardines.
  • Tuna.
  • Walnuts.
Magnesium-rich foods

“Magnesium is hugely beneficial when it comes to reducing inflammation, metabolizing cortisol and relaxing the body and mind,” Barth says. She suggests:

  • Avocados.
  • Bananas.
  • Broccoli.
  • Dark chocolate.
  • Pumpkin seeds.
  • Spinach.
Protein-rich foods

“Foods such as meat, fish, poultry, beans, and legumes promote balanced blood sugar levels,” Barth says. Specifics include:

  • Almonds.
  • Chicken breast.
  • Eggs.
  • Lean beef.
  • Lentils.
  • Peanuts.
  • Quinoa.
  • Turkey breast.
  • Tuna.
  • Salmon.
  • Shrimp.
Gut-healthy foods

“Seventy to 80% of our immune system is reliant on our gut, so if we correct our gut, we correct a lot of our immunity,” Barth says. These probiotic-rich and fermented foods can help balance blood sugar and reduce cholesterol:

  • Greek yogurt.
  • Kefir.
  • Kimchi.
  • Kombucha.
  • Sauerkraut.

If you need to de-stress in a hurry

Stress management through food is a long game, not a get-relaxed-quick trick. That said, magnesium-rich foods are a good choice if you’re trying to unwind and want a little natural assistance.

“High-magnesium foods are my first line of treatment,” Barth says. “Magnesium helps to relax the body, which helps reduce stress. It’s also a mineral for important body function, including heart rhythm, strong bones, keeping blood pressure normal, and helping to decrease risk of risk chronic diseases.”

In a pinch, she suggests popping some pumpkin seeds or letting some dark chocolate melt in your mouth (just make sure it’s at least 90% cacao). Try it at the end of the day for a little bit of nighttime relaxation.

Foods to avoid

In contrast, some foods raise cortisol levels. Foods that cause stress on your body include:

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  • Alcohol.
  • Caffeine.
  • High-sugar foods.
  • Simple carbs, such as cakes and pastries.
  • Soda.

Eat well and eat consistently

If you’re hoping to reduce stress, keep in mind this one key piece of advice: Don’t skip meals. Eating on a regular schedule — every three to five hours — helps balance your blood sugar levels. Being in a chronic state of low blood sugar is stressful on your body and can increase cortisol, so maintaining a balanced blood sugar can go a long way.

And tempting though it may be, don’t turn to supplements to get the vitamins and nutrients your body needs.

“We know what impact nutrition has on your body, whereas supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration,” Barth says. “I always tell people: Go with food first.”

Don’t rely on food to de-stress

Yes, these foods may help reduce your cortisol levels — but they won’t have a significant impact on their own if you’re not prioritizing stress management in other ways.

“If you have a healthy diet but you’re still incredibly stressed and not sleeping enough, you won’t see the results you’re looking for with food alone,” Barth warns.

The key to lowering stress is a whole-body approach that includes exercising, getting enough sleep and managing chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity — all of which can put your body in a prolonged state of inflammation.

And although we can’t control our genes or, to some extent, our environment, we can help our bodies when we make smart decisions about the food we eat.

“When it comes to our health, nutrition is the one thing we can control,” Barth says.

Top Foods to Relieve Stress


Posted April 21, 2021

  • Asparagus can stabilize your mood
  • Berries help to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels
  • Nutrients in certain foods can reduce stress

Certain foods can enhance your body's ability to handle stress, packed with essential nutrients needed to boost your mental state. Try incorporating some of these foods into your diet to help relieve stress naturally.


This long time comfort food, is a complex carbohydrate. It keeps your blood sugar steady and reduces the level of stress hormones in the brain. Oatmeal helps to relieve stress by releasing the chemical serotonin, which increases relaxation, calmness and creativity.

Pro tip: Skip the refined sugar. Instead make oatmeal with apples and raisins for a touch of sweetness and extra vitamin C. 


This spring time vegetable is not only high in iron, it is high in folate, one of the many B vitamins. Asparagus stabilizes your mood and helps to reduce depression and anxiety.

Pro tip: This versatile vegetable can be eaten fresh, grilled, steamed , sautéed, or broiled with olive oil.  

Salmon and tuna


Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These oils keep the stress hormone cortisol under control while regulating adrenaline levels. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to protect against heart disease, stroke, depression, and may assist in lowering blood pressure.

Pro tip: For the non-fish eaters, flaxseed, walnuts, and spinach are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. 



Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are loaded with anitoxidants and fiber. Yet it's the high amount of Vitamin C, that makes berries a stress fighting food. Vitamin C assist the body to return blood pressure and cortisol to normal levels after they have peaked.

Pro tip: Enjoy them fresh, frozen or mixed into a smoothie. 


While oysters may be best known as an aphrodisiac, they are also a stress relieving food chock full of B vitamins and magnesium. B vitamins help stabilize your mood and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Magnesium levels tend to drop the more stressed we get, this can lead to fatigue and headaches. Add food rich in magnesium to your diet to fight stress and stress-related diseases, such as heart attacks and high blood pressure. 

Pro tip: B vitamins also aid in memory and relieve premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Dark chocolate

This sweet treat not only satisfies your taste buds, but helps relieve stress by reducing the level of cortisol in the body.   Dark chocolate is made from the cacao plant, which contains antioxidants that help prevent heart disease. Be aware that some dark chocolate desserts may contain added sugars, so treat yourself in moderation.  

Pro tip: Look for dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 percent or higher.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is among the most-well known stress-soothing teas. It helps to calm stomach distress and relieve migraine-type headaches. Chamomile tea decreases stress with its wonderful sedative and muscle relaxing properties.

Pro tip: After a stressful day, sip a cup before bed and peacefully drift off for a goodnight’s sleep.

Stress is part of our daily lives. Remembering to make good choices about the foods you eat will give your body the essential nutrients to keep you staying healthy and functioning at your best. 



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Top 10 Stress Relief Products

April 6, 2018 Views: 82731

Stress makes us chew chips, buy cookies and sweets, which will certainly increase body fat. But there are foods that fight stress and improve your mood without harming your figure! Feel sorry for yourself. Eat a pie / cake / candy to cheer up. And then regret it. We live in an age where stressful situations are all around us, treading water in circles, eating junk food, and getting depressed due to self-blame and weak willpower. We have prepared for you a list of products that will help reduce stress levels without increasing your weight and harming your health.
1. Berries Berries are sweet and healthy Raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are the perfect fiber-filled, vitamin-packed dessert and low-calorie snack. Antioxidants in berries help prevent aging caused by chronic stress. Berries curb spikes in blood sugar by reducing sugar cravings between meals. Unlike other sweeter fruits, they do not cause fermentation in the stomach, but on the contrary, they normalize digestion.
2. Chamomile Chamomile - mood and stomach regulator Chamomile decoction not only perfectly reduces the tension of the nervous system before bedtime, but also contains hippuric acid - a substance that reduces inflammation that occurs during periods of stress. If you drink chamomile tea after eating, you can reduce colic, eliminate constipation - symptoms that accompany irritable bowel syndrome in people with stress.
3. Dark chocolate Dark chocolate - and the mood is 70% higher! Dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa beans helps fight stress by releasing beta-endorphins. Chocolate is a healthy sweet that suppresses cravings for unhealthy foods (sweets, chips, sausages). The substance phenylethylamine in the composition of chocolate causes a feeling of euphoria.
4. Nuts Nuts are the best metabolism booster Nuts balance blood sugar levels, reduce sugar cravings, regulate appetite and stimulate metabolism. Under stress, certain substances are consumed faster. Nuts contain magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for a chronically stress-weary body. The vegetable fats in nuts are beneficial, unlike fats from sausages and pork.
5. Celery Celery - satiety and calmness Celery contains tryptophan, which helps the body produce the substance serotonin, which is necessary for maintaining a good mood and sound sleep. A few celery stalks with peanut butter as a snack before bed will help you fall asleep faster and not wake up hungry.
6. Licorice (Licorice) Licorice (Licorice) - Aid to the Hormonal System 1 cup of licorice root tea will help you relieve stress. Licorice modulates levels of the stress hormone cortisol. On the one hand, it supports the body with hypofunction of the adrenal glands, that is, when there is too little cortisol, and on the other hand, it helps to reduce and normalize its amount in excess.
7. Oily Fish Oily Fish - Fuels the Nervous System Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and trout contain omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc, substances the body needs in stressful situations. Fatty acids improve mood, reduce inflammation and reduce sugar cravings.
8. Garlic Garlic - Antibacterial Seasoning Garlic has powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties that help support the immune system during times of stress. It also reduces joint inflammation, which increases with stress. Two cloves in a vegetable stew with lemon juice, oregano and olive oil will give a bouquet of flavors and relieve stress.
9. Kale Family Kale Family - Liver Helpers Nutritious member of cruciferous vegetables contains glucosinolates, which relieve symptoms of stress, premenstrual syndrome, toxins, excess cortisol and adrenaline from the blood. Cabbage leaves can be consumed in any form, but raw - they improve thyroid function, which is disturbed by stress.
10. Olive oil Olive oil - vascular and heart health Stress gradually destroys the cardiovascular system, is a source of hypertension and heart failure. Olive oil, rich in anti-inflammatory substances, reduces the level of inflammation in cells and protects blood vessels. Remember that heating olive oil in a pan destroys the beneficial

Source: Top 10 Stress Relief Foods!, ©

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9 Ways to Reduce Cortisol and Prevent Stress

Stress is the body's response to a potential threat that can be linked to physical and psychological factors.

Learn about the role of cortisol in stress and how to lower cortisol.

Cortisol is one of the hormones produced by the adrenal cortex. It is involved in many metabolic processes, for example, it helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels. In addition, it plays a role in the process of waking up after sleep. When you wake up, the hormone levels rise, reaching a peak after 30 minutes and then gradually decreasing throughout the day.

Cortisol is also called the "stress hormone". When your body feels threatened, either physically or psychologically, the brain sends a signal to the adrenal glands, and in response, they release cortisol. Thanks to this hormone, concentration improves, blood circulation and glucose synthesis increase - this helps the body release additional energy in order to more effectively overcome stress.

Despite the benefits of cortisol, frequent or prolonged increases in its levels can harm the body. For example, chronic stress causes cortisol dysfunction, which leads to inflammation, depression, and accelerated cellular aging. It is also associated with the development of osteoporosis, muscular dystrophy and a decrease in antitumor immunity.

Chronic stress results from repeated exposure to situations that release stress hormones, including cortisol.

We've compiled nine scientifically proven ways to naturally lower cortisol levels and manage stress. So your body will be less likely to experience a state of mobilization to eliminate a potential threat.

This article is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose or treat or replace professional advice.

1. Identify factors that trigger stress

Threats to life or change of scenery - irritants that provoke anxiety and can become a trigger or stressor. These irritants include physical pain, relationship or work problems, and financial difficulties. It is, of course, impossible to predict when you will hit your foot on a chair. But some types of triggers can be learned to recognize.

One of the first steps to relieve stress is to understand what causes it. I do not want to remember and think about unpleasant situations once again. But a stress diary can help you recognize stimuli so you can learn to respond less to them. It is not necessary to remember all the details of an unpleasant event - it is enough to write down the fact and try to analyze why what happened caused you a negative reaction.

A stress diary can help you find practical ways to deal with such situations. For example, avoid quarrels, learn to build personal boundaries in relationships and at work, and say “no” at the right time. Moreover, you will be able to identify the hidden causes of stress as hanging out on social networks.

2. Learn to recognize stressful thoughts

Thinking about negative and traumatic events is a trigger for cortisol synthesis. British scientists conducted a study in which participants recorded their most negative memories for 20 minutes over three days. The results showed that it caused the participants to have high levels of cortisol. Scientists attribute this to long-term effects on the entire body.

The scientific community also emphasizes the role of anxiety and negative thought cycles in stress levels. It has been proven that negative thinking not only increases cortisol levels, but also has a bad effect on the production of oxytocin, a hormone that calms the nervous system.

Mental practice or mindfulness is one way to combat negative thinking and helps to reduce cortisol levels. Hungarian scientists conducted a meta-analysis of ten studies on the relationship between meditation and stress hormone levels. The results showed that meditation has a positive effect on people living in stressful conditions, but especially on patients with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.


Pay attention to the quality of your sleep

A person who has had a good night's sleep can cope more easily with stress and unpleasant situations. The quality and duration of sleep depends largely on your circadian rhythms and habits. What time you go to bed and wake up also plays a role. Studies show that people who work night shifts and sleep during the day are more likely to have elevated cortisol levels.

Shift work before age 40 is associated with higher body mass index (BMI) and higher cortisol levels.

Cortisol can be elevated due to lack of sleep or insomnia, especially in the evening after sleep deprivation. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system is responsible for the production of cortisol. When a threat to the body appears, a part of the brain, the hypothalamus, synthesizes special substances that are sent to the pituitary gland. It in turn sends a signal to the adrenal glands. In response, the adrenal cortex produces cortisol, some of which again enters the brain, affecting thought processes. This brain-kidney relationship is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is also responsible for regulating sleep cycles. Stress, illness, or poor nutrition can activate the axis. This can make your sleep worse and increase your cortisol levels later on.

Sleep hygiene is one of the decisive factors in its quality. Try to create conditions in which the amount of noise and light will be minimal. Blackout curtains, an eye mask, and earplugs will help with this. We wrote about this in detail in this article.

Sleep Tips to Reduce Cortisol:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time
  • Wash bed linen and sleepwear regularly - a fresh smell helps the body relax
  • Avoid using blue light devices (TV, phone, tablet) for 2 -3 hours before bedtime
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoon
  • Avoid excessive strength and cardio activities two hours before bedtime.

4. Exercise regularly

Exercise can either increase or decrease cortisol levels, depending on the duration and intensity of exercise. Despite the benefits of playing sports, it is still a burden and stress for the body. Therefore, as a result of intense exercise, cortisol usually rises briefly, but then drops at night.

At the same time, moderate-intensity exercise does not lead to an increase in the level of the stress hormone. Like intense exercise, moderate exercise has been linked to lower nighttime cortisol levels.

Regular exercise can control cortisol levels. And in addition to reducing the stress hormone, sports have a good effect on the microbiota. But it is better to avoid strenuous evening workouts that will keep you awake. Physical activity isn't just good for the body—many doctors recommend it to improve mental health as well.

5. Find something to do

Learning to relax is really good, especially if you want to manage stress. A new hobby is one way that also helps you learn a new skill. It doesn't matter what you do, the main thing is that you enjoy it.

Photo by Steve Johnson / Unsplash

American scientists conducted a study of 50 former combatants who had depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. For a month they were engaged in gardening and occupational therapy. The results showed a reduction in stress and a decrease in cortisol.

Think about what you would like to do, perhaps painting, music, or gardening.

6. Laugh more often

Laughter is good not only for the soul, but also for the body. This is a natural way to overcome stress and lower cortisol levels. A study published in 2008 showed that even the anticipation of laughter leads to a decrease in blood levels of cortisol, as well as two other stress hormones - adrenaline and norepinephrine.

Laughter reduces not only the level of stress hormones, but also blood pressure.

If you are having a fun and interesting time, it is unlikely that you will experience a lot of stress at the same time. That is why it is so important to plan your pastime and visit interesting places and events.

7. Connect with animals

It has been scientifically proven that contact with animals is associated with lower cortisol levels. Scientists have studied how interaction with animals affects stress, and found that prolonged contact with dogs, even strangers, as well as owning a pet, has a positive effect on cortisol levels. In addition, the interaction between a human and a dog increases the level of oxytocin in both.

Photo by Vitalie Sitnic / Unsplash

Pets are associated not only with reduced stress levels, but also with other health benefits. It is easier for owners of cats, dogs, parrots and other pets to focus attention. Animals also have a positive effect on blood pressure and help avoid feelings of loneliness.


Add foods that reduce cortisol levels to your diet

Nutrition affects not only the metabolic processes in the body, but also the level of cortisol. Some foods, such as sugar, can increase the amount of the stress hormone.

Neurotransmitter chemicals are responsible for signaling the nervous system and controlling mood. And hormones and food are responsible for their production.

How to reduce cortisol through nutrition

Foods rich in polyphenols help reduce stress hormone levels. For example, the long-term health benefits of drinking green tea have been scientifically proven - drinking just half a glass a day reduces the risk of depression and dementia.

Eating the following foods will help control cortisol levels:

Food Drinks
Bananas Black tea
Dark chocolate Green tea
Vegetable fibers Probiotics (yogurt)
Probiotics (sauerkraut) Water

Keep in mind that stress eating provides only temporary relief and can lead to eating disorders, weight gain and blood sugar problems. During times of stress, try to choose products containing vegetable fibers - fiber provides a feeling of satiety for a long time and regulates blood sugar levels.

Regular sugar intake is associated with long-term high cortisol levels and is associated with a higher risk of heart disease in overweight men.


The gut microbiota contains trillions of bacteria that are good for your health. They strengthen the intestinal mucosa, fight inflammation, regulate the immune system, and even mental health. That is why it is important to take care of the composition of intestinal bacteria.

Among the inhabitants of the intestinal microbiota are probiotic bacteria that reduce cortisol levels and, consequently, stress. Among them are bacteria Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus and L. farciminis.

Probiotic foods help support beneficial gut bacteria. Fermented milk drinks like kefir and yogurt, as well as fermented foods like kimchi, contain certain strains of probiotic bacteria. They help reduce stress-induced cortisol levels. Studies show that one strain of Lactobacillus - L. Plantarum 299v reduces exam stress in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

With the Atlas Microbiota Test, you can learn about the bacterial diversity of your gut, as well as assess the level of probiotic bacteria.

9. Spend time in nature

The noise of the big city, rush and traffic jams are part of the lives of many people, but not everyone realizes the extent of the negative impact of such an atmosphere on physical and mental health. Even a park or reserve within the city is a great opportunity to recover and relax.

Photo by Amos G / Unsplash

Forest therapy is a part of life for most Japanese people. They call it "shinrin-yoku", which translates to "forest bath". This is the practice of walking in the park or in the forest for 2-4 hours, which includes the contemplation of nature and deep breathing. As scientists have proven, such a pastime reduces the level of cortisol, normalizes the heartbeat and blood pressure.

Deep breathing reduces heart rate, improves mood and reduces stress.

There is no one-size-fits-all method of coping with stress, because every body and brain is unique. Good sleep, proper nutrition and regular exercise are the basis for a healthy body. Now you also know what other scientifically proven ways there are to prevent and reduce stress levels.

Take note:

  1. Identify factors that trigger stress
  2. Learn to recognize thoughts that cause stress
  3. Pay attention to the quality of sleep
  4. Exercise regularly
  5. Find something to do
  6. Laugh often
  7. Get a pet
  8. Eat more cortisol-lowering foods
  9. Spend time in nature

9005 despite the stress. It talks about how to deal with stress scientifically and worry less about its consequences.

Other blog articles on the effects of stress on health:

  • How the microbiota fights stress and depression
  • How stress affects digestion 2014
  • Harri Lindholm et al. , Morning Cortisol Levels and Perceived Stress in Irregular Shift Workers Compared with Regular Daytime Workers, 2012
  • Center for studies of human health, Acute vs. chronic stress
  • Veronika Engert et al., Mind your thoughts: associations between self-generated thoughts and stress-induced and baseline levels of cortisol and alpha-amylase, 2014
  • Karen Weintraub, “Stress Hormone” Cortisol Linked to Early Toll on Thinking Ability, 2018
  • Susan Jennifer Thomas, Theresa Larkin, Cognitive Distortions in Relation to Plasma Cortisol and Oxytocin Levels in Major Depressive Disorder, 2020
  • Adam Koncz, Meditation interventions efficiently reduce cortisol levels of at-risk samples: a meta-analysis, 2019
  • Harvard Health School, Blue light has a dark side, 2012
  • Sean M. Smith, The role of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in neuroendocrine responses to stress, 2006
  • Mark B Detweiler et al., Horticultural therapy: a pilot study on modulating cortisol levels and indices of substance craving, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and quality of life in veterans, 2015
  • Sophie Bostock, Andrew Steptoe, Influences of early shift work on the diurnal cortisol rhythm, mood and sleep: Within-subject variation in male airline pilots, 2013
  • American Physiological Society, Anticipating A Laugh Reduces Our Stress Hormones, Study Shows, 2008
  • John P Polheber, Robert L Matchock, The presence of a dog attenuates cortisol and heart rate in the Trier Social Stress Test compared to human friends, 2014
  • NIH, The Power of Pets, Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interactions, 2018
  • Ali Iranmanesh et al.

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