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8 Foods That Decrease Your Stress Hormone

June 17, 2023

Everyone gets stressed out from time to time, in fact, more than 76% of American adults have reported health issues associated with stress, according to the American Psychological Association. Thankfully, there are proven methods that help reduce stress, but if you just can’t get the hang of meditation, or don’t have time to do a quick workout, there are other ways to do it, including choosing your food wisely. One of the easiest ways is by adjusting your diet to include foods that help to decrease your stress hormone, or cortisol.

“Cortisol is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal gland, which is located above the kidney,” says Trista Best, RD at Balance One Supplements. “Cortisol is involved in many different functions in the body, including regulating metabolism, maintaining blood pressure, and helping the body respond to stress.”

By eating foods that help to reduce cortisol, you’re decreasing the body’s stress hormone, which will help you to naturally feel calmer and less stressed out. Here are some of our favorite foods that help to decrease the stress hormone.

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1. Salmon

At this point, the health benefits of eating salmon are fairly well-known. The fatty fish, which is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, has been linked to helping lower cholesterol and blood pressure in people who regularly consume it.

Because of the omega-3 fatty acids, salmon not only helps to make your heart healthier, but it also helps to decrease your stress hormone, and help you feel less anxious.

“Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids,” says Mary Sabat, RD. “Omega-3s have been associated with a decrease in cortisol levels and can help reduce stress and anxiety.”

2. Dark chocolate

Chocolate isn’t typically thought of as a healthy food, and that’s for good reason. Many chocolate brands are packed with sugar and saturated fat. But it’s not all bad when it comes to the sweet treat, especially dark chocolate. Because it contains flavonoids, a food compound that contains medicinal benefits, dark chocolate has been linked to decreasing the body’s stress hormone.

“Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which have been linked to lower cortisol levels,” Sabat says. “It also promotes the release of endorphins, which can help reduce stress.”

Dark chocolate isn’t just a good way to destress, it’s packed full of minerals like zinc and phosphorus, which help the body’s bones and teeth stay healthy.

Related: 5 Low Calorie Chocolate Bars That Aren’t Loaded With Sugar

3. Strawberries

As one of the primary food groups, fruit’s always important to include in your diet. But one type of fruit, in particular, can be especially good for decreasing your stress hormone — berries.

“Berries such as blueberries and strawberries are rich in antioxidants, which can counteract the effects of stress on the body,” Sabat says. “Antioxidants help protect cells from damage caused by stress.”

Berries, including strawberries, are also a great source of vitamin C, which helps eliminate stress, according to a 2020 review in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

4. Eggs

The recent price of eggs may lead to increased stress for some shoppers, but the eggs themselves are a different story. Whether you like them scrambled, fried, poached or boiled, eggs are an important part of many diets. They’re a major source of protein, vitamin D, and choline and they’re packed with vitamin B, which can help egg-eaters be less stressed.

“B vitamins may help reduce cortisol by inhibiting the release of stress hormones in times of mental or physical distress,” says Kelsey Costa, RD. “Vitamin B12 is essential for synthesizing neurotransmitters that regulate mood and cognitive function.”

5. Yogurt

As long as it’s not too packed with sugar, yogurt is a very healthy, and protein-packed breakfast option. It’s also the key to starting out a day stress-free because it contains probiotics and live microorganisms in some foods which help to reduce cortisol levels.

Yogurt’s not the only food that’s high in probiotics. Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut can also help to decrease your stress hormone, as they all naturally contain probiotics.

“Probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, tempeh, and kimchi help regulate the gut-brain axis,” Costa says. “This is thought to play an important role in reducing cortisol levels in the body by modulating the immune response and reducing inflammation, which increases cortisol production.”

Related: The Healthiest, Best-Tasting Low Sugar Yogurts To Buy

6. Oatmeal

Making oatmeal is a simple-to-make and stress-free breakfast, but the oats themselves can also help to alleviate stress, according to Best.

“Whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice, are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which can help to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the production of cortisol,” Best says.

Be sure to avoid processed oatmeal, which can oftentimes contain a lot of sugar, if you’re looking to decrease your stress hormone.

7. Leafy green vegetables

It’s not just carrots that help improve eyesight, leafy greens make an impact, too. That’s not all the veggies, like kale, arugula, and collard greens, are good for. Leafy green vegetables also help improve the body’s immune system, aid in weight loss, and can even help you decrease your stress hormone.

“Leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli, are high in antioxidants and nutrients that may help to lower cortisol levels,” Best says.

8. Almonds

Sometimes stress leads to a lot of snacking, which can result in unwanted weight gain. If you’re stress-eating, try snacking on some almonds, which are not only packed with vitamins, but also help lower the stress you’re feeling. The snack-worthy nuts are a great source of magnesium, which helps to lower cortisol in the body and decrease your stress hormone.

“Almonds are an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral that helps to lower cortisol,” says Maggie Michalczyk, RDN. “Also, according to a 2020 study from MDPI, researchers found that eating almonds improved heart rate variability during mental stress in young healthy adults. Heart rate variability is where the amount of time between your heartbeats fluctuates slightly. A low HRV has been proven to be induced by mental stress.”

Read next: 8 Healthy Habits to Stop Stress Eating, Say Experts

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