If you feel like your stress levels are through the roof and you're trying to seek relief, then you've probably already tried the basics: self-care, sleep management, and exercise. But did you know that there are also some foods that reduce stress levels?
Food can be one of your biggest allies. It can make your stress levels go down, so it’s critical to pay attention to what you’re eating when you’re feeling frazzled. Not to mention, just being stressed can increase your need for certain nutrients, such as omega 3, vitamin B, and magnesium, which make it important to replenish them.
But first, it's important to understand what stress causes and how it can be reduced by what we consume.
What is cortisol? 😧
Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone” because your adrenal gland releases it when you’re in a stressful situation.
Cortisol is healthy for a short period of time as a protective mechanism, as it gives your body the energy you need to respond to a short-term stressful scenario.
What does it do?
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.
But in the long-term, too much cortisol actually creates stress in your body, leading to more inflammation and an increase in 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.
Stress-relieving foods 🧘🏻♂️
The best way to lower cortisol in the body is to focus on an anti-inflammatory diet, and on food that contains the nutrients, we might be lacking during the stress period.
Foods high in vitamin 🅱️
Particularly vitamin B12, which can help with the metabolism of cortisol.
- Swiss cheese
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acid 🐟
These foods reduce inflammation, and one of the best forms to get it is through fatty fish, but you can also get it from some plant sources.
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Olive oil
Magnesium-rich foods 🥑
Magnesium is hugely beneficial when it comes to reducing inflammation, metabolizing cortisol, and relaxing the body and mind.
- Dark chocolate
- Pumpkin seeds
Foods to avoid ❌
In contrast, some foods raise cortisol levels. Foods that cause stress on your body include:
- High-sugar foods
- Simple carbs, such as cakes and pastries
To sum it up...
If you have a healthy diet, but you’re still incredibly stressed and not sleeping enough, then you won’t see the results you’re looking for with food alone.
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.
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.