Find the best foods that lower cortisol naturally and learn how to lower cortisol levels with nourishing gluten free recipes. They’re meals that make you feel great and taste even better! Prepare them all, or pick your favorites.
This post, originally published in 2016, has been updated to provide you with better content and improved recipes! If you can’t find something you’re looking for, let us know, and we’ll be happy to help!
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a type of hormone that our adrenal glands produce and release. Essential to our health, cortisol helps regulate many of our bodies’ functions including:
- Weight maintenance
- Inflammation regulation
- Blood sugar regulation
- Blood pressure regulation
- Sleep cycles
However, most commonly, cortisol is known for its ability to regulate stress response. Contrary to popular belief, cortisol is not what triggers stress. Instead, it is a result of stress. When our bodies enter a state of “fight or flight” and adrenaline is released, cortisol follows. This action releases glucose from the liver creating a fast energy source to be used by the body in times of stress. Read more here!
How Cortisol Affects the Body – The Good and The Bad
In our opinion, cortisol is unjustly given a bad reputation. It’s not all harmful! Without it, we would not function properly. In addition, if our levels dip too low we may experience symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, dizziness, mood swings, and more.
Why Consistent High Levels of Cortisol Are Harmful
On the flip side, if our cortisol levels are elevated for an extended period of time, it can result in adverse symptoms and even manifest as Cushing’s Disease. Long-term impacts of high levels of cortisol include (source):
- Weight gain
- Elevated blood pressure
- Darkening of the skin
- Muscle weakness
- Mood swings
- And more
The Different Types of Stress & Anxiety
As mentioned, cortisol is not all bad, and neither is stress! It’s a natural response to events and has helped keep us alive. The key to identifying helpful and harmful stress is in recognizing the different ways in which it manifests.
- Acute Stress occurs quickly when we are exposed to an unexpected threat or traumatic event and does not last long.
- Chronic Stress is a prolonged, constant experience of stress that can have negative impacts on our body and health.
- Traumatic Stress happens when we experience a traumatic or life-threatening event and in some cases can lead to symptoms of PTSD.
- Oxidative Stress is caused by an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. When properly functioning, free radicals help fight off pathogens that lead to infections. However, when there is an imbalance and there are more free radicals present than what can be kept in check by antioxidants, they can begin to damage fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in the body. (Source)
How to Lower Stress Levels Naturally
In most cases, elevated cortisol levels can be addressed by simply making lifestyle changes. For instance, environmental factors and what we eat tend to play the largest roles in our stress levels, leading to increased cortisol. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but try one or more of the following practices to improve your health, happiness, and keep your cortisol in check!
- Sleep. Getting high-quality sleep curbs your body’s cortisol production, giving it a chance to reset.
- Exercise. Studies have shown that getting regular exercise helps improve our sleep patterns and reduces stress levels. (Source) Just be careful not to overdo it! Too much exercise can increase oxidative stress levels. (Source) You want to find a balance that’s just right for your and your body.
- Practice deep breathing. Mindful meditation and breathing exercise helps engage your parasympathetic nervous system also known as our “rest and digest” system, effectively lowering cortisol.
- Connect with others. Strong bonds, smiling, and laughing release cortisol-suppressing serotonin.
- Nourish your body. Consuming a diet high in processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine can not only deprive your body of vitamins and nutrients but also raises cortisol levels. Therefore, prioritizing natural, whole foods can reduce cortisol and help you feel your best!
Foods That Lower Cortisol (For Most)
If we’re being honest, there’s a pretty long list of foods that can help lower cortisol levels. However, a common denominator of them all is the nutrients they provide. Most commonly, these foods contain high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins (particularly B-12), magnesium, vitamin C, potassium, probiotics, and more.
Take a look at some of our favorite cortisol reducing foods below!
Note: It’s important to note that everyone reacts to stress, anxiety, and environmental factors differently. In addition, we all digest and absorb foods differently, too. If you have SIBO, are sensitive to FODMAPs, or have an allergy, some of the following foods may not be the best for you. However, in general, the items below are known to be beneficial in lowering cortisol levels for the average person. You know your body best. However, if you have specific concerns, be sure to consult your doctor!
While each of these foods provides different nutritional benefits, they’re all rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber which have been shown to be major correlates in foods that lower cortisol. For instance, serotonin, Omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium are all known to play a significant role in lowering cortisol levels and just so happen to be abundant in whole foods like those listed above!
Stress-Free Nourishing Meal Ideas!
Alright, now that know what cortisol is, how to combat it naturally, and our top cortisol reducing foods, let’s put them to use with gluten free recipes that help ease your stress and nourish your body from the inside out!
Take the stress out of busy mornings with quick and easy recipes that can be prepared ahead of time and will leave you feeling full and satisfied!
Tropical Turmeric Smoothie – Made with tropical fruit and full of vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber, this Tropical Turmeric Smoothie contains nourishing ingredients to boost your immune system and keep your gut health thriving.
Frozen Grape Smoothie Recipe (Dairy Free) – Made with Quercetin-containing grapes, this smoothie is quick to make and loaded with nutrients to keep you feeling great!
Superfood Overnight Breakfast – Check out option two (the whole 30 swap) in this make-ahead meal! See photo above! We swapped out the oats for sweet potato, making this breakfast recipe even more nutritious! f It’s bursting with vitamin A, vitamin C, healthy fats, anti-inflammatory spices, and more.
Turmeric Oven Scrambled Eggs – Turmeric and eggs combine in this scrambled egg recipe for a make-ahead breakfast recipe packed full of anti-inflammatory properties, healthy fats, and protein.
Lunch and/or Light Dinners
Getting healthy meals on the table doesn’t have to be stressful or require hours in the kitchen! Try out a few of our favorite recipes for quick meals perfect for quick lunches or light dinners.
Curried Cauliflower Rice Kale Soup (Vegan, Whole30) – Fresh veggies and antioxidant-rich spices combine in a warm soup for a good-for-you meal you’ll look forward to eating.
Mango Chile Chicken Bowls – Packed full of vitamin C, Mango Chile Chicken Bowls are ready in less than an hour and keep you full and satisfied with tons of protein and flavor.
Swiss Chard Salad Wraps with Apple Slaw (Vegan Option) – Easy to make ahead of time, the crunchy texture of these wraps is not only delicious but also full of cortisol-reducing Quercetin!
Rosemary Citrus Baked Salmon – The easiest one pan meal, this salmon packs a double punch with omega fatty acids from the salmon and olive oil and a boost of citrus from the fruit!
Massaged Kale Salad with Blueberries – As if the ease of preparing this salad isn’t stress-reducing enough, it’s bursting with fresh fruits and veggies for a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients that help keep your cortisol in check!
Quench your thirst and lower your stress with flavorful drinks perfect for every season.
Turmeric Pineapple Shrub Cocktail (Detox ACV Drink) – Alcohol-free, this morning cocktail elixir with antioxidants, vitamin C, and more is great for gut health and reducing inflammation!
Zingy Turmeric Ginger Lemonade with Mint – Quick to make, naturally sweetened, and full of antioxidant-rich, immunity-boosting ingredients, this turmeric ginger lemonade is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.
Cold Busting Orange Turmeric Tea Latte (Vegan) – A cold-busting vegan latte, this turmeric tea is loaded with vitamin C, brain-boosting healthy fats, minerals, and anti-inflammatory properties for a fruity, caffeine-free latte that’s warm and nourishing!
Adrenals Half Full Signature Mocktail – Reset your adrenals and keep your cortisol levels supported by adding this mocktail to your daily routine.
Which recipe are you making first? Let us know in the comments below!