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  • Deanne Pandey

Eat your way to a stress-free life!

Cortisol is a stress hormone the adrenal glands release. It helps your body deal with stressful situations, as your brain triggers its release through the sympathetic nervous system — the “fight or flight” system — in response to many different kinds of stress. While the short-term release of cortisol can help you run quickly from danger, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can hurt you more than it helps. Over time, this can lead to an array of health issues such as weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, insomnia or difficulty sleeping, mood irregularities, and low energy levels. That’s why it is very important to keep your stress levels in check. 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? For an instance, 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. The best way to lower cortisol in the body is to focus on an anti-inflammatory diet. 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. 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. 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.

Here are some foods that will help you reduce your cortisol levels-

  • Dark chocolate- Dark chocolate contains a high amount of flavonoids, which have been shown to buffer stress reactivity in the adrenal glands, resulting in lower cortisol release.

  • Whole grains- Unlike refined grains, whole grains are rich in plant-based polyphenols and fiber, which may support stress levels and gut health.

  • Legumes and lentils- They’re high in fiber, which supports a healthy gut while also managing blood sugar levels.

  • Whole fruits and vegetables- Whole fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds that fight cell-damaging free radicals.

  • Green tea- Green tea contains a calming compound known as L-theanine, which has been linked to reduced stress and increased mental alertness.

  • Probiotics and prebiotics- Probiotics are friendly, symbiotic bacteria in foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Prebiotics, such as soluble fiber, provide food for these bacteria. Both probiotics and prebiotics are linked to better gut and mental health.

  • Healthy fats- A diet high in unsaturated fat and low in saturated fat is associated with better overall health and mental well-being. In particular, omega-3 fatty acids are best linked with brain health and reduced stress. Good sources include fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.

  • Water- Dehydration has been linked to a temporary increase in cortisol levels, making it even more important to drink water throughout the day.

It is true that 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. So work towards building a better and a stress-free life in all walks of life!

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