Cortisol is the stress hormone released by your adrenal glands. It helps your body deal with challenging situations, as your brain triggers its release through the sympathetic nervous system (your “fight or flight” system) in response to various 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, insomnia or difficulty sleeping, mood irregularities, low energy levels, diabetes, and heart disease.
Daily moderate exercise, a regular bedtime routine, calming lifestyle choices, and of course, nutrient-dense foods and beverages help regulate this ruling hormone and bring anxiety levels down.
Try these proven suggestions to control your cortisol and feel better every day:
- A moderate workout that includes 15 to 30 minutes of cardio daily and resistance every other day.
- A bedtime ritual that feels relaxing and familiar; this can be as simple as massaging your face and neck with moisturizer, listening to a few minutes of calming music, or reading a chapter in a book.
- Adding lifestyle choices that pamper you such as getting a massage, taking a hot bath with Epsom salt and essential oil lavender, or taking a nature walk.
- Following an anti-inflammatory nutrition plan. Here are some foods, beverages, herbs, and spices to include in your intake:
- Berries and Citrus Fruits offer antioxidants and vitamin C which help reduce cortisol and inflammation and ease stress levels, anxiety, and depression. Parsley is also an antioxidant and rich in carotenoids, flavonoids, and volatile oils. It is a nutritious herb packed with compounds that neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals and protect against oxidative stress.
- Cruciferous Vegetables like Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and Cauliflower are some of the most concentrated food sources of essential nutrients including magnesium, vitamin C, and folate which have been proven to combat depressive symptoms. A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables may lower your risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and mental health disorders like depression. And, broccoli is also rich in sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has neuroprotective properties that offer calming and antidepressant effects. One cup (184 grams) of cooked broccoli packs over 20% of the daily value for vitamin B6, a higher intake of which is tied to a lower risk of anxiety and depression.
- Nutrient-rich carbs like Sweet Potatoes keep you satiated and are packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and potassium for stress and cortisol-lowering response.
- Chickpeas are loaded with stress-fighting vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and copper. These delicious legumes are also rich in L-tryptophan, which your body needs to produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters. Research has found that diets rich in plant proteins like chickpeas help boost brain health and improve mental performance for better mood and less stress.
- Nuts reduce mental stress. A source of good fats, nuts are rich in linoleic acid, magnesium, and antioxidants that help the body and mind counter stress by containing the cortisol levels.
- Calming Spices and Herbs like Ginger, Cardamom, Basil, Brahmi, Ashwagandha, and Chamomile. Chamomile is a medicinal herb that has been used since ancient times as a natural stress reducer. Its tea and extract have been shown to promote restful sleep and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Taking 1.5 grams of chamomile extract can reduce salivary cortisol levels and improve anxiety symptoms.
- Coconut Water calms and nourishes the body, is rich in potassium, fights muscular stress, and hydrates quickly.
- Matcha, a vibrant Green Tea, is rich in L-theanine, a non-protein amino acid with powerful stress-relieving properties. It is a better source of this amino acid than other types of green tea, as it’s made from green tea leaves grown in shade. Matcha significantly reduces activity of the stress marker salivary alpha-amylase, bringing stress down to manageable levels. Try this simple and stress-reducing recipe:
- 1/4 Cup Boiling Water
- 1 Teaspoon Matcha Powder
- 1 Cup Oat Milk
- 1 Teaspoon Honey