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Best Foods to Reduce Stress

Eat These Foods to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

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? Dietitian Courtney Barth, MS, RDN, LD, CPT, explains how certain foods can help reduce your levels of cortisol, the primary hormone responsible for stress.

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.

Importantly, cortisol is sometimes known as the “stress hormone” because your adrenal gland releases it when you’re in a stressful situation or when your body is under physical stress (like inflammation). In the long-term, though, too much cortisol actually creates stress in your body, leading to more inflammation and increasing your blood pressure.

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;
  • Whole grains; and
  • Healthy fats.

“The best way to lower cortisol in the body is to focus on an anti-inflammatory diet,” Barth says. “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. Here are some foods that help combat stress by lowering your cortisol:

  • Foods high in vitamin B.
  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acid.
  • Magnesium-rich food.
  • Protein-rich foods.
  • Gut-healthy foods.

Yes, 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. 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.

To access the full article on foods to eat that reduce stress, click here

Useful links:

  1. Food & Your Mood: How Food Affects Mental Health - Aetna | Foods That Help Your Brain Health
  2. Fuel Your Brain: What Foods Support Mental Health? - Connect Community - Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (
  3. Top Foods to Relieve Stress | Allina Health