Ever find yourself trying to decide between tackling someone or running for dear life? Well that might be the cortisol talking. Cortisol is a stress hormone created by the body when the brain senses danger. You might know it as a fight-or-flight reaction. The body is on alert, and when cortisol levels are high, it can unfortunately cause damage to the body.
This chemical signal was necessary when ancestors hunted for food and needed to outrun predators. Present-day contributors to stress (deadlines, relationship problems, and bills) typically aren’t an actual threat, but high cortisol levels that rise in your body are. Research shows what you eat directly affects levels of cortisol produced. Thus, you have the power to decrease stress and anxiety.
Only a third of people dealing with stress and anxiety will seek medical treatment, including therapy and medication. Thankfully, there is a natural option that helps lower cortisol levels: The foods you eat!
If you are a stress eater, you aren't alone. Many people are triggered by daily life and turn to food for comfort. High-sugar food, fried greasy food, and caffeine provide short-term comfort, but contribute to serious long-term health problems.
5 Foods that Help Decrease Stress and Anxiety
- Berries: Kiwi, pineapples, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are high in vitamin C. High levels of this vitamin not only help reduce stress and blood pressure, but also boost your mood.
- Leafy greens: Magnesium is a mineral that can help increase serotonin levels, which helps reduces stress, relax muscles, and improve sleep. Foods high in magnesium are green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, nuts, seeds, dry beans, and potatoes.
- Bananas: Bananas, mushrooms, chickpeas, and avocados contain high levels of Vitamin B. This helps increase the body's natural feel-good hormone dopamine, which is one of four feel-good hormones (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin) associated with the body's natural reward system.
- Salmon: Omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce stress, anxiety, and inflammation. A 2019 Harvard study shows consuming up to 2,000 mg daily seems to have the most impact on reducing anxiety. Foods with omega 3 include salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts, edamame, and beans.
- Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is a feel-good treat that offers more than something sweet to eat! It helps improves your mood. Look for chocolates that have at least 70% cacao. They offer more flavor and less sugar.
Hopefully you'll now have an easier time identifying foods you should eat and the ones to avoid. And all of these healthy options are readily available. Make small and intentional changes to your diet and you'll have a much better chance of lowering stress and anxiety. Good luck!