Jeremy Ohara

Jeremy Ohara

15 Best Foods to Reduce Stress and Cortisol Levels

  Mar 21, 2024
Reviewed by Ayushi Jain

No one is immune to the stress of life, regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, or religion. Stress statistics are alarming because they show how common this mental state is.

Naturally, you would look for relief if you were stressed. You likely already know to start with the fundamentals: self-care, sleep management, and exercise, if you’re trying to reduce your stress levels or levels of cortisol (the main hormone responsible for stress). 

However, did you know that there are some foods to help stress and reduce cortisol?

Food is one of our biggest allies but it can also become an enemy to our health. When you’re stressed out, it’s important to pay attention to what you eat because it can affect how much stress you feel.

Given that too much stress is unhealthy, stress management can be a powerful tool for wellness. One great tactic is to watch what you eat, there are several foods that reduce stress and anxiety.

How Does Stress Impact Your Body? 


The American Institute of Stress reports that:

  • 33 % of people say they are extremely stressed out.
  • 77 % of people report feeling stressed out, and this stress negatively impacts their health.
  • 73 % of people experience stress that negatively affects their mental health.
  • Stress causes 48% of people to experience sleep problems.

In contrast to occasional stressful situations, which are difficult to avoid, chronic stress can have a severe negative impact on your physical and emotional health. In fact, it might put you at risk for illnesses like depression and heart disease.

What Is Cortisol?

A naturally occurring steroid hormone called cortisol is essential to the body’s stress response. 

The adrenal glands release cortisol which aids your body’s ability to cope with stressful situations because, in response to a variety of stresses, your brain releases it through the sympathetic nervous system, which is also known as the “fight or flight” system.

While the short-term release of cortisol can aid in your ability to flee from danger, this hormone can be detrimental to your health if it is present for an extended period of time.

This can eventually result in a number of health problems, including weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, insomnia, mood swings, and low energy. 

The most effective method of reducing cortisol levels is stress management. We will also cover food to include in your cortisol reduction diet.

15 Best Stress Relieving Foods To Include In Your Diet

There are several foods that reduce stress. Serotonin, a calming brain chemical, is increased in the body when comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, are consumed. 

Cortisol and adrenaline levels, which over time damage the body, can be reduced by eating different foods. 

The immune system is strengthened and blood pressure is reduced by a healthy diet, which can help counteract the effects of stress. Do you know which foods can relieve stress?

When your stress levels start to rise in the future, pile your plate high with these foods, which have been shown through research to reduce stress.

Herbal Tea

Chamomile Tea

According to earlier studies, holding and enjoying a warm beverage makes people feel more friendly and warm toward one another. 

No matter the flavour, drinking a warm beverage has a calming effect. However, studies have shown that specific herbs, such as chamomile and lavender, also have a stress-relieving effect on their own. These are one of the best drinks to relieve stress.

Since ancient times, people have relied on the medicinal herb chamomile to help them manage their stress. There is evidence that its tea and extract can help people fall asleep soundly and lessen their anxiety and depressive symptoms. 



Avocados Provide Omega-3 Fatty Acids that Reduce Stress. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, these beneficial essential acids are known to lower stress and anxiety, increase focus, and elevate mood.

Getting enough Potassium is one of the best ways to lower high blood pressure, and half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana which can easily complement your lower cortisol diet.

When you are stressed out and want a high-fat treat, a small amount of guacamole, which is made from avocado, might be a good option. However, keep in mind that avocados are high in calories and fat, so consume them in moderation.



A good night’s sleep and stress management are both facilitated by warm milk. According to, “Drinking warm milk can be calming to the body and the mind.”

The time-honoured glass of warm milk before bed is a proven drink to relieve stress. Furthermore, curling up on the couch and enjoying a warm beverage has a natural calming effect.

According to studies, calcium helps reduce PMS-related anxiety and mood swings. Skimmed or low-fat milk is typically advised by dietitians. Additionally, it can aid in mood stabilisation and muscle relaxation.



According to research, consuming fermented foods may help people feel less anxious and stressed. For instance, a study of 710 young adults found that those who consumed fermented foods more frequently had fewer social anxiety symptoms.

Daikon, a type of radish, and napa cabbage are the two most common vegetables used to make the fermented vegetable dish kimchi.

Foods that have undergone fermentation, such as kimchi, are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and are also a good source of probiotic bacteria.

Matcha powder

Matcha Powder

Matcha has the power to strengthen your immune system, manage stress, and even help you lose weight.

Matcha has the ability to help you feel calm and focused while supporting your health and metabolism simultaneously because of its extremely high levels of active natural compounds like chlorophyll, L-theanine, caffeine, and more.

Due to its production using green tea leaves grown in the shade, matcha is a better source of this amino acid than other varieties of green tea. This process raises the amount of some compounds, like L-theanine.



Due to the high sulphur content of garlic, glutathione levels are boosted. This antioxidant is a component of your body’s first line of defence against stress.

Garlic may also help to reduce the signs of anxiety and depression, according to studies conducted on animals. Nevertheless, more human research is required on this topic.

Fatty Fish

Fatty Fish

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for your body’s ability to handle stress in addition to being crucial for your brain and mood. In actuality, elevated anxiety and depression are associated with low omega-3 intake.

Make friends with naturally fatty fish if you want to manage your stress. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and tuna, can lower stress hormone levels and may offer some protection from heart disease, depression, and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). 

These fish are one of the best foods to reduce anxiety and can be a great cortisol lowering food.



According to Heather Mangieri, RDN, a representative for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, green leafy vegetables like spinach contain folate, which creates dopamine, a brain chemical that causes pleasure and aids in maintaining calm.

Stress can be made worse by a lack of magnesium because it can cause headaches and fatigue. You can replenish your magnesium stores with one cup of spinach. 

Not a fan of spinach? You can get magnesium from other green, leafy vegetables. Alternatively, try some cooked soybeans or a salmon fillet, both of which are rich in magnesium.



In a double-blind study that was reported in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences in January 2015, participants who took 500 mg of vitamin C daily experienced lower levels of stress, and the study also suggested that anxiety might be prevented by the vitamin.

Due to their abundant vitamin C content, Oranges are included. One study found that taking vitamin C before a stressful task helped people with high blood pressure and their levels of cortisol return to normal more quickly.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

Vitamin E is abundant in sunflower seeds. Depression and altered mood are linked to low nutrient intake. This fat-soluble vitamin is crucial for maintaining mental health because it is a potent antioxidant. 

In addition to magnesium, manganese, selenium, zinc, B vitamins, and copper, sunflower seeds are rich in other nutrients that help to relieve stress. Magnesium has also been demonstrated to assist in reducing irritability, fatigue, and depression. Consuming large amounts of the mineral may aid in emotion control.



A battle is going on inside of you when you’re under stress. Berries contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that work to fortify your body’s defences by enhancing how well it responds to stress and fighting free radicals that are brought on by it.

Having potent anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, flavonoid antioxidants are found in abundance in blueberries. They could protect against cellular damage brought on by stress and help to lessen inflammation brought on by it.

In addition, studies have shown that foods high in flavonoids, like blueberries, may protect against depression and improve mood.

Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate

Calling all chocolate lovers: a small amount (not an entire bar) of dark chocolate each time you indulge in something sweet might help you manage your stress.

Through both its chemical and emotional effects, eating dark chocolate can reduce stress in two different ways. Simply savouring a piece of chocolate can feel like such a treat because it is perceived as such an indulgence; this sensation alone can help to lower stress.

Cortisol and other stress hormones have been shown to decrease as a result of it. Additionally, the antioxidants in cocoa cause the walls of your blood vessels to relax, bringing down blood pressure and enhancing circulation. 

Note: Choosing products with at least 70% cocoa is advised.



Broccoli is one of the most concentrated food sources of certain nutrients, such as magnesium, vitamin C, and folate, which have been shown to help with the symptoms of depression.

Sulforaphane, a sulphur compound found in broccoli with neuroprotective properties as well as potential sedative and antidepressant effects, is another important component of broccoli. 

A diet high in cruciferous vegetables like Broccoli may reduce your risk of developing certain cancers, heart disease, and psychological disorders like depression. 



Nuts are a wonderful snack for reducing stress and are rich in healthy fat. Nuts are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and good fatty acids.

Walnuts, pistachios, and almonds may even assist in lowering blood pressure. An earlier investigation revealed that pistachios in particular may help to lower stress levels. Just keep in mind to only eat a small handful per day to avoid consuming too many calories.

Magnesium levels in nuts and seeds are also high, which is good news because magnesium has been associated with improved anxiety management. 

Greek Yogurt

Greek Yogurt

Probiotics Can Develop a Healthy Gut Microbiota, Aiding in Stress Management. As strange as it may sound, stress may be influenced by the bacteria in your gut. 

Anxiety, depression, and mood all seem to be directly correlated with gut health. One method is for gut bacteria to produce neuroactive molecules like serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which have a positive effect on mood. 

According to research, the gut communicates with the brain, which explains why stress can aggravate gastrointestinal symptoms. The gut and brain may also communicate in the opposite direction. 

Probiotics like Greek yogurt have been shown by Harvard Health Publishing to improve digestion and nutrient absorption while bolstering the immune system and defending against dangerous bacteria.


Nutrients that may help you lower stress are present in many foods. These were only a few examples of foods you can include in your diet to lead a healthier and more balanced life.

On the other hand, some foods increase cortisol levels. Alcohol, caffeine, high-sugar foods, simple carbs, and soda are examples of foods that stress your body. Simply avoid them.

One of the best ways to reduce stress is to start exercising, in addition to making dietary changes. By increasing oxygen circulation and stimulating the production of endorphins, aerobic exercise makes your body feel better.

Three to four times per week, try to get in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and you are good to go.