Five Cortisol Reducing Foods

Reducing cortisol can be accomplished by reducing stress via exercise and mediation techniques, but what you eat can also impact your cortisol. Here's five foods to include in your diet to help control this hormone.

If you were not aware, stress brings about hormonal changes that can have an impact on cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that can have a direct impact on fat metabolism, as well as your ability to build muscle.  Reducing cortisol can be accomplished by reducing stress via exercise and mediation techniques, but what you eat can also impact your cortisol.

Five Cortisol Reducing Foods

Fatty Fish

A diet rich in omega-3 fats from fish has been shown to be effective in the reduction of cortisol.  After 3-weeks of supplementation with 7.2 g per day of fish oil, it was found that plasma levels of cortisol were significantly blunted.  Omega-3’s have also been shown to be effective at reducing the inflammatory response.  You can supplement with fish oil, but you can get the same benefits from eating plenty of fresh fish such as salmon, mackerel or haddock.  If you choose to supplement, be sure to use a brand of fish oil that has been IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards) tested to ensure no dangerous levels of heavy metals.  If you’re a veggie, consider supplementing with whole eggs, chia seeds, flax seeds or even avocado!

Citrus Fruit & Leafy Greens

Citrus Fruit is a rich source of vitamin C.  Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to attenuate increasing levels in cortisol and inflammatory response post exercise when given to ultra-marathon runners at a dose of 1500 mg per day.  Consider getting some of your vitamin C from citrus fruit.  A single grapefruit delivers just 65 calories, 2.5 g of fiber and 80% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.  Top up with other sources of Vitamin C such as from green leafy vegetables – spinach, cruciferous vegetables – broccoli and or a vitamin C supplement.


These morsels of fatty goodness tend to get forgotten as a healthy nut sources over almonds and peanuts, but cashews offer a few good benefits that can have cortisol lowering effects.  Cashews are high in zinc, and zinc has been shown to be effective for inhibiting cortisol secretion.  A study showed the acute effect of zinc on cortisol secretion in both men and women of 20 to 27 years of age.  An inhibitory effect of zinc on cortisol secretion was observed in the individuals administered a zinc supplement.

A 1 oz serving of cashews delivers about 11% of your recommended daily intake of zinc.  In addition to zinc, cashews are also a source of saturated fat, which is important for hormonal balance.  Having a healthy hormone balance ensures your testosterone: cortisol ratio is lower and controlled.  Add cashews to your stir frys, or try eating natural cashew nut butter instead of peanut butter.

Whey Protein

You probably already are using a whey protein powder supplement, or are getting whey from another source such as milk protein or Greek yogurt.  Whey protein contains many unique components that have benefits on immune and hormonal response.

In one study on resistance trained individuals it was shown that after 14-days of supplementation with 20 g of whey protein isolate each day, cortisol response was blunted following an acute bout of resistance exercise.  This could be due to the additional ingredients found in whey protein, including immunoglobulin, colostrum and a full complement of the essential amino acids needed for recovery and growth.  Whey protein is a versatile food supplement that can be eaten on its own or combined with any of your favourite smoothie or baking recipes.  Need some ideas?  Go here:


As if we didn’t need a reason to reach for chocolate, but it turns out chocolate contains natural antioxidants called flavonoids that can help reduce cortisol.  Researchers found that eating about 1.4 oz or 40 g of dark chocolate each day for 2-weeks reduced cortisol levels particularly in those who were experiencing high anxiety levels.  If you’re curious about how much chocolate that equals, 1 oz = 1 square of dark chocolate.

Another study supports the use of flavonoids from tea in modulating cortisol response in humans.  Try green tea, it’s not only loaded in flavonoids including catechins, which can help increase metabolism and give you a boost of caffeine kick too.  So depending on how strict you are with your diet, you may want to consider a fresh cup of brewed green tea over the dark chocolate!  If you do choose chocolate look for sugar-reduced dark chocolate, containing at least 80% dark cocoa.

Until Next Time…

Be Fierce & Rule the World,

Lauren Jacobsen


Brandao-Neto J, et al.  Zinc acutely and temporarily inhibits adrenal cortisol secretion in humans.  A preliminary report.  Biol Trace Elem Res. 1990. 24(1): 83-9.

Delarue J, et al.  Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicted by mental stress in healthy men.  Diabetes Metab.  2003.  29(3): 289-95.

Kraemer WJ, et al.  The effects of soy and whey protein supplementation on acute hormonal response to resistance exercise in men.  J Am Coll Nutr.  2013. 32(1): 66-74.

Martin FP, et al.  Metabolic effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects.  J Proteome Res. 2009.  8(12): 5568-79.

Peters EM, et al.  Vitamin C supplementation attenuates the increases in circulating cortisol, adrenaline and anti-inflammatory polypeptides following ultramarathon running.  Int J Sports Med.  2001.  22(7): 537-43.

Wirtz PH, et al.  Dark chocolate intake buffers stress reactivity in humans.  J AM Coll Cardiol.  2014.  63(21): 2297-99.


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