Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and designed for body-system regulation. In today's world of chronic stress, this "stress hormone" can suddenly flood the body with too much for healthy use. Large amounts of cortisol act upon the system to increase blood pressure and blood sugar and reduce the immune system to dangerous levels if not controlled. Making a few simple dietary changes can reduce stress and control cortisol release.
Unprocessed whole-grains are an excellent method for leveling food intake and curbing the release of cortisol in the body. Whole grains contain fiber and nutrients that help keep the body's blood sugar levels steady; they should be considered a mainstay of any healthy diet. Processed and refined flours are not only less nutritious compared to richer whole grains, they are empty carbohydrates that decrease blood sugar and cause cortisol to spike.
Protein and Fats
Along with whole grains, an equal portion of protein is required to balance the system and keep cortisol production at normal levels. Eating moderate doses of protein, such eggs, meat, poultry and fish slows down carbohydrate absorption, reduces sugar levels and balances cortisol in the blood. Unsaturated fats from olive oil or nuts also slow carbohydrate digestion, aid the body in feeling full and work with the proteins to cut cortisol production.
Consuming fresh, nutrient rich vegetables is another positive step for reducing cortisol. Many vegetables, especially the green leafy variety, balance blood sugar levels and regulate metabolic rates. Since cortisol is released at stress-filled moments when blood sugar is high or the metabolism is sent into overdrive through adrenaline release, the benefits of vegetables in the diet to curb cortisol is clear.
Skipping a meal is never a good idea. Besides causing a decrease in the body's metabolic rate, cortisol levels rise when nothing is eaten within five hours of the last meal or snack. Healthy snacks such as granola, raisins, almonds or dried cranberries are good for avoiding cravings for sweets and lowering cortisol.
Some cortisol is necessary for the body, but proper dietary management will regulate it and keep it from swinging wildly out of control. By eating the right types and amounts of certain foods, cortisol will be forced to return to its original function of moderating the body.
- The Cortisol Connection: Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health--And What You Can Do About It; Shawn Talbott Ph.D. FACSM; 2007
- Mastering Cortisol: Stop Your Body's Stress Hormone from Making You Fat Around the Middle; Marilyn Glenville; 2006
- Discovering Nutrition, Third Edition; Paul Insel, R Elaine Turner, and Don Ross; 2009
- Photo Credit everystockphoto.com
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