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We’ve all been stressed at one point or another. You know the feeling of being anxious before an important exam, interview, or presentation. Your heart heart beats loudly, thoughts racing, your breathing speeds up, and you feel your face getting flushed.

This happens because when you experience stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure and blood glucose levels, rushes blood to the head and heart, and temporarily shuts down systems in the body that are unessential for dealing with stress, such as reproduction and digestion.

This can be helpful in the short run, when dealing with a particular stressor. However, if our cortisol levels remain elevated for prolonged periods of time (which often happens in today’s world, where people are stressed too often), it can lead to a variety of health problems. Some of these include high blood pressure, high risk of heart attack or stroke, an increased risk of developing diabetes, depression, anxiety, and mood swings.

It’s important to find natural ways to lower cortisol.

1. Dark Chocolate

Keep some dark chocolate bars (70% cocoa or higher) in the house and treat yourself to small portions during stressful times. You might also consider replacing your morning cup of coffee with a cup of cocoa (made of organic cacao), which will jump start your day with a nutritional boost. Cacao is very rich in minerals, with high amounts of iron, copper, manganese, and zinc. And while cacao contains little to no caffeine, its abundant theobromine content can provide a similar feeling of euphoria and give a smoother, crash-free boost of energy.

2. Holy Basil

Holy basil is also known as tulsi. It is part of a class of herbs called adaptogens that help reduce the production of cortisol, making it an effective stress-fighting solution . You can grow a holy basil plant in your backyard and add it to chicken dishes or brew a cup of basil tea.

3. Dried Apricots

Dried apricots are rich in magnesium that gets depleted in our bodies when we’re stressed. Magnesium acts as a natural muscle relaxant and helps reduce heart palpitations. They’re also high in Vitamin C and fiber to keep your immune system strong when you’re feeling stretched thin.

Studies comparing the quality of antioxidants in fresh versus dried fruits found that dried fruit wins hands down. Make yourself a healthy dried apricot trail mix and keep it at your desk. Be careful not to over-indulge, though, as dried fruits contain a lot of sugar.

4. Asparagus

Low levels of folic acid can leave you feeling anxious. That can be fixed with just a cup of asparagus, which contains two-thirds of your daily value of folic acid. Asparagus is delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet. Roast, steam, or grill it and include as a side dish or eat alone with some balsamic vinaigrette.

5. Avocados

Avocados provide numerous health benefits, including being an excellent source of heart-healthy fats and stress-relieving B vitamins. We need B vitamins for healthy brain and nerve cells.

Avocados provide numerous health benefits, including being an excellent source of heart-healthy fats and stress-relieving B vitamins. We need B vitamins for healthy brain and nerve cells.

They’re also a good source of potassium, a mineral that gets depleted in times of stress. For a healthy stress-busting lunch, make some guacamole with avocados, olive oil, chopped onions, freshly squeezed garlic, and lime juice, and paste it on whole-grain bread.

6. Garlic

Garlic is a restorative herb that can play a crucial role in balancing a stressful life. It boosts the immune system and acts as a powerful tonic that reduces fatigue. Garlic can help reduce the number of stress hormones produced and increase your energy levels. It decreases our glucose levels, which tend to rise when we are stressed.

Garlic helps restore antioxidants which soothe our stress levels. Add garlic to your meats, fish, or grains. However, to enjoy garlic’s full range of health benefits, most medical studies insist it should be consumed raw. Use it in guacamole, salad dressings, or in bruschetta.

7. Blueberries

Blueberries are full of Vitamin C and powerful antioxidants. Studies show that eating blueberries regularly reduces oxidative stress and increases anti-inflammatory cytokines. Mix together blueberries, granola, yogurt, and almonds for a powerful anti-stress parfait.

8. Broccoli

Broccoli too is full of vitamin C, which lowers cortisol levels and is a bona fide stress buster. Studies show that vitamin C plays an important therapeutic role in reducing and preventing anxiety . Add chopped broccoli to your salad, use it in your rice or pasta dishes, or parboil it and sprinkle with virgin olive oil and garlic.

9. Green Leafy Vegetables

In addition to broccoli, kale and spinach are great sources of Vitamin C. Leafy greens also contain plenty of magnesium which can get very depleted when we’re stressed, as well as folate, which helps your body produce mood-boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.

10. Yogurt

In addition to being a wonderful probiotic-rich food that improves our digestive health, studies have recently shown that eating yogurt may relieve stress and anxiety by reducing activity in the emotional region of our brain . Try having some yogurt with dark chocolate chips, blueberries, nuts, and chia seeds as an afternoon snack when you feel your stress levels rising and your energy levels dipping.

11. Almonds

Almonds’ rich array of nutrients aid our bodies in times of stress. These include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E to improve immunity, B vitamins which are involved in energy metabolism, and magnesium which keeps cortisol levels low. Raw almonds with a pinch of sea salt are a great on-the-go snack.

12. Whole Grains

Whole grains digest slower and cause a steady release of serotonin in the body. Serotonin is the happy hormone, which gets depleted during stressful times. In addition, whole grains stabilize blood sugars, preventing spikes and drops which could negatively affect your mood. A good source of 100 percent whole grains is oatmeal. Try a comforting bowl of oats with berries and half a cup of nuts.

13. Milk

Milk contains tryptophan, which is converted to serotonin in the body. The calcium, magnesium, and potassium in milk play a role in blood pressure control. Research also suggests that calcium has an anxiety-calming effect and can prevent mood swings. Milk is high in Vitamins B2 and B12 as well as protein and calcium. Have a bowl of 100 percent whole grain cereal, fresh fruit, and milk.

14. Walnuts

Walnuts, which are high in omega 3 fatty acids, are good for the heart and brain, and they reduce inflammation and stress. Include walnuts in your salads and trail mixes.

15. Red Peppers

Red peppers are high in vitamin C, and they promote healing and stress-relieving. Include red peppers in your salads, soups, stir-fries, or make stuffed peppers with lean ground turkey, brown rice, onions, garlic, and Italian parsley.

16. Carrots

Root vegetables are a good source of fiber and carbohydrates, which can help boost serotonin production. Carrots also are a great source of vitamins and minerals that are good for your blood pressure and heart. Baby carrots make a great snack on their own or with some almond butter.

17. Cottage Cheese

The calcium helps strengthen and relax the nervous system and can help you manage stress. Make sure to pick a brand of cottage cheese that doesn’t add starches, fillers, and sugars, as these can have an adverse effect on stress. Add some blueberries, strawberries, and a bit of honey to plain cottage cheese, and enjoy for breakfast or lunch.

18. Green or Black Tea

A study of 75 men found 6 weeks of drinking black tea decreased cortisol in response to a stressful task, compared to a different caffeinated drink. The polyphenols in green tea help combat anxiety and stress. It is also a good source of Vitamin C.

Although green tea contains plenty of caffeine, it is adaptogenic in nature, and it keeps you alert yet calm throughout the day. Consider replacing your morning cup of coffee with delicious black tea, and have a cup of green tea in the afternoon for better energy throughout the day.

19. Water

Dehydration increases cortisol. Water is great for hydrating while avoiding empty calories. A study in nine male runners showed that maintaining hydration during athletic training reduced cortisol levels . Drink plenty of water, especially during physical exercise.

20. Sauerkraut

Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut contain probiotics, which are shown to reduce anxiety and depression. The idea that your diet can have a huge effect on your emotions has become the focus of an exciting new area of psychological research. Sauerkraut may also maintain brain health by increasing your gut’s absorption of mood-regulating minerals, including magnesium and zinc .

21. Herbal Teas

Peppermint, chamomile, rose, valerian and passion fruit all have anti-anxiety, tension-releasing benefits and promote better sleep. Lemon balm tea also relaxes the mind without causing drowsiness and elevates the mood. Have some herbal tea before bed, following a meditation session, or during a stress-relieving activity such as writing in your gratitude journal.

22. Kefir

Kefir is another great source of probiotics, which, as previously mentioned, are great stress and anxiety busters! Probiotics have been found to help improve memory and lower symptoms of anxiety and depression. Kefir can be used as a base for healthy shakes, combined with fruits, nuts, and seeds, or consumed alone.

23. Kimchi

A powerful probiotic, kimchi is also packed with a range of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and vitamin C, as well as essential amino acids and minerals such as iron, calcium, and selenium, and powerful antioxidants. The process of fermentation also increases the availability of B-vitamins, magnesium, and zinc, which can impact mood .

24. Onions

Onions have tons of health benefits. They contain both vitamin C and phytochemicals that increase the effectiveness of vitamin C in your body. Vitamin C helps relieve stress. In addition, they also contain quercetin, a flavonoid that fights free radicals. During times of prolonged stress, quercetin suppresses enzymes required for cortisol release. Chop up some cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, and red onions, and drizzle with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and sea salt for a healthy Israeli salad.

25. Papaya

Papaya is rich in Vitamin C, which helps boost adrenal gland function; one of the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency is a lowered ability to handle stress. Papaya fruits also have lycopene, an antioxidant that keeps cholesterol from oxidizing and thus narrowing the arteries, which is essential during stressful times, when hypertension and stress tend to weaken the artery walls. Combine raw papaya with watercress, chopped walnuts, raisins, fresh lime juice, ground cumin, and sea salt for a delicious and stress-busting salad.

26. Pineapple

Pineapples are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants to help you combat oxidative stress. They also contain a group of digestive enzymes called bromelain, which ease digestion and provide anti-inflammatory properties in the body . Pineapple is also a top source of vitamin C to improve your body’s response to stressful environments.

According to Alabama researchers, a daily recommended value of vitamin C is sufficient to lower stress hormones in the blood. A serving of pineapple provides 131% of the daily recommendations of Vitamin C and 76% of manganese, which aids metabolism, helps regulate blood sugar, and contributes to decreased inflammation. Have a pineapple, blueberry, and greek yogurt smoothie for breakfast, or add a pineapple ring to your burger for lunch.

27. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that is proven to lower stress and anxiety. It is also known as winter cherry or Indian ginseng. In a 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, patients were given 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice a day for 60 days. The participants’ scores of perceived stress dropped by 44%, and their levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased by almost 28%

Ashwagandha is available in powder form, and it can be added to shakes or food. A wonderful and easy to make beverage for overall health and well-being is called golden milk. Make it yourself: combine turmeric powder, black pepper, almond milk, coconut oil, raw honey, cardamom, and ashwagandha powder, and simmer on the stove for 15 minutes.

28. Strawberries

One cup of strawberry halves (152 grams) provides 89 mg of vitamin C, which increases our ability to cope with stress. They are loaded with powerful antioxidants that fight diseases, an important property during stressful times, when our immunity to diseases tends to be lower. Strawberries have direct anti-inflammatory effects, mostly due to antioxidants called anthocyanins (which give strawberries their deep red color).

Researchers believe anthocyanins reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by protecting blood vessels from the effects of wear and tear. Add sliced strawberries to your salad or dip strawberries in melted dark chocolate for a delicious and stress-fighting dessert.

29. Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Carotenoids, and Folate. Purchase brussel sprouts that are bright green in color. Halve the brussel sprouts and arrange cut-side-down in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Roast in a preheated oven at 400 F until browned on the exterior and tender on the inside.

30. Mango

One cup of mango provides nearly 70% of the RDI of Vitamin C. Mango has over a dozen different types of polyphenols, including mangiferin, which is called a “super antioxidant” and is especially powerful. It fights oxidative stress, which is linked to certain types of cancer. This magical fruit is not only great for lowering your stress, but it’s extremely beneficial for the heart, eyes, and digestion. Dice mango and add it to salsa, salads, quinoa, etc.

31. Cinnamon

Cinnamon has been used for centuries to treat anxiety and depression. It boosts your mood and improves cognitive performance. A study conducted at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia, published in April 2005 in the North American Journal of Psychology, showed that even smelling cinnamon enhanced cognitive performance in people with anxiety.

Cinnamon also lowers blood sugar, which tends to rise with stress, thereby lowering the risk of developing diabetes. Have some cinnamon tea, or add cinnamon to your shakes, desserts, or meat dishes.

32. Oranges

Consuming foods that are high in vitamin C can reduce stress. Studies show that smelling an orange or eating one can reduce stress by nearly 70%. Make some freshly squeezed orange juice every few days, but be mindful of the high sugar content and don’t over-consume.

33. Quinoa

Quinoa is a complex carbohydrate and a complete protein, which keeps your blood sugar steady and increases your energy levels. It helps to prevent blood sugar spikes, which can make you irritable and unfocused. Make a quinoa bowl including fresh mango, red pepper, red cabbage, avocado, fresh greens, cilantro and cashews. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

34. Collard Greens

Collard greens are high in vitamin k and magnesium. Just one cup of cooked collards has 35% of your daily need for magnesium. Studies show that people with lower levels of magnesium are more prone to anxiety . Toss some into your pasta, or mix up with other greens in a salad.

35. Bananas

Bananas are packed with magnesium, B6, and potassium. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that high-potassium diets helped relieve depression symptoms and muscle tension in its participants.

Bananas also act as natural beta-adrenergic blockers, which prevent your adrenaline from rising to extreme levels, which tends to happen often when we’re stressed. Bananas also contain tryptophan, a special protein that converts into serotonin, the “happiness” chemical. Add some banana slices to your morning oatmeal or whole grain cereal for some “feel good” calming effect.Add bananas to your yogurts, smoothies, cereals, or just have it as a healthy snack.

36. Microgreens and sprouts

While greens are great (see above), young greens such as sprouts and microgreens sometimes contain much more vitamin C than full-grown plants and should be included in one’s diet. Several studies have demonstrated the high level of phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that microgreens contain.

Microgreens also are rich in enzymes, which enable them to be more easily digested. You can grow them in the comfort of your home and use them as toppings for soups, sandwiches, or salads, in smoothies, omelettes, etc.

37. Seeds

Flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are all great sources of magnesium, the mineral that may help regulate emotions. Magnesium has been shown to help alleviate depression, fatigue, and irritability. Make a healthy shake by mixing together some strawberries, bananas, blueberries, flaxseed, and yogurt.

Use pumpkin seeds as a topping on green salads. Grate some carrots, sprinkle with cilantro, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and red currants or dried cranberries, and add lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

38. Amaranth

Like quinoa, amaranth is known as an “ancient grain” and a complex carbohydrate. It is packed with protein and fiber, and is also gluten free. Amaranth is a great source of vitamin B6, a B-complex vitamin essential to mental and emotional wellbeing. You can use it to make breakfast porridge, healthy granola, or as a thickener for soups or stews, since it is quite starchy.

39. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are “adaptogens,” which are non-toxic edible items that once consumed, can adapt their ingredients to your body’s stress levels and restore them to normal. With a great deal of protein, various types of vitamin B, vitamin D, selenium, antioxidants, and amino acids, mushrooms are a proven stress buster. Use them in your omelettes, on top of burgers, in quinoa or brown rice dishes, and just anywhere you can. They are great for your mind and body.

40. Olive Oil

Olive oil has numerous health benefits, particularly because of its strong anti-inflammatory effects. It also contains a compound called oleuropein, which can reduce cortisol levels. Try a microgreen salad with some extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt.

Curated By Dt. Vidhhi Mehtaa