How To Stop Carb Cravings

by Suzanne Hiscock

Stress?  It. Is. Everywhere!

Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard, to put it mildly.

This stress response is supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency (like running from a bear) -- and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flown. In other words, it should be temporary.

But, that doesn’t happen in our society. Stress becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.  We're constantly being bombarded by stressors, whether it's from work, world issues, relationships or our own self-doubts and anxiety.

And what do many of us do when we're stressed? We reach for those high-carb foods like cookies chips, pasta, crackers, cereal or bread. 

Hands up if you've ever had a sugary cereal for supper -- or as a late-night snack!  Toast with jam?  Yeah, I bet you have!  We all do it!

So, how do you stop carb cravings?  One way is reduce your cortisol levels.

You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” Or maybe not? It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep. That's cool.  No problems there, right?  It's a good thing.

But did you know that chronically high levels of cortisol are associated with an increase in:
  • belly fat, 
  • carb cravings, 
  • poor sleep, 
  • brain fog, 
  • high blood pressure, 
  • high blood sugar.

It can also affect your immune system.

Sound familiar? If so, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally and get rid of carb cravings.

Foods and Nutrients to Lower Cortisol

1) Reduce Sugar

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol: added sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies). 

While I'll never tell you totally drop sugar,  reducing the total amount you eat in a day can go a long way in helping reduce cortisol levels (and be healthy for lots of other reasons, too!).

See:  How to Conquer Sugar Cravings and Conquer A Sweet Tooth

2) Reduce Coffee Intake

High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.

See: Is Coffee Good for You?  Well, Yes and No... 

3) Drink More Water

Being dehydrated increases cortisol -- and it has zero calories! Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.

See:  7 Reasons to Give Water The Respect It Deserves

4) Eat Less Processed Foods

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn't just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.

See: Why WHAT You Eat Matters

5) Pay Attention To Your Guts

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.

Lifestyle Strategies to Lower Cortisol

It’s not just food that can lower cortisol, but there are things you can do with your time that can help decrease stress.

1)  Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.

2)  Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.   Yoga, walking and pilates can help relieve stress and keep cortisol levels down.

3)  Get enough sleep!  Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.

See:  5 Signs Your Sleep Habits Aren't Working For You -- And What To Do About It.

4)  Relax and chill. Things like deep breathing, meditation, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol. 

5)  Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.

How To Take Action

So, the bottom line is...  Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health, including carb cravings. I've shown you proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally. Which ones can you do to help reduce this stress hormone?

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine -- and less processed foods. And have more water, fruit, probiotics, and prebiotics.

So, maybe a healthy smoothie in place of that sugary coffee in the morning?

See:  Soup, Salad and Smoothie Program

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, learn to relax, and have more fun.

Here are some ideas:
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About the Author

Suzanne Hiscock is a PN L2 Certified Master Coach, ACE-certified Health Coach, as well as an ACE-certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist. For over 20 years, she's been helping people lose weight and get fit through her website,

And she’s really TRULY SORRY ABOUT THAT. You see, she didn’t realize she was contributing to diet culture; she just wanted to help people feel better. But losing weight isn’t the way to do it. She’s on a mission to change all that with an anti-diet approach. So, pardon the dust on the floor as the website gets revamped.