The Adaptation Diet – Controlling Cortisol with Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Diet is the single most important factor in reducing inflammation and normalizing cortisol levels. The Adaptation Diet emphasizes the avoidance of pro-inflammatory foods and the use of inflammation-controlling foods that can prevent many of today’s major epidemic degenerative diseases. Below are lists of foods to include and foods to avoid to accomplish the goal of improved adaptation.   


Foods to include for improved adaptation

  • The largest portion of every meal should be vegetables (50 percent), with grains and animal protein in smaller amounts.

  • Use one cup of cruciferous vegetables per day (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage), and liberally use onions, shallots, and garlic. Sulforaphane, a phytonutrient found in the highest amounts in broccoli, is a powerful protector of gene expression and has multiple anticancer properties.

  • Have at least one vegetarian dinner every week. 

  • Use one cup of beans (kidney, navy, mung, or lima), lentils, or split peas five times a week—they are a great source of fiber, complex carbohydrates, and omega-3 fats.

  • Eat organically grown foods whenever possible, especially protein, including free-range chicken and eggs.

  • Avoid hypoglycemia and control ghrelin and appetite by eating a protein-rich breakfast and using only protein-rich snacks (for example, nuts and nut butters, low-fat yogurt, soy products) between meals. Consider eating five small meals per day and do not eat after 8 p.m.

  • Drink juice made from organic green vegetables, including kale, Swiss chard, and spinach, mixed with carrots at least three days a week. It’s best to use a machine that keeps the pulp with the juice rather than extracting the juice.

  • Include anti-inflammatory and membrane-stabilizing fats – omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, beans, salmon, herring, tuna, and sardines; and monounsaturated fats from olive oil, almonds, avocados, hazelnuts, and canola oil (cook only with olive, grapeseed, or canola oil).

  • Have at least three portions of fish a week (wild salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, sturgeon, and low-mercury tuna).

  • Use two tablespoons a day of fresh ground organic flaxseed powder on salads or cereals (flax lignans reduce cortisol overproduction and detoxify hormones).

  • Take a supplement with at least 1,000 milligrams of EPA/DHA fish oil on days when no fish is eaten, to control excess cortisol production (unless on blood-thinning medication).

  • Incorporate colorful vegetables (carrots, squash, cabbage, tomatoes, etc.) and fruits (blueberries, pomegranate, and cherries, for example) rich in flavonoids and carotenoids into every meal, with at least seven portions per day.

  • Eat eggs that come from free-range and organically fed chickens and are cooked without breaking the yolk (boiled, poached, fried over easy).

  • Use herbs and spices that are anti-inflammatory and detoxifying: turmeric, cardamom, cilantro, ginger, onion, garlic, parsley. Curcumin in turmeric has great benefits in protecting gene expression, reducing inflammation, and protecting the brain against degenerative disease.

  • Liberally use flavonoid-rich detoxifying vegetables, including shiitake and ganoderma mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, arugula, chard, kale, spinach, and other dark greens. Cooked tomato products protect against prostate disease in men.

  • Consume a wide variety of foods rich in flavonoids (green tea, cherries, blueberries, red grapes, beets, legumes, asparagus, purple onions, sweet potatoes, and spices such as ginger, parsley, sage, and turmeric). Other potent members of the flavonoid group include rutin in buckwheat, hesperidin in citrus fruits, silymarin in milk thistle, genistein in soybeans, and apigenin in chamomile.

  • Drink one-half (in ounces) of your body weight in filtered or bottled water every day. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, drink 65 ounces of water. This will reduce aldosterone levels, help with weight loss, and normalize blood pressure.

  • Choose green tea over black tea or coffee as a hot beverage. Green tea contains more catechins and the polyphenol epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Green tea has been shown to protect gene expression and protect against cancer, hypertension, and diabetes.

  • Use soy products rich in genistein and daidzein in the form of miso, tofu, edamame, and tempeh to detoxify hormones and to protect cell membranes and gene expression.

  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce inflammation and leptin resistance (even the loss of 5–10 percent of body weight changes cortisol and leptin levels).

  • Supplement with probiotics (beneficial bacteria, including lactobacillus and bifidobacter), especially after antibiotic use. Probiotics can assist in weight loss and prevention of diabetes.

  • Snack on protein-rich foods and never with high-glycemic-index carbohydrates as they will trigger more hypoglycemia. Nut butters, nuts, seeds, and low-fat yogurts are a few ideas for good snacks. Adding protein between meals can help with weight management and maintenance of good muscle mass.

  • Strive for at least 25 grams of fiber per day from beans, whole grains, vegetables, flaxseed powder, chia seeds, or supplemental products such as psyllium seeds to reduce harmful bacteria in the gut and promote healthy bacteria that reduce inflammation, remove toxins from the body, and produce fatty acids like butyrate that regulate gene expression.


Pro-inflammatory foods to avoid 

  • Avoid foods identified as allergy triggers (as documented in Phase Two) for at least three months. (If unclear about which foods to eliminate, avoid for one month the following trigger foods: wheat, sugar, eggs, dairy products, corn, beef, tomatoes, soy, chocolate, coffee, and alcohol. These can be reintroduced one per day after avoidance, observing for reactions.)

  • Avoid hypoglycemia by eating a protein-rich breakfast and eating only protein-rich snacks between meals.

  • Limit pro-inflammatory saturated fats (red meat, pork, lamb, poultry skin, whole dairy products, and tropical oils) and omega-6 vegetable oils (corn, soy, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, and peanut).

  • Eliminate all trans fats (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils).

  • Eliminate gluten grains (wheat, barley, and rye), especially in breads and baked goods, for three months and use in limited quantities after that (most people can use steel-cut oats as a cereal, which is a good source of fiber, and brown rice as their primary grain).

  • Limit high-glycemic-index foods, especially sodas and candies sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, which increase obesity and liver dysfunction, and emphasize fiber-rich carbohydrates such as beans and root vegetables. 

  • Reduce caffeine intake to one cup of coffee or black tea per day to reduce inflammation and cortisol levels and prevent elevated cholesterol and homocysteine. Avoid all soft drinks. Use green tea as the primary hot beverage.

  • Consume alcohol in moderation – no more than one drink every other day for women and one drink per day for men, preferably red wine or beer that contains polyphenols such as resveratrol, which reduces inflammation.

If you’d like to learn more about managing inflammation and cortisol levels with your diet (or The Adaptation Diet in general), please call us and set up an appointment. Whether you’re interested in living a healthier lifestyle or you’re trying to overcome a chronic condition, we can help you get to your goals.