Insulin and High Cortisol

Insulin is a hormone that opens the door for glucose to enter into cells and fuel them properly.  Too much insulin as a result from poor diet, lack of exercise, or stress can lead to insulin resistance leading to worse issues such as diabetes.

High cortisol levels increase the chances of insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance increases the chances of fat storage and not allowing food to be burned as fuel.  Increased fat storage leads to weight gain.  When dealing with chronic stress it is important to increase the amount of whole foods and beneficial supplements in order to decrease the effect that both the cortisol levels and insulin levels have on the body.

Foods low on the glycemic index are released slowly into the blood stream allowing a more controlled glucose level and thus a more controlled insulin level leading to less of a cortisol spike as well.  Below is a list of low glycemic foods.  There is no number you should “aim” for, but remember that lower numbers decrease insulin and cortisol spikes.


Glycemic Index


Spinach 15-50
Turnip   Greens 15-50
Lettuce 15-50
Water   Cress 15-50
Zucchini 15-50
Asparagus 15-50
Artichokes 15-50
Okra 15-50
Cabbage 15-50
Celery 15-50
Cucumbers 15-50
Dill   Pickles 15-50
Radishes 15-50
Broccoli 15-50
Brussels   Sprouts 15-50
Eggplant 15-50
Onions 15-50
Tomatoes 15-50
Cauliflower 30
Bell   Peppers 40
Green   Peas 40
Squash 50
Heart   of Palm 50


Pearled   barley, cooked (average of 5 samples) 35
Barley   kernel bread (50% kernels) (average of samples 64
Barley   flour bread (80% barley, 20% white wheat flour 94
Whole   meal barley porridge 95
Buckwheat   bread (50% dehusked buckwheat groats, 50% white flour) 66
Buckwheat,   cooked (average of 3 samples) 76
Corn,   yellow 78
Corn   tortillas 78
Cornmeal,   boiled in salted water 2 minutes 95
Taco   shells 97
Millet,   boiled 99
Oat   bran bread (45% oat bran, 50% white wheat flour 66
Oatmeal   (thick, dehulled oat flakes 77
Oat   bran cereal 78
Museli 80
Oatmeal   (rolled oats), cooked 81
Oat   bread (80% intact oat kernels, 20% white wheat flour) 91
Oatmeal   (one-minute oats 92
Wild   rice 81
Rice   cakes 81
Rice   noodles, cooked 85
White,   boiled (average of 12 saamples) 90
Parboiled   rice 100
Rice   bread 100
Whole   kernels, cooked (average of 3 samples) 48
Rye   kernel bread (80% kernels, 20% white wheat flour) (average of 6 samples) 70
Whole   meal rye bread (average of 4 samples) 81
Spaghetti,   whole meal (average of 2 samples) 52
Whole   wheat kernels, cooked (average of 4 samples) 57
Spaghetti,   white, boiled 10-15 minutes (average of 7 samples) 62
Cracked   wheat, bulgar, boiled (average of 4 samples) 67
Wheat   kernel bread (80% intact kernels, 20% white wheat flour 73
Couscous   (from semolina-durham wheat) boiled 5 minutes 91
Whole   wheat bread (average of 13 samples) 95
White   flour bread (average of 6 samples) 100
Gluten-free 129
Whole   meal spelt bread 88
Multi-grain   bread 60


Grapefruit 35
Apples,   Dried (average of 2 samples) 40
Prunes 41
Apricots,   Dried (average of 2 samples) 43
Apples,   Raw (average of 6 samples 53
Pears   (average of 4 samples) 53
Plums   (average of 2 samples 55
Strawberries 56
Oranges   (average of 6 samples) 59
Pineapple   juice 64
Grapes   (average of 2 samples) 64
Orange   juice (average of 3 samples) 73
Bananas   (average of 10 samples) 73
Kiwi   (average of 2 samples) 74
Apricots,   Raw 80
Papaya   (average 3 samples) 83
Pineapple   (average of 2 samples) 83
Figs 85
Raisins 90
Cantaloupe 91
Watermelon 100


Yams   (average of 3 samples) 52
Carrots   (average 4 samples) 66
Potatoes,   Boiled 15 minutes, cubed, peeled 81
Sweet   potatoes (average of 5 samples) 85
Beets 64
Potatoes,   Baked (average of 4 samples) 119
Mashed   (average of 3 samples) 104


Soybeans,   cooked (average of 2 samples) 25
Lentils,   red, cooked (average of 4 samples) 36
Garbanzo   beans, dried, soaked, boiled 35 minutes (average of 4 samples) 39
Kidney   beans (average of 8 samples) 39
Lentils,   green, cooked (average of 3 samples) 42
Split   peas, yellow, cooked 45
Soymilk,   full fat, with maltodexdrin, calcium-fortified 50
Navy   beans, cooked (average of 5 samples) 53
Pinto   beans, cooked 55
Pinto   beans, canned 63


Yogurt,   low fat, plain 20
Whole   fat milk 39
Skim   milk 46
Yogurt,   low fat, with fruit 47


Honey   (average of 11 samples) 77
Sucrose   (white sugar) 95

(Chart provided by

Despite what your body maybe craving when in a stressful state, treat yourself with the nutrients and food your body needs.  If you are dealing with a stressful time at work, home, or in life- be sure that you do not make it even worse on your body. You should nurture yourself with low glycemic foods, healthy proteins, and good fats.


Nutrition Therapy Institute. “Lecture Notes: Weight Management/Sport Nutrition: Metabolic Factors in Weight Management.” Slides 12-19. Nutrition Therapy Institute Inc. 2012.

World’s Healthiest Foods. “What is the glycemic index?”

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