Eating for Stress

Photo by Farhad Ibrahimzade on Unsplash

The foods we eat play a significant role in how our bodies respond to stress. A diet rich in nutrients can help regulate stress hormones, boost mood, and enhance overall resilience. With this in mind, I’ve curated some stress-relieving recipes, each carefully crafted to incorporate nutrient-rich ingredients known for their ability to promote relaxation, stabilise mood, and reduce the physiological effects of stress.

To delve deeper into the significance of nutrition in supporting the stress response, click here.

Whether you’re seeking comfort in a warm bowl of lentil soup, looking for a nourishing boost from a vibrant quinoa salad, or craving the soothing flavors of a chicken stir-fry, these recipes are designed to support you in times of stress. So, let’s dive in and explore the healing power of food as we embark on a journey to nourish our bodies and soothe our minds.

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Lentil and Vegetable Soup:

Lentils are an excellent source of folate, which can help regulate mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. The vegetables provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, both of which are linked to stress.

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and drained
    • 4 cups vegetable broth or bone broth
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 2 carrots, diced
    • 2 celery stalks, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 bay leaf
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Instructions:
    1. In a large pot, sauté the onion, carrots, and celery in olive oil until softened.
    2. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute.
    3. Add dried lentils, vegetable broth, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper to the pot.
    4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, until lentils are tender.
    5. Serve hot and enjoy the comforting flavors of this nourishing soup.

Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas and Roasted Vegetables:

Quinoa is a complex carbohydrate that helps stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing energy crashes and mood swings. Chickpeas are rich in protein and fibre, promoting feelings of fullness and satiety. The roasted vegetables provide an array of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that support overall well-being.

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup cooked quinoa
    • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
    • 2 cups mixed vegetables (bell peppers, courgette, aubergine), chopped
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
  • Instructions:
    1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Toss the mixed vegetables with olive oil, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper.
    2. Spread the seasoned vegetables on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, until tender and slightly caramelised.
    3. In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, roasted vegetables, and chickpeas.
    4. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
    5. Garnish with fresh parsley before serving.
    6. Enjoy this vibrant and nutritious salad.

Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry with Brown Rice:

Chicken is a lean source of protein that contains tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and promotes relaxation. The mixed vegetables provide fibre and antioxidants, while brown rice offers complex carbohydrates for sustained energy and mood stability.

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
    • 2 cups mixed vegetables (broccoli, bell peppers, snap peas, carrots), sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
    • Cooked brown rice for serving
    • Sesame seeds and spring onions for garnish
  • Instructions:
    1. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, honey (or maple syrup), and sesame oil to make the sauce.
    2. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of oil and sauté minced garlic until fragrant.
    3. Add sliced chicken to the skillet and cook until no longer pink.
    4. Add mixed vegetables to the pan and stir-fry until tender-crisp.
    5. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables, stirring to coat evenly.
    6. Serve the stir-fry over cooked brown rice and garnish with sesame seeds and chopped spring onions.
    7. Enjoy this flavorful and satisfying dish.

Avocado and Spinach Smoothie:

Avocado is rich in monounsaturated fats and potassium, which help lower blood pressure and reduce the effects of stress on the cardiovascular system. Spinach is packed with magnesium, a mineral that supports relaxation and muscle function. The smoothie also includes chia seeds, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce inflammation and cortisol levels.

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
    • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
    • 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
    • 1/2 banana
    • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
    • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
    • Honey or maple syrup to taste (optional)
  • Instructions:
    1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.
    2. Blend until smooth and creamy.
    3. Taste and adjust sweetness if desired by adding honey or maple syrup.
    4. Pour into glasses and enjoy this delicious and nutrient-packed smoothie.

Oatmeal with Berries and Almonds:

Oats are a complex carbohydrate that promotes the release of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Berries are loaded with antioxidants like vitamin C, which help combat oxidative stress and support immune function. Almonds provide healthy fats and magnesium, both of which play a role in stress reduction and relaxation.

  • Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup rolled oats
    • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
    • 1/2 cup mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
    • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
    • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
    • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • Instructions:
    1. In a small saucepan, bring almond milk to a gentle simmer.
    2. Stir in rolled oats and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until oats are creamy and tender.
    3. Transfer cooked oatmeal to a bowl and top with mixed berries, sliced almonds, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, and a pinch of cinnamon if desired.
    4. Enjoy this cozy and satisfying breakfast that’s packed with fibre, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Tip: When I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed, the mere thought of chopping onions or garlic can instantly kill my enthusiasm for cooking! This vegetable chopper is one of my few kitchen essentials, it saves so much time! Another one is this garlic twist, quick, easy to clean, essential for speeding things up in the kitchen.

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Overall, these recipes are designed to nourish the body with a balance of nutrients that support optimal brain function, mood regulation, and stress resilience. By incorporating these wholesome ingredients into your diet, you can better equip your body to cope with the demands of daily life and promote a sense of calm and well-being.

If you would like more support in managing stress, getting organised in the kitchen, or meal ideas to support your health, contact me to discuss how we can work together.

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