De-stress with this Dish

 

Stress affects all of us. Nutrition impacts mental health immensely and I find it important to emphasise nutritional awareness during times when our stress can be heightened, when prioritising a healthy diet is often dismissed.

Nourishing your body will not only give you energy but keep your mood stable and aid more restful sleep. It starts not with counting calories, but with looking at nutrient-rich ingredients, while including all food groups.

During stressful periods, especially, go low on the refined sugars (tempting as they are at those times) and higher on Omega 3s, good quality protein and complex carbohydrates. Try not to skip meals and make sure you are getting enough sleep, ideally 7-8 hours a night. I have a post I did recently about the effects of sleep deprivation and nutrition.

 
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Cortisol (our stress hormone) is elevated during stressful times. Skipping meals can add to increased cortisol levels therefore, it is important to stick to 3 balanced meals a day. Short bursts of cortisol can aid us to be more productive, however, long term elevated cortisol which arises from chronic stress can will lead to increased blood sugar levels, inflammation and anxiety. Including good complex carbohydrates such as whole-grains and legumes will not spike your blood sugar, keeping them steady.

Refined carbohydrates (mostly anything white or processed) dramatically impact our blood sugar levels, causing them to increase our stress hormones such as cortisol. Complex carbohydrates are also full of fibre which helps keep our gut happy. Fibre helps maintain good gut health, feeding the good bacteria in our gut and keeping us regular. There has been a lot of evidence exploring how poorer gut health is linked with increased mental health problems such as depression.

 

“I have again teamed up with Rebel Recipes to create a nutritious plant based dish to help fight those stressful periods. I would usually add in an oily fish, however, because Nikki is a vegan we created a vegan alternative.

 

Stress can increase our demand for protein therefore, it is important to make sure you are gaining enough protein in every meal. Amino acids such as tryptophan, phenylalanine, tyrosine and threanine all play an important role with stress. Tryptophan is an amino acid which works with vitamin B6 and magnesium to synthesise (make) serotonin, our happy hormone.

Phenylalanine and tyrosine help to promote alertness, increasing dopamine and norepinephrine which regulate our moods and behaviours. Theanine has shown positive effects to reduce stress and  relax the brain helping to reduce stress (1).  Vitamins such as vitamin C helps support immunity which can be depleted in stressful periods. B vitamins are very important for our nervous system and deficiencies can leaded to symptoms such as irritability and low energy.

Magnesium is a mineral which has been found to be depleted from increased stressful periods. Magnesium is important to help our muscles relax, plays a role in energy production, regulates blood pressure, alongside controlling our bodies stress-response. It is important to increase foods rich in magnesium during stressful times.  

 
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Recipe

Ingredients 

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
1 Onion roughly chopped 
4 cloves Garlic sliced 
2 cups quinoa 
3 cups Veg stock 
4 tomatoes chopped roughly 
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp chilli flakes 

3 big handfuls spinach
Fresh thyme 
Juice 1/2 Lemon 

4 tbsp Nutritional yeast 
1-2 tsp sea salt (to taste) 
Black pepper 

For the mushrooms; 
3 cups mushrooms of choice 
1 tbsp olive oil 
Big pinch sea salt 


Toppings

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
Toasted hazelnuts 
Fresh thyme 
Rocket 

Method

  1. Add the oil to a large frying pan and heat to a medium heat. Add in the onion and fry for aprox 8-10 minutes until soft and browning. Add in the garlic and fry for a further minute. 

  2. Add the spices, chopped tomatoes, the quinoa and veg stock. Simmer on a low heat until the stock has absorbed- stirring occasionally. Aprox 15 minutes.

  3. Add the mushrooms and oil to another pan and fry on medium for 3-4 minutes until soft. Season well and set aside. 

  4. When cooked, turn off the heat and add in the spinach, lemon juice, fresh thyme and nutritional yeast. Stir and allow the greens to wilt down. 

  5. Stir in the mushrooms. 

  6. Season really well and top with lots of toasted hazelnuts, a good drizzle of olive oil, fresh thyme and rocket. 

All food was sourced from the Daylesford Farm @daylesfordfarm.

References:

  1. Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H (2007) L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses.Biol Psychol 74: 39-45.

 
 
Claire Thorburn