9 Recipes That Actually Reduce Your Stress Levels, According to Science

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
|
March 6, 2022
Kasha Salad
Image credit: Shutterstock

When you’re feeling stressed, making a meal might not feel high on your to-do list. But outside of the fact that cooking can help you de-stress, there are tons of whole food ingredients with well-proven relaxation benefits.

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Whether you’re looking for a complex meal or a simple side, there’s a recipe out there with ingredients that can help reduce your stress levels, according to science. We’ve rounded up nine of our favorites, from a chia seed and chocolate energy bite that makes for an awesome breakfast or snack to an ultra-fast pinto bean chili that can help you end your weeknight with a sigh of relief. Some of these recipes even have multiple stress-relieving ingredients packed into one dish — to help you get to relaxing ASAP. 

1. Easy Honey Garlic Salmon

Easy Honey Garlic Salmon

Image credit: Healthy Fitness Meals

All you need is salmon, garlic, honey, olive oil, and soy sauce to make this simple, quick honey garlic salmon dish. Omega-3 is an excellent nutrient for minimizing stress and maximizing brain power, and salmon is chock full of it. Choose wild over farmed for the best omega-3 levels, as farmed fish requires a larger portion, with more fat, to get the same amounts of omega-3 as is available in the wild version. That hint of sweetness from honey is good for your brain, too.

2. Sweet Potato Soup

Sweet Potato Soup

Image credit: Shutterstock

This sweet potato soup recipe is a twofer when it comes to stress relief. For one thing, simply holding warm foods and drinks has been proven to reduce stress levels and enhance friendly feelings. Add to that the fact that unrefined carbohydrates boost our serotonin levels, and you have a perfect cup or bowl. This lightly sweet, ginger-y soup is thin enough to sip from a mug if you like. The flavor profile is well-spiced with ginger and cumin, but feel free to add some garam masala when adding the other spices for even more flavor. 

3. Gut-Healthy Probiotic Power Bowls

Gut-Healthy Probiotic Power Bowls

Image credit: The Roasted Root

Probiotics are vital to our overall wellness, and that includes our mental health. Our gut health is directly linked to our mood, and probiotics like the sauerkraut in this power bowl full of healthy ingredients is one way to add them to your diet. We love the orange cider vinaigrette dressing for this recipe, and encourage you to use raw ACV for even more probiotics.

4. Quick Collard Greens

Quick Collard Greens

Image credit: Grits and Pinecones

It’s a myth that you need to blanch greens first, and this quick collard greens recipe proves just how delicious simple sauteed collards can be. Greens are high in fiber, and people who eat a fiber-rich diet have lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. The squeeze of fresh lemon brightens the dark flavor of the collard greens — and they’d be perfect alongside a protein like the honey garlic salmon.

5. Kasha Salad

Kasha Salad

Image credit: Shutterstock

This kasha salad recipe boosts serotonin due to its use of whole grains, and it also packs plenty of calcium thanks to the feta cheese. Proper intake of calcium has been shown to correlate with lower instances of depression. This recipe has all the standard flavors of a Greek salad, but is made more filling due to the inclusion of kasha. Think of it as an all-in-one lunch salad, with the bonus of stress relieving benefits. 

6. Orange Strawberry Avocado Salad with Citrus Poppy Seed Dressing

Orange Strawberry Avocado Salad With Citrus Poppy Seed Dressing

Image credit: Ambitious Kitchen

You’ll be on vitamin C overload with this salad recipe that uses citrus in both the salad itself and the dressing. And because vitamin C reduces stress levels — and may even help to prevent anxiety — that’s pretty fantastic. Citrus fruits are notorious for its vitamin C content, and strawberries and avocados actually pack plenty of it, as well. There’s also goat cheese in the salad, which assists with stress by way of its calcium content. 

7. Pistachio Oat Squares

Pistachio Oat Squares

Image credit: Love & Lemons

All nuts have beneficial nutrients for stress prevention, such as vitamin B, but pistachios stand out among them. They’ve been proven to be particularly calming in situations of acute stress, and these pistachio oat squares contain an equal quantity of pistachios and soothing whole grain oats. They’re sweetened with maple syrup, and keep well for up to a week. When you’re reaching for dessert, this is a great option… and there’s no annoying cracking of pistachio shells required. 

8. No-Bake Chocolate Chia Energy Bites

No Bake Chocolate Chia Energy Bites

Image credit: The Lemon Bowl

A chia recipe that isn’t a pudding?! Yes, there’s life beyond pudding for this little seed, which is a great plant-sourced source of omega-3, as evidenced in these no-bake chocolate chia energy bites. Beyond being an innovative use for chia seeds, the recipe features chocolate chips: Consumption of just 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced stress levels considerably in test subjects. 

9. Pinto Bean Chili

Pinto Bean Chili

Image credit: Shutterstock

For those nights when you want a healthy meal to come together quickly and help you chill out, try this pinto bean chili. By using canned pinto beans, you’ll save hours of cooking time while still reaping the benefits of how full of fiber the pintos are. The chipotle pepper adds that beloved warming sensation of coziness, and lime juice gives a little kick of sour — along with a hit of vitamin C. Also, chili is probably the healthiest comfort food, and the act of eating foods we find comforting has been shown to reduce stress levels

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