Stress and Nourishment





Eating the right foods is especially important during times of stress! Our need for nutrients is increased when stress is high. Stress creates greater physiological demands: more energy, oxygen, circulation, and therefore more metabolic cofactors are needed – in other words, more vitamins and minerals. Whether the stressor is internal or external, real or our own creation or response, it creates demand on the body.


Stress and food go hand in hand. Stress can cause a lack of appetite, or the opposite – over-indulging in food, alcohol, or drugs. Often we turn to comfort foods during these times, which are usually high in sugar or fat and lacking nutrients. We experience indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, leading to even less absorption. Evidence suggests stress can affect micronutrient concentrations, often leading to micronutrient depletion.


All of these habits can be harmful long term, for our body and our mind.


Right now, it may seem impossible to avoid those comfort foods or habits. My suggestion is to fit something in early in the day, to start your day off with something nourishing. Knowing that you’ve done yourself good can snowball the rest of the day into good things. That usually works for me! It also can be really helpful to follow up some comfort foods with a good, balanced meal. It doesn’t need to be perfect, find what works for you and what makes you feel good, and remember that you’re doing your body and mind a favour.


Do your best to focus on the following nutrients and the foods they are found in during these times!


Vitamin C

·        Vitamin C has been shown to reduce anxiety levels and may be an effective addition to the medical and psychological treatment of anxiety.

·        Vitamin C plays an important role in immune function and improves the absorption of non-heme iron.

·        There is an increasing body of evidence indicating that psychological stress promotes oxidative stress. Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant and has been shown to regenerate other antioxidants within the body, including vitamin E.


·        Red pepper

·        Orange

·        Kiwi

·        Green pepper

·        Broccoli

·        Strawberries

·        Brussel sprouts

·        Tomato juice

·        Cauliflower

·        Spinach


B Vitamins

There are lots of important B vitamins! B vitamins all serve specific functions in the body. They are required to maintain a healthy nervous system, balance neurotransmitters, are necessary for energy production, and can be effective in improving mood.

Different B vitamins are found in different foods. Most cereals and grains are fortified with B vitamins. I recommend focusing on a variety of different sources. Foods that contain a number of B vitamins include liver (choose organic), black beans, eggs, squash, soybeans, sunflower seeds, turkey, spinach, almonds, salmon, lentils, and nutritional yeast.


Specific foods for each B vitamin:


B1: Thiamin

·        Whole grains, fortified bread, cereal, pasta, rice

·        Trout

·        Mussels

·        Acorn squash

·        Legumes – black beans, soy beans

·        Sunflower seeds


B2: Riboflavin

·        Almonds

·        Fortified oats, cereals

·        Yogurt, milk, cheese

·        Eggs

·        Quinoa

·        Salmon

·        Spinach

·        Sunflower seeds


B3: Niacin

·        Poultry - turkey

·        Beef

·        Fish

·        Sunflower seeds

·        Soymilk

·        Pumpkin seeds

·        spinach


B5: Pantothenic acid  

·        Avocado

·        Sunflower seeds

·        Eggs

·        Broccoli

B6: Pyridoxine  

·        Chickpeas

·        Salmon

·        Chicken breast

·        Potatoes

·        Bananas

·        Winter Squash

·        Blackstrap molasses


B7: Biotin

·        Eggs

·        Salmon

·        Sunflower seeds

·        Sweet potato

·        Almonds

·        Tuna


B9: Folate

·        Spinach

·        Black eyed peas

·        Rice

·        Asparagus

·        Brussel sprouts

·        Kidney beans


B12: Cobalamin

  • Liver
  • Clams
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk, and other dairy products
  • Nutritional yeast


·        Magnesium status is highly associated with stress levels, with both stress and hypomagnesemia (low levels of magnesium in the body) potentiating each other’s negative effects


·        Legumes (black beans, edamame, kidney beans)

·        Nuts (almonds, cashews)

·        Soymilk

·        Whole grains

·        Green leafy vegetables (such as spinach)

·        Avocado

·        Blackstrap molasses



·        A daily intake of zinc is required to help stabilize cortisol (stress hormone) levels over time  and zinc intake has been shown to temporarily inhibit cortisol secretions. Prolonged stress can deplete zinc concentrations in the blood.


·        Oysters

·        Beef

·        Crab

·        Lobster

·        Pumpkin seeds

·        Baked beans

·        Cashews

·        Almonds


Recipes – try these out to get a variety of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin C


Mixed Berry Smoothie

·        1 cup frozen mixed berries, or berry of your choice (blueberries, raspberries, cherries, strawberries)

·        1 cup spinach

·        2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

·        2 tbsp sunflower seeds

·        1 tbsp unsulphured blackstrap molasses

·        1 tsp cinnamon or ginger

·        Liquid of your choice (soymilk, cashew milk, or dairy)

·        Optional: ½ frozen banana, ¼ cup steamed cauliflower, ½ cup rolled oats, or ½ avocado) – all add creamy texture

Blend together, adding more liquid or less liquid to get to your desired consistency. Top with tablespoon of almond butter, hemp hearts, coconut flakes, berries, and more cinnamon if you’d like!


Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

·        ½ cup cooked pumpkin puree or cooked squash

·        ½ banana

·        ¼ cup steamed cauliflower or ½ cup rolled oats

·        1 cup spinach

·        2 tbsp sunflower seeds

·        2 tbsp coconut flakes

·        1 tbsp unsulphured blackstrap molasses

·        ½ tsp cinnamon

·        ¼ tsp ginger

·        ¼ tsp nutmeg

·        ¼ tsp cloves

·        Liquid of your choice: milk, soymilk, cashew milk, coconut milk, or chai tea

Add liquid and blend to your desired consistency. Top with 1 tbsp of pumpkin seeds, more coconut flakes, and cinnamon.


Colourful mixed salad:

·        4 cups spinach

·        2 bell peppers, cut into chunks

·        2 oranges or 5 mandarins, peeled and cut into small pieces

·        2 avocados, sliced

·        1/2 red onion, sliced thinly

·        ¼ cup sunflower seeds

·        ¼ cup sliced or slivered almonds


Combine all ingredients in a large serving bowl and toss together.

Optional: toast the sunflower seeds and almond. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and spread almonds and sunflower seeds onto a baking sheet. Bake about 8 minutes or until lightly browned.



·        1 tsp Dijon mustard

·        2 tbsp nutritional yeast

·        1 small clove garlic, finely chopped

·        2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar

·        ¼ cup olive oil

·        Pinch of salt and pepper


In a small bowl combine the garlic, vinegar, nutritional yeast, mustard, and salt. While whisking, pour the olive oil into the bowl in a thin stream, and continue whisking until all the oil has been added and the dressing is smooth. Pour over salad and mix well together.


Stuffed sweet potatoes

·        6 small sweet potatoes

·        1/3 cup quinoa (makes 1 cup cooked)

·        1 small onion, diced

·        2 bell peppers, diced

·        1 tomato, diced

·        2 cups black beans or 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

·        1 tsp salt

·        ½ tsp cumin

·        2 tsp chilli powder

·        1 ½ tsp paprika

·        3 cloves garlic

·        2 tbsp lime juice

·        Optional additions: cheese, sour cream, greek yogurt, or non-dairy alternative, guacamole, salsa, fresh cilantro

·        Optional: instead of quinoa, use rice


1.     Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2.     Bake the sweet potatoes: prick the outsides all over with a fork, place on prepared baking sheet, and bake until tender: 45 minutes-1 hour. Remove from oven and let rest

3.     While sweet potatoes are baking, cook quinoa: add ¼ cup of quinoa to 1/2 cup water, bring to a boil uncovered, and then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to steam for additional 5 minutes.

4.     Prepare filling: heat avocado oil or coconut oil in a large skillet. Add onion, bell pepper, salt and cook for 8 minutes. Add garlic, chilli powder, cumin, paprika, and tomatoes. Mix well and cook for additional 5 minutes. Stir in black beans and quinoa. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add in lime juice. Add more seasoning to taste.

5.     Once sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut a slit into the top. Open the split with a fork and fluff the insides, making space for the toppings. Stuff with the filling you’ve made. (approx ½ cup filling per potato)

6.     Return sweet potatoes to oven for additional 5 minutes to heat all together.

7.     Enjoy!


Recipe adapted from: https://www.wellplated.com/stuffed-sweet-potatoes-black-beans/