Plant-Based Stress Reducers

Welcome to 2020, a year of massive world change and stress for many of us. Change always creates stress, especially when it’s out of our control. When we’re stressed the chemistry of our bodies changes and we use up certain nutrients to manage it and prevent stress-related inflammation and illness from developing. Ensuring you have good stores of nutrients means you can manage your physiological, mental, and emotional stress responses more successfully. This is where diet and nutrition come in. Vitamin C, magnesium, Omega 3  fatty acids, and complex carbohydrates are four nutrients that can help you counteract the stress in your life.


What Is Stress?

Stress is how the brain and body respond to any type of challenge, such as new assignments at work, a surprise birthday party, moving to a new house, or suddenly homeschooling your kids during the COVID shutdown! Even though we usually have bad feelings toward stress, it can actually be a good thing. It helps us deal with dangerous situations by motivating us to face a threat or flee to safety. You’ve probably heard of the “fight or flight” response; that is your body trying to help you during a crisis, whether that crisis is real or imagined. Stress also motivates us to take action and tend to our day-to-day tasks, like taking a test or interviewing for your first job out of college or just getting out of bed in the morning. (NIMH)

Long-term stress, unfortunately, can harm your overall health. If you’re stressed for a long time, your body doesn’t return to normal functioning. This can disturb your immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive cycles. Long-term stress can cause problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, or anxiety, and the inflammation that underlies them. Especially today, as people around the world adjust to the COVID pandemic, working remotely, and educating their children from home, stress levels are on the rise. (NIMH)

What You Can Do To Reduce Stress

There are simple ways to reduce your stress. You might be familiar with some of these: getting regular exercise, sleeping enough hours each night, exploring relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation, socializing, meeting with a therapist, and eating well. (NIMH)

Plant-based diets, such as veganism, will reduce your stress levels. Food provides the support and building blocks our bodies need to decrease free radicals, lower stress hormones, and balance our bodies. By eating a smart plant-based diet, you can reduce your stress and improve your health.

Nutrients that Reduce Stress

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that reduces the damage caused by free radicals and stress hormones. Adults need at least 65 - 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day to ensure you don’t show the scurvy signs of vitamin C deficiency. Studies show it’s safe to ingest 2,000 mg per day.

Vitamin C combats stress by:

  • Lowering levels of cortisol, a stress hormone 
  • Lowering blood pressure during high-anxiety situations 
  • Boosting the immune system 

Other benefits of vitamin C include:

  • Helping prevent infections such as the common cold 
  • Helping your skin look and feel great by supporting collagen development (wrinkle reducer!) 
  • Improving heart health 
  • Reducing your risk of cancer

Plant-based foods high in vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit 
  • Tomatoes, red and green bell peppers
  • Fruit such as kiwis and strawberries

Vegan recipes high in vitamin C

At Your Vegan Family, we focus on nutrient-dense food that fills up your stores of vitamins and minerals on a daily basis so you always have the building blocks you need to stay healthy. Here are a few plant-based recipes for you that are high in vitamin C:

Fresh Garden Salsa

Savory Vegan Crepes

Easy Vegan Baked Indian Potatoes


Magnesium is a macromineral, meaning its a mineral we need to ingest rather large amounts of. It participates in over 300 cellular processes and is known as the “relaxation mineral”. Magnesium deficiency is common, but lucky for plant-based eaters, the foods highest in magnesium are all plants! Adults need at least 300-420 mg of magnesium per day to avoid deficiency symptoms.

Magnesium combats stress by:

  • Reducing headaches and fatigue 
  • Relieving premenstrual mood changes 
  • Improving sleep in older adults
  • Relaxes muscles

Magnesium improves overall health by:

  • Improving outcomes in cardiovascular disease 
  • Strengthening your bones and helping you absorb vitamin D 
  • Helping regulate moods related to depression 
  • Relaxing your muscles. Some people take it before bed to help them sleep.

Plant-based foods high in magnesium include:

  • Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and chard 
  • Nuts, such as almonds, cashews, and peanuts 
  • Soybeans, black beans and edamame 

Vegan recipes high in magnesium

Here are a few recipes that can help you relax with heaps of magnesium:

Dairy-Free Pudding

Easy High Protein Nut-Free Granola

Berry Shortbread Bars

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are oils your body requires. They provide energy, support mental development, and decrease inflammation. They're good fats!

Omega-3 fatty acids combat stress by:

  • Reducing surges of stress hormones 
  • Reducing the effects of premenstrual syndrome 
  • Combatting the effects of depression 

Omega-3 fatty acids improve overall health by:

  • Reducing the chance of developing diabetes 
  • Assisting in vision and brain development 
  • Improving cardiovascular health 
  • Reducing inflammation, a primary stress response

Plant-based foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Plant oils such as flaxseed oil and soybean oil 
  • Nuts and seeds, such as flaxseeds, pistachios, and walnuts 
  • Beans such as edamame, pinto, and kidney beans 
  • Leafy greens such as spinach and kale 
  • Algae

Vegan recipes high in omega-3 fatty acids

These recipes from Your Vegan Family, are high in ALA:

Raspberry Lemon Chia Parfait

Light and Fluffy Savory Vegan Scones

Sprouted Chickpea Falafel

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are abundant in plant-based foods, especially whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. They make up the bulk of a vegan diet.

Complex carbs combat stress by:

  • Increasing serotonin production, the feel-good hormone, and the reason you probably like chocolate! 
  • Stabilizing blood pressure 
  • Stabilizing blood sugar levels 

Complex carbs improve overall health by:

  • Supplying a low, steady release of glucose (energy!) into the bloodstream – which is something your body needs! 
  • Providing essential nutrients such as vitamin B, vitamin E, folate, zinc, and magnesium 
  • Providing phytonutrients, or compounds that form plant immune systems, that help prevent disease 

Plant-based foods high in complex carbs include:

  • Whole grains such as whole wheat flour, quinoa, lentils, beans, and barley 
  • Fruit such as strawberries, apples, and pears 
  • Vegetables such as cucumbers, asparagus, and tomatoes 

Vegan recipes high in complex carbs:

Here are three energy-rich and nutrient-dense recipes from Your Vegan Family:

Vegetable Explosion Chana Dal

Vegan Nut Pie Crust

Vegan Fruit Pizza

Food can be medicine. Eating plant-based food can help you lower stress, recover from stress-induced illness, and stay calm throughout the day, as well as sleep better at night. We hope you'll enjoy lowering your stress with the recipes we included.  You can find more detailed nutritional information at the bottom of each recipe. 

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Written by Your Vegan Family 

Stacy and Markus live an adventurous vegan lifestyle and write articles about their experiences cooking global vegan cuisine, creating businesses, raising vegan kids, and traveling through more than 65 countries. They earned degrees in molecular biology and acupuncture, consulted over decades for healthcare companies and individuals, created businesses in Asian medicine, eco-tourism, cultural immersion, and taught yoga in myriad venues.

We’ve learned a lot from eating a plant-based diet for 25 years and are eager to share more with you. Learn more on our About Us page.

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