If you are wondering what restaurant-goers are hungry for these days, think immune-boosting, health-promoting, and stress-relieving foods and beverages. Fortunately, if you run a foodservice during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no lack of options to choose from. So, let’s lift the lid on stress-reducing ingredients to learn how you can help your customers eat and drink to optimize their health. At the same time, we’ll dish out a healthy serving of menu ideas, including a decadent stress-reducing recipe that will cater to your customers’ demands and drive traffic your way.
Can Eating the Right Foods Reduce Stress?
Scientists and nutritionists confirm that if one feels anxious, stressed, panicky, has difficulty sleeping or concentrating, suffers from racing thoughts, or feels off-balance, eating the right foods can have a calming influence.
Alas, the uncertainty posed by the coronavirus has given rise to masses of individuals prone to stress. Quarantine, fears of getting infected, financial troubles, and social limitations only exacerbate the already high tensions, taking a toll on both people’s physical and mental health states.
Turning to food for comfort is natural during stressful times – as is the temptation to add more fats, sugars, and other palate-pleasing but not necessarily ‘good for you’ foods and drinks. Therefore, knowing what choices can work for your customers is so important. For example, did you know that:
- Adding rosemary to dishes can help improve mental focus?
- Flavonoid-rich foods such as blueberries are said to help boost mood and safeguard against depression?
- Chia seeds are high in amino acids that produce serotonin, a hormone that helps the body fight anxiety and stress?
- Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, and sweet potatoes are not only concentrated food sources of Vitamin C, magnesium, and folate, but offer calming and antidepressant effects?
- Plant-based proteins such as legumes are loaded with stress-fighting vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and manganese?
- Chickpeas are rich in L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid that the body needs to produce the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin, which in turn impacts mood and sleep?
- Fish such as salmon and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have proven benefits for calming the nervous system?
Continue reading for even more tips and tricks on stress-relieving foods you can add to your restaurant menu.
Stress-Relieving Ingredients and Foods to Add to Your Restaurant Menu
Magnesium-Rich Ingredients: Dubbed the “relaxation” mineral, magnesium plays an important role in hundreds of chemical reactions in the body, including the body’s stress response, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and heart function. Magnesium deficiencies, on the other hand, give rise to health complications such as low energy, low blood sugar, insomnia, and more. Yet most people are magnesium deficient and processed foods are virtually devoid of this mineral. Moreover, chronic stress can reduce the magnesium stored in the body.
Fortunately, you can rely on foods such as pumpkin seeds and leafy greens (Swiss chard, for example) to more than meet the daily recommended intake. Other healthy sources of magnesium include spinach, salmon, and soybeans.
Pumpkin Seeds: Also known as pepitas, tiny pumpkin seeds are a nutritional powerhouse rich not only in magnesium but in significant amounts of protein, iron, fiber, zinc, Vitamin E, Vitamin B2, healthy fats, and tryptophan. Their high chlorophyll content also acts as a natural detoxifier in the body, making them an immune-boosting superfood.
For great flavor and a whopping nutritional boost, experiment with adding pumpkin seeds to main dishes, side dishes, baked goods, breads, and desserts. Toss a handful into stir-fry, soups, salads, breakfast cereals, and smoothies. And if any of your customers are allergic to dairy, soy, gluten, wheat, or nuts, these seeds are naturally dairy free, soy free, wheat free, gluten-free, and nut-free.
Onions: Onions are an easy, affordable, and effective way to feed healthy gut bacteria and optimize mental health. From adding raw onions to salads to preparing fancy Blue Cheese French Onion Soup, the possibilities are endless.
Garlic: For millennium, garlic has been recognized as a first line of defense against stress due to its high sulfur content that increases levels of the antioxidant Glutathione. Garlic is said to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, and is a breeze to add to scores of recipes.
Cherries: If any of your customers suffer from insomnia or are simply having trouble winding down at night, consider featuring cherries as a star ingredient on your menu. Cherries and cherry juice boost melatonin levels in the body, also known as ‘the sleep hormone.’ For improved sleep quality and duration, pamper your diners with decadent dishes that include a cherry on top!
Vitamin C: The most iconic nutrient when it comes to boosting the immune system and warding off viruses and infections, Vitamin C helps lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and blood pressure during times of high anxiety. As corona ravages on in certain areas, be sure to add plenty of citrus fruits to your menu, including oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemon, limes, pomelo, and mandarins.
Oatmeal: Did you know that the complex carbohydrates in oatmeal boost serotonin production and that oats are choc-full of calming magnesium and potassium? Add hot oatmeal to your breakfast and brunch menus, served with optional cinnamon, walnuts, dates, raisins, and yogurt. This comfort food alone can set your customers up for a more tranquil day!
Stress Reducing Herbs and Teas
To help calm your customers’ frazzled nerves, update your restaurant’s menu with the following recommended herbal tea varieties and herbs: Chamomile tea, green tea, black tea, barley tea, mint, peppermint oil, Valerian root, and passionflower.
It’s Official: Dark Chocolate Reduces Stress
Here’s great news for chocolate lovers everywhere. Consumption of dark chocolate relieves stress at the molecular level, inducing a feeling of calmness by reducing stress hormones and boosting levels of serotonin. Its cocoa content is further said to improve cognitive function and mood. It is a recommended diet addition for individuals suffering from high anxiety and for anyone seeking comfort in the wake of corona’s ebbs and flows.
Finally, if your chocoholic cravings have just been ignited, take a bite into the following mouth-watering recipe for a stress-relieving dark chocolate smoothie. Your customers will love it – and you will love the boost in business it brings your way.
Decadent Dark Chocolate Smoothie Recipe
- 1 cup of unsweetened milk
- 1 cup of Swiss Chard
- 1/2 avocado
- 4-5 dark chocolate pieces
- 1/2 cup raspberries
- 3-5 ice cubes
- Place all ingredients in a high-performance blender.
- Blend until smooth and creamy.
Self-Care During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The corona pandemic has upended our daily routines and much of our future planning. Now more than ever is the time to practice self-care in all its forms, including proper nutrition, sleep, physical activity, and to delve into tools and techniques that promote physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health.
In the words of Dr. Carter, sociologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California in Berkeley: “This is a time of incredible anxiety and stress. Focusing on what makes us feel nourished, on what gives us meaning, is part of easing those feelings and giving us a more solid foundation.”
As a restaurateur, you have an important role to play! Helping your customers make healthful food choices can go a long way in helping them cope with the taxing effects of stress and restoring them to well-being.
Good Luck & Best of Health!