Although summer is fast approaching, May is always a fairly stressful time of year filled with late-night library sessions and fretting about exams (which explains why I’ve not been posting regularly…I’d much rather write this blog that revise statistics but I don’t think learning about the benefits of healthy cheesecake would have really been conducive to me passing).
I’ve written before about comfort eating, how we often turn to food in times of stress. Eating makes us feel nutured, which acts as a mechanism to soothe high emotions. When we are stressed, the hormone cortisol is released in excess. The primary functions of cortisol is boost energy in our bodies by to increasing sugar intake. Cortisol interrupts our hunger system in several ways by suppressing carbohydrate digestion and blocking insulin release. This explains why we might crave high sugar foods in times of stress, as our bodies have depleted energy resources. So that 4 o’clock pick-me up muffin that is a daily essential during revision time is actually your bodies reaction to stress and low energy.
I don’t need to bang on about the problem with relying on sugar for energy or that eating high sugar food is only going to make stress worse, so instead I’m focusing on the positives – how can we use food to help us when we’re stress?
I devised a recipe where each component is designed to help you relax and destress: miso-glazed aubergine steaks with green tea rice.
When it comes to the association between physical and psychological wellbeing, the gut-brain connection is often overlooked. Our intensites have millions of nerves that feedback to the brain, meaning that our digestive processes heavily influence neural functioning and vice versa. This somewhat explains why digestive malfunctions like IBS are triggered by stress. When the brain is overloaded it creates inflammation in the gut, thus producing IBS-like symptoms. So looking after your stomach and digestive system is a way of indirectly helping your brain. Fermented foods are a great way to improve the health of your gut. Please note, this doesn’t mean you should all go an drink a 6-pack of beer when you’re stressed…although a cold glass of beer after a long stint in the library is actually pretty damn relaxing. You can either ferment your own fruit and vegetables (which is great for you but also quite time consuming and difficult) or eat shop bought fermented foods such as miso, sourdough, anything pickled, sauerkraut, soy sauce, some yoghurt and cheese products. My personal favourite is miso, it has a strong but complex umami flavour which really enhances the meaty flavour of veg such as mushrooms or aubergine.
I’ve paired this with green tea rice – green tea contains theanine, which helps to relaxation our nervous system, reduce anxiety and elevate mood. By boiling the rice in green tea, the healing properties and subtle flavours infuse into the meal.
So here’s the recipe – I know it’s easy to think that cooking is an added stress to your day when you have a million things to do but it also provides a great opportunity to just take a break, relax and eat damn good food.
Miso-glazed aubergine steaks on green tea rice:
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or any oil you prefer)
3 tablespoons white miso paste
3 tablespoons mirin (or sweet wine)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 pinch Chinese five spice
Brown rice or quinoa
4 green tea bags
1 cup edamame
2 garlic gloves
1 pinch ginger
Chopped spring onions and sesame seeds for garnish
For the aubergine:
1. Cut the aubergine into chunky slices and brush with coconut oil. Season well
2. Lightly score the flesh in diagonal lines, roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
3. Whisk together the miso paste, mirin, soy sauce, Chinese five spice and honey. Season with salt and pepper
4. Pour half of the glaze and grill for around 1 minute until the glaze begins to bubble slightly.
5. Flip the aubergine steaks, cover in the glaze and grill for 1 minute.
For the rice:
1. Cover tea bags in 3 cups of boiling water for about 5-8 minutes.
2. Remove tea bags and combine rice, garlic, ginger, and tea in the pan. Bring to a boil, cover pan and simmer 10 minutes.
3. Add edamame and cover pan again. Cook 5-10 minutes more until rice is fluffy.
To serve, place aubergine steaks on a bed of the rice and garnish with spring onions and sesame seeds.