March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign that focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthy eating habits. For those of us managing health conditions for yourself, taking care of your kids’ health needs, helping care for older parents, or some combination of those, finding the time and energy to focus on nutrition can be a challenge. But even a few small, simple changes can work wonders.
Did you know the foods we eat can have a significant impact on mood and stress levels? And there are even some foods that are proven to have stress-relieving qualities. Studies have shown that these foods contain neuroprotective vitamins and minerals, as well as help reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase the “happy hormones” serotonin and dopamine.
Here are five foods to reduce stress, and some easy ways to enjoy them.
Blueberries: Layer blueberries with plain Greek yogurt, and top with a drizzle of honey and some chopped nuts for a sweet + simple breakfast or snack.
Artichokes: Stir canned or marinated artichoke hearts into pasta dishes, or add them on top of your pizza for a healthy boost.
Salmon: Place salmon filets (skin-side down) in a baking dish and season with your favorite spices (try garlic, dill, or basil), top with sliced lemon, and then throw them in the oven at 400 degrees until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Sweet Potatoes: For a stress-soothing side dish for that salmon, dice sweet potatoes, toss with olive oil and salt + pepper, and roast at 400 degrees. Or make it a main by loading baked sweet potatoes with toppings like black beans, salsa, and avocado.
Dark Chocolate: Stir some cacao powder into your morning coffee, or eat a square of 70% dark chocolate for dessert after lunch or dinner.