CASA GRANDE -- Nov. 3 was National Stress Awareness Day, and throughout the month, with the holiday season upon us, it’s a great time to take a deep breath and pay attention to the impact stress can have on daily life.

It’s also a great time to discover stress-free meals and the foods that help lower cortisol levels and reduce stress.

Sometimes called the “stress hormone,” cortisol rates rise when the body feels stress. But over time, high levels of cortisol can lead to inflammation and a higher blood pressure.

Foods that are rich in various B vitamins, including vitamin B12, are believed to help the body metabolize cortisol, lowering stress. Others are those that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and magnesium.

And with the stress of the holidays, what better time is there to experiment with some of the tastiest stress-fighting foods.

Avocados, as well as blueberries, salmon, kale, yogurt, almonds and other foods, are known for their ability to help reduce stress levels.

Aside from stress management, there are plenty of other health benefits to avocados — they’re good for the heart, the brain, the eyes and the stomach. They’re also tasty and versatile and can be used in foods ranging from savory salads to sweet desserts.

Chicken salad-stuffed avocados are easy to prepare, versatile and delicious. They combine the spiciness of salsa with the creaminess of mayonnaise to create an easy-to-assemble dish. The chicken can be switched to tuna, salmon, turkey or just about anything else. The salsa can be spicy or mild; chunky or smooth. And the mayonnaise can be replaced with a vegan version or yogurt, making the dish super versatile and adaptable to any taste.

Best of all, preparing this meal involves no cooking — the ingredients are simply mixed together and served in an avocado. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Salsa chicken salad-stuffed avocados

3 cups cooked chicken, shredded

½ cup salsa

½ cup mayonnaise

2 avocados, sliced in half with pit removed

In a bowl, combine chicken with salsa and mayonnaise. Scoop out a small amount of the avocado, dice and fold into the salad.

Divide salad by putting a large scoop into each avocado half. Garnish with parsley, mint or cilantro.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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