Super Sweets: The Health Benefits of Nutcracker Treats

Amar Ramasar as Mother Ginger, photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy New York City Ballet
Amar Ramasar as Mother Ginger, photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy New York City Ballet

This time of year, we’re used to seeing dancers embodying the flavors of The Nutcracker‘s magical Land of Sweets. But the real-life equivalents of those seasonal treats are more than just holiday guilty pleasures, and have benefits that could help you get through a crazy month of performances. Here are a few reasons to indulge in the spices and flavors of the season—now, and all year long.

Peppermint: This powerhouse herb has an abundance of benefits to help you get through a busy performance season. It’s been known to aid digestion and help calm anxiety, and one study found that inhaling its vapors may improve athletic performance. Smelling peppermint has also been found to increase focus. You don’t just have to get it from candy canes: Try brewing a hot cup of peppermint tea between rehearsals, or to wind down after a long day.

Ginger: This spice has anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease muscle pain and soreness after countless nights of Nutcracker. It can also help to prevent and relieve cold symptoms, which can creep up this time of year. Ginger is great for livening up a smoothie, brewing in tea or using as seasoning in cooking.

Daniel Ulbricht as lead Candy Cane, photo © Balanchine Trust; © Paul Kolnik
Daniel Ulbricht as lead Candy Cane, photo © Balanchine Trust; © Paul Kolnik

Hot cocoa: There are plenty of reasons to indulge in some occasional chocolate—dark chocolate in particular could boost endurance, according to one study. The flavonols in dark chocolate may offer other helpful benefits too, from reducing your levels of stress hormones to helping you be more alert in rehearsal.

Coffee: Chances are, coffee is already a part of your daily routine, but that little caffeine boost might be extra-helpful this time of year. Caffeine’s potential benefits include improving endurance, and activating the parts of the brain that control short-term memory, concentration and focus. Plus, coffee is packed with antioxidants. Just make sure you’re not overdoing it, and remember that a cup of coffee is no substitute for a restful night’s sleep.

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