The Science of Stress: Getting to Good

When we think about stress or being stressed, there’s a negative feeling that follows. After all, with synonyms like strain, pressure, worry, anxiety, trouble, and difficulty, the connotation by nature is a negative one.

However, not all stress is bad. There is a level of stress that is good for you. It’s called eustress (/yo͞oˈstres/) and it’s the kind that motivates you to achieve your goals. It’s that adrenaline-pumping excitement you have toward completing a deadline or checking something off your to-do list. And, in the end, the right amount of eustress can lead you to happiness, fulfillment, and success.

The goal should be eliminating stress that causes trouble, worry, and anxiety, and replacing it with eustress.

Here’s Why
If decreasing anxiety and worry while increasing happiness and fulfillment aren’t motivation enough, take a look at the following information about the impact of stress on the body.

When your body is stressed, it may need more of the following nutrients just to function properly:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K
  • Magnesium (found in dark chocolate)
  • Calcium (found in dairy products)
  • Phosphorous (found in meats and cheeses)
  • Chromium (found in shellfish)
  • Selenium (found in nuts and seeds)
  • Zinc (found in seafood)
  • Potassium (found in leafy greens)

Feeling the need to mind such an overwhelming list will only cause more stress. Your best bet is to focus on ways you can decrease or eliminate the bad stress while increasing the good.

Check Your Plate
As with many things that affect our bodies, good and bad stress are impacted by what we eat. If you’re seeking some simple tips that will help you eliminate the bad and increase the good, consider the following 8 good mood foods:

  1. Lean meats. Chicken and turkey are high in tryptophan. Eating foods high in tryptophan elevates serotonin levels, which enhances the sense of well-being.
  2. Fish and nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, flaxseed oil, and walnuts, have been shown to alleviate inflammation, which prevents surges of stress hormones and may reduce the risk of depression.
  3. Low-fat dairy. Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, and eggs are high in vitamin B12, which has been linked with lower levels of depression.
  4. Leafy greens. Veggies like kale are high in folate, which is linked with low levels of depression.
  5. Citrus fruits. High in vitamin C, citrus fruit is linked to reduced stress hormones and a strengthened immune system.
  6. Whole grains. Complex carbs like bread, pasta, rice, and quinoa elevate serotonin levels and provide sustained energy.
  7. Black tea. Drinking black tea has been associated with lower levels of hormones and a calm state.
  8. Raw veggies. Crunch on fresh veggies for a rich source of antioxidants, which reduce free radical damage. Plus, chomping on veggies can help you work out aggression.

Finding Balance
A stressor is a term used to describe any event that triggers your sympathetic nervous system, which initiates hormonal secretions in your body to deal with stress. Stressors range from things we often consider good, like exercise, to the obviously bad, such as fear. Too much of either can be damaging. Yet, one of the simplest strategies for easing stress is right on your plate.

The nutrients in the food you eat can enhance your sense of well-being, alleviate depression, boost mood, and improve your energy. This, along with other stress-alleviating methods—meditation, low impact exercise, and nutritional supplements—is a great start to achieving a necessary and healthy balance.



In partnership with EXOS, a world leader in human performance and the management company for CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.

Anschutz Health and Wellness Center