Trying to eat healthfully shouldn't add extra worry and anxiety to your life. But it is important to know that what you eat (and don't eat), as well as when and how often you eat, can impact your mood, your energy levels, and how well you handle adversity and tension.

Here are a few dietary do's and don'ts for those dealing with an anxiety disorder or day-to-day stresses.

Do focus on whole foods. Research has linked a "whole food" diet to reduced risk of depression and anxiety disorders. This is a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, omega-3-rich meats and fish, and whole grains over the so-called "Western" diet, common in North America, which overflows with fried foods, refined grains, and sugary products.

Do know your nutrients. You don't need to go back to school and take courses in nutrition, but it might be helpful to know some of the key nutrients that nourish mental health. Vitamin C, for instance, has been shown to help balance the body's output of stress hormones during tense moments. The B vitamins, including folate, niacin, and riboflavin, support your nervous system and replenish the nutrients used up when your body reacts to ongoing stresses. And magnesium helps to calm tense muscles and to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. See the box below for food sources of these nutrients.

Don't cut carbs. Carbohydrates have a mixed reputation when it comes to anxiety. It all depends on which type of carbs you consume. Avoid simple carbohydrates, which are found in sugary foods, as they can cause your blood sugar to dip and make you feel unsteady. Instead, add more complex carbohydrates to your diet, like those found in whole grains, to help your body create serotonin, a hormone that sends feel-good messages to the brain and supports quality sleep. Complex carbs are also digested more slowly, so you will feel full for longer and be less prone to digestive problems.

Do put protein on your plate. Select leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry to get the protein you need for energy without adding saturated fat and cholesterol. One type of amino acid called tryptophan helps your body to produce the "feel-good" hormone serotonin.

Don't trim all the fat. Consuming foods that contain too much saturated fat can increase "bad" cholesterol and put you at risk of heart attack. But your body needs fat as an energy source, and too little fat in your diet may lead to mood swings, anger, and hostility. Choose foods that contain healthier fats, like those rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fats may help support your body with a steadier attitude toward stress.

Don't over-complicate things. Food should be your anxiety ally, not your enemy. But for some people, food causes its own anxieties. Keep things simple with the "eat what you see" rule. To make this simple rule work, all you have to do is keep healthier foods on hand and unhealthy foods out of sight and out of mind. Stock your pantry with good-for-you staple foods, like brown rice, soup stock, pasta, beans, olive oil, and loads of flavourful herbs and spices. That way, you have ingredients on hand to cook a meal or craft a snack - and you'll be less likely to skip meals or grab greasy takeout.

Don't skip meals. Skipping meals sets your blood sugar levels off on a wild rollercoaster ride and the dips can adversely affect your mood and cause symptoms that feel an awful lot like a panic attack. But when you eat frequent small meals throughout the day, you keep your blood sugar level relatively steady.

Don't ignore your body's dietary distress signals. Ever eaten something and felt "off" afterwards? You may have an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods, which can create symptoms other than the more expected hives or wheezing. Food allergies and sensitivities have been known to trigger light-headed, faint sensations and to affect mood and cause irritability and anxiety.

Sources of nutrients that may help ease anxiety:

B vitamins: leafy green vegetables, whole grains, eggs, poultry, milk, soybeans

Vitamin C: oranges, papaya, strawberries, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale

Magnesium: pumpkin, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, leafy green vegetables

Complex carbohydrates: oatmeal, whole-grain breads, brown rice, sweet potatoes, carrots, green vegetables

Healthier fats: omega-3 fatty acids can be found in oily fish - salmon, mackerel, herring, light tuna, walnuts, flaxseed, beans, tofu, and olive oil; monounsaturated fats are another good choice and can be found in avocados, almonds, cashews, and peanuts

Lean protein: fish, shellfish, skinless chicken or turkey, loin or tenderloin cuts of red meat, low-fat or fat-free dairy, egg whites, egg substitutes, beans, legumes, tofu, soymilk

Tryptophan: poultry, milk, bananas, oats, cheese, nuts, peanut butter, sesame seeds