Anxiety already feels terrible. The last thing you want to do is make it worse for yourself. Some foods can worsen your anxiety symptoms by making you jittery, irritable, lethargic, and contribute to unstable blood glucose levels. Fortunately, there are also plenty of foods that can help keep you stable, boost brain function, and calm frazzled nerves. Read on to see what to eat or drink, and what you should avoid.

Caffeine Is Not Your Friend

You might feel like you just have to have that morning java to get your day started, but don’t. Caffeine acts as a stimulant to your nervous system. In people with anxiety, caffeine can cause racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating and shaking. Caffeine might also keep you up late at night, and the lack of sleep will play havoc with your mood during the day. Skip the regular coffee and ditch the sodas. Sip on water infused with your favorite fruits instead, for extra hydration and a vitamin boost.

Alcohol Use Can Easily Turn Into Abuse

Alcohol acts as a depressant. However, the cruel irony is that this can backfire on people with anxiety disorders. About 20 percent of people with social anxiety disorder suffer from alcohol abuse. The dehydration, impairment of brain function, and fluctuations in blood sugar can worsen anxiety symptoms, encouraging you to reach for another drink. This becomes a vicious cycle. Reach for calming herbal teas instead, such as chamomile or valerian.

Highly-Processed Will Make You Feel Low

Highly-processed foods are high in trans fats and simple sugars. These are linked to inflammation, which is a factor in mental health as well as cardiovascular health. Trans fats have also been linked to mood disorders. Skip the hot dogs or salami and opt for turkey instead. It’s rich in tryptophan, which our bodies use to produce serotonin. The hormone serotonin regulates sleep and moods. Skip the cake and try a bowl of fresh berries, packed with antioxidants. Ditch the fried chicken and grab some smoked salmon, filled with brain-boosting omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Light Doesn’t Make It Right

“Light” versions of foods often sacrifice flavor to take out the fat. The manufacturers then put some flavor back in by adding high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Like many of the culprits in this list, HFCS can cause spikes and dips in blood sugar, which makes you irritable. Artificial sweetners have been linked to depression in some studies. Instead, have a smaller quantity of the food you want in it’s regular version or find a healthier substitute. Try heart-healthy olive oil and some apple cider vinegar for salad dressing. Make homemade tomato salsa instead of ketchup.

Eating On The Go Is A No Go

We all know fast food is unhealthy, but eating food fast – or not at all – is too. Be mindful of when and how you are eating, not just of what is going into your mouth. To keep blood sugar steady and avoid that hangry mid-day crash, eat several smaller meals throughout the day. Taking the time to savor each bite can also help you de-stress, if even for the 15 minutes you take to dig in.