7 must-have nutrients during the pandemic and how to get them without risking exposure

As Americans, what we’re going through is unprecedented — at least within most of our lifetimes.

We’re fighting an invisible enemy and are being asked to change our daily lives to protect ourselves and others.

We’re having to change the way we interact with others. No more running out for dinner at your favorite restaurant or hanging out with your close friends… even family.

Things we used to do regularly without a second thought, like grocery shopping, take preparation and planning before, during and after to avoid coming in contact with COVID-19 and carrying it home.

To say these times are stressful is a bit of an understatement, right?

You’ve read all the advice from the CDC that we, and others, have shared. But beyond handwashing and social distancing what else can you do to get through this with your health?

Well, you know me. I have always turned to nutrition to keep my body well. So, I want to tell you about a handful of nutrients that can boost your brain and your body through this time, and how to get them without braving the grocery stores…

Probiotics and prebiotics

Ample research has made one thing crystal clear about probiotics and prebiotics: They are essential for a healthy gut… and a healthy gut is essential for a strong immune system.

In fact, your gut is the one organ to fight all disease (even cancer). That’s mainly because it’s ground zero for your immune system — and that has far-reaching effects on your total body health… even your brain and your mood.

Yes, the gut-brain connection is strong. In both animal and human studies, probiotics have been shown to help alleviate anxiety (who isn’t experiencing a little right now?), depression and even ease bipolar disease.

So, if being cooped up alone or with family is starting to wear thin, you’ve got all the more reason to consume these gut health-boosting nutrients.

Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria your gut needs, are found aplenty in cultured food, like yogurt and kefir.

Prebiotics are fiber foods, specifically inulin fiber, that fuel your gut bacteria. You can find a good list of them here, including chicory and green bananas which are great sources. But don’t worry if you can’t find them, I have a solution for that.

First, let me explain why you also need the following nutrients…

Antioxidants and polyphenols

Polyphenols are considered prebiotics because they feed the Bifidobacteria in your gut, therefore they benefit your mind and your body.

But they are especially known for their antioxidant activity which is how they protect against oxidative stress and inflammation.

Inflammation is a double-edged sword when it comes to your immune system. When your T-cells, the guards at the gate so to speak, attack an invading pathogen, inflammation is helpful in that attack. But too much inflammation can be more harmful than helpful…

Like when your body is fighting a virus and you may have an underlying condition, like heart disease, or an autoimmune condition where your immune system is overly active. I recently read in a National Geographic article on coronavirus that, “these infections can create a “blood storm” of inflammation that courses throughout a person’s body.” This has been known to cause a plaque rupture that can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Eating a rainbow of deep-colored fruits and vegetables is traditionally the best way to get these inflammation-fighting nutrients into your body. Think blueberries, black currant, cherries, plums and apples, and even cacao and nuts. Some good vegetable sources include spinach, carrots, red onions, and dry legumes. Flaxseeds are also a good source and spices are some of the most potent sources.

Right now, you’ll probably have better luck finding those spices on the store shelves than vegetables because fewer people know they do more than flavor your food.

Magnesium

Deficiency of this important mineral within the standard American diet is a growing concern, perhaps more for its effect on heart health.

But magnesium deficiency is also a known cause of anxiety. No one needs anxiety from a deficiency of nutrients anytime, but much less with our current concerns about coronavirus.

Magnesium is essential in promoting relaxation and helping the brain to increase GABA activity. (GABA is a neurotransmitter involved in relaxation and stress relief.)

Related: 5 diseases magnesium could help you avoid

According to EHO contributor Dr. Geo Espinoza, magnesium is essential for brain, heart and bone health and also serves as a precursor for serotonin and other brain neurotransmitters.

It’s found in many of the same foods I’ve already mentioned.

Vitamin D and vitamin K2

Even though you’re practicing social distancing, hopefully, you can get outside to soak up some vitamin D, even if it’s just from the backyard, your porch or an open window — because it’s the quickest way to boost your spirits.

Numerous studies show that low levels of Vitamin D are associated with depressive symptoms… Although not everyone agrees on the link between D and your mood, a massive study of 31,424 participants discovered that low D levels and depression went hand-in-hand.

And, a 2018 meta-analysis found that vitamin D supplementation could help reduce depressive symptoms if you’re deficient in the nutrients.

Throw in some vitamin K2 and things only get better… That’s because vitamin K2, along with D isn’t just good for your heart, it’s good for your brain.  Studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin K2 can prevent both depression and anxiety by feeding your brain the proteins and lipids it needs to function optimally.

Good food sources of vitamin D are salmon, tuna and eggs. You can find K2 (if your grocer still has it) in kale, spinach, and broccoli.

And don’t forget many experts believe vitamin D is a strong antiviral.

The easy way to get these nutrients during the crisis

Like me, you’ve been to the grocery store in recent weeks, and you know that toilet paper, hand sanitizer and liquid hand soap are not the only things flying off shelves.

It’s getting increasingly hard to find either frozen or fresh produce. And that’s where my solution comes in to help you get more greens and vegetables, especially ones that include the nutrients listed above, into your diet when you need them most.

I’m talking about making a green powder supplement part of your diet.

Green supplements, not to be confused with capsules or tablet supplements, are powdered mixes you can add to juice or smoothies.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, some contain known superfoods like spirulina, chlorella and green tea extract. Now, as a whole food enthusiast, I can’t say a green powder supplement should replace whole food nutrition. But when most Americans are not getting even their daily RDA, it can certainly help…

Here’s a look at how many people are consuming the recommended servings of vegetables each day:

  • Less than 1% of men and 4% of women ages 18 to 24
  • Less than 6% of men and 9% of women ages 25 to 34
  • Less than 14% of men and 16% of women ages 35 to 49
  • Less than 24% of men and 22% of women ages 50 to 64

With so many people needing to increase their vegetable intake, can supplementing greens powder be considered a viable alternative to eating whole vegetables?

According to Vandana Sheth, a Los-Angeles based registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, many common greens powder ingredients have been linked to improved exercise endurance, diabetes management, and blood lipid levels. In one study of 40 men and women reported in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, those taking a fruit and veggie powder blend daily for 90 days did reduce blood pressure.

You can find various brands, even though right now is probably not the best time to get out and shop, but online your choices are wide open — and you can have them delivered right to your door.

My favorite green powder supplement is Peak Organic Alkalizing Greens.

Peak Organic Alkalizing Greens, contains…

  • Organic Greens Blend – A powerhouse of fermented alkaline-forming grasses including barley, oat, alfalfa, and wheatgrass plus spirulina, broken cell wall chlorella and dulse leaf.
  • Organic Fruit & Vegetable Blend – A special blend of alkalizing kale, carrot, parsley, broccoli, spinach, apple, blueberry, and black current.
  • Organic Fiber Blend – Inulin, flaxseed fiber, and gum acacia encourage and support digestive and intestinal health and help keep your gut in healthy pH balance.
  • Organic Antioxidant & Alkalizing Spice Blend – This blend includes the super mineral Vitakelp, an excellent source of iodine plus nitric oxide producing beet and gut soothing ginger.
  • Enzyme & Probiotic Blend – Enzyme blend of protease, amylase, bromelain, cellulase, lactase, papain and lipase to help digest proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and a probiotic blend of  acidophilus, B. longum, L. casei, L. rhamnosus to help balance intestinal flora.

That basically covers all the nutrients we just went over — and quite a few superfood sources!

Sources:

  1. COVID-19: How to use diet and supplements to maintain immunity… and sanity — nutraingredients.com
  2. 2 natural ways to neutralize bipolar disorder — Easy Health Options
  3. The vitamin duo that beats depression and anxiety — Easy Health Options
  4. 7 symptoms a vitamin D deficiency is dragging you down — Easy Health Options
  5. What Are Greens Powders – and Do You Need Them? — US News
Margaret Cantwell

By Margaret Cantwell

Margaret Cantwell began her paleo diet in 2010 in an effort to lose weight. Since then, the diet has been instrumental in helping her overcome a number of other health problems. Thanks to the benefits she has enjoyed from her paleo diet and lifestyle, she dedicates her time as managing editor of Easy Health Digest™, researching and writing about a broad range of health and wellness topics, including diet, exercise, nutrition and supplementation, so that readers can also be empowered to experience their best health possible.