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COVID-19: How you can use nutrition and supplements to stay physically - and mentally - healthy

COVID-19: Wie Du Ernährung und Supplements verwenden kannst, um körperlich – und geistig - gesund zu bleiben

By Nikki Hancocks

While the current global crisis brings a lot of uncertainty to many aspects of our lives, there is one thing that remains certain - our diet can help us get through it all better.

One thing we know for sure is that what we eat plays a role in the health of our immune system and how we feel. When you consider the links between dietary factors, inflammation and mood, it makes sense to try to minimize any potential nutrient deficiencies that can lead to increased inflammation in the body.

Aside from the dangers to physical health, the current situation can also lead to all kinds of unpleasant feelings, ranging from deep worry to paralyzing anxiety.

Foods rich in specific nutrients are known to relieve and prevent anxiety and depression, reduce inflammation in the body and ultimately improve immune system function.


Prebiotics are considered by many to be a key nutritional component in improving mental health. The important role of the so-called gut-brain connection is supported by a large body of scientific research and we also know that poor digestive health can lead to the release of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body. In addition to this, it is known that depression and anxiety can be caused and promoted not only by chemical imbalances but also by inflammation in the body.

Coupled with the knowledge that the immune system is primarily located in the gut, it is easy to understand that the key nutrient source of bacteria in the gut, known as prebiotics, plays a crucial role in both maintaining positive mental wellbeing and strengthening the immune system.

Specific bacteria whose growth is typically promoted by prebiotics are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, with positive changes most commonly observed in Bifidobacteria. In addition, the fermentation of prebiotics by the bacteria in the gut leads to the production of beneficial short-chain fatty acids, which have direct and indirect health benefits.

Although the richest sources of prebiotics are often found in less commonly consumed foods such as chicory and dandelion leaves, there are also foods that are easier to incorporate into the daily diet such as cooked and then cooled potatoes or pasta, overnight oats, raw oatmeal, onions, garlic, legumes, and green banana flour as an ingredient in smoothies.

Antioxidants and polyphenols

Antioxidants and polyphenols are real powerhouses that not only reduce inflammation in the body, but also play a supporting role in many of the body's systems involved in wellbeing. In addition to this, some of these compounds have recently been found to also support gut health via their own prebiotic activity.

If you can't leave the house and/or are unable to buy fresh fruit and vegetables for whatever reason, other options to get these important nutrients include eating vitamin E and selenium rich nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, almonds, Brazil nuts, as well as other high fat foods such as avocados and extra virgin olive oil.

Of course, it's recommended to continue eating fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables - and just because there are no more frozen fruits or vegetables in the supermarket doesn't mean you can't buy fresh berries and fresh vegetables to put in the freezer and add to smoothies or other dishes when you need them.


Magnesium is often referred to as the calming mineral as it supports the conversion of 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) - the intermediate in the synthesis of serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan - into serotonin.

Today, many people suffer from a magnesium deficiency without realizing it and this deficiency has the potential to affect your ability to naturally improve your mood through increased serotonin production. For this reason, adequate dietary magnesium intake is essential to promote a positive mood.

Key foods rich in magnesium include whole grains, wheat bran, broccoli, raspberries, nuts and seeds, natural nut butters, beans, bananas and cocoa/dark chocolate. Of course, magnesium supplements can also help to prevent a magnesium deficiency.

Vitamin D

It's no surprise that vitamin D - the sunshine vitamin - appears on the list of nutrients to stabilize mental health. Scientific research continues to show the importance of the role vitamin D plays in maintaining optimal physical and mental health.

Although the exact mechanisms are still being researched, we know that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a number of inflammatory diseases including type II diabetes, arthritis and even cardiovascular disease.

A study of nearly 12,600 subjects over a four-year period found that higher blood levels of vitamin D were associated with a significantly reduced risk of depression, particularly in people with a history of depression.

In addition to this, vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal immune system function and it has been shown that even low levels of vitamin D, which are not yet in the range of deficiency, can increase the risk of infectious diseases.

Natural sunlight is the best option for a good vitamin D supply, but this is often not available in sufficient quantities, especially at times when the risk of respiratory infections is at its highest. Apart from cod liver oil, foods only contain small amounts of vitamin D, which are generally not sufficient to cover the daily requirement.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to play a beneficial role in reducing inflammation in the body and there are three different types of omega-3 fatty acids that are usually focused on: DHA, EPA and ALA.

DHA - docosahexaenoic acids - are long-chain fatty acids that make up part of the membranes of our brain cells and play a role in transmitting chemical signals from cell to cell. They are also commonly promoted to support cardiovascular health.

EPA - eicosapentaenoic acid - is another long-chain fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation and has been linked to improved mood.

DHA and EPA are found in fatty cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, mackerel and halibut. They are also found in some vegan microalgae sources, which are considered to be the original source of these fatty acids in the food system.

ALA is found in hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and some varieties of dark green leafy vegetables including cabbage and spinach. In the human body, only a very small percentage of the ALA consumed is converted into EPA (about 6%), which can then be converted into DHA (at a rate of about 3.8%). For this reason, ALA is far less effective than EPA and DHA in improving mood and heart health.




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