We know that a whole food, plant-based diet is good for overall health but is it possible that such a diet can protect against diseases like COVID-19?
A new study in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health has found evidence that it can. It found that a whole food, plant-based diet is linked to significantly less symptoms from COVID-19 than any other diet.
The study surveyed almost 3,000 health care workers in six countries on their dietary habits and COVID outcomes. These workers had significant (almost daily) exposure to COVID-19 and therefore were considered high-risk for getting the disease.
It’s important to note that the study focused on a diet’s role in the severity of symptoms, not prevention of the disease. We know that many people who get COVID-19 show little to no symptoms (asymptomatic) whereas others feel like they’ve been hit by a freight train with lingering symptoms (long COVID) – or worse (death). So, severity of symptoms is something that varies considerably among people. Why? We can’t know for sure, but your immune system probably has a lot to do with it and your immune system is strengthened or weakened by your lifestyle habits including what you eat. This study presents evidence that your diet can play a role in the severity of symptoms.
The study found that participants who followed a plant-based diet and a pescatarian diet (fish) had a 73% lower chance of having moderate to severe symptoms from COVID-19. The people in this group reported eating lots of nuts, legumes, beans, vegetables, and fruits with the pescatarian sub-group eating fish regularly. In contrast, the group that ate a keto diet of low carbs and high protein from meat reported having a 43% greater chance of having moderate to severe symptoms!
What you eat matters
Eating a diet high in nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables gives you fiber and vitamins A, C, D, and E and other nutrients which all help boost your immune system. In contrast, meat and especially processed meat is inflammatory and has been shown in many studies to raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
You may not be able to prevent getting COVID-19 despite your best efforts but if you do, you want to be able to not only survive the disease but have your body fight it quickly and without severity of symptoms. Science reveals that switching to a plant-based diet and avoiding meat may be one important way to do that.