Plant-Based Diet May Reduce Severity of COVID-19

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If the environment and health of your colon doesn’t have you reducing meat intake, perhaps risk of COVID-19 will encourage you.

A recent study evaluating 6 different countries and risk of COVID-19 was published in the BMJ of Nutrition, Prevention and Health. According to the study, those on a meat free, plant-based diet had a 73% lower risk of severe disease based on a study conducted in over 2880 healthcare providers caring for COVID-19 patients. 

In patients who ate fish, but no meat, researchers discovered 59% lower odds of severe disease. The study does not prove that different diets protect against severe cases of COVID-19 and diet didn’t reduce the risk of becoming infected.

The diet didn’t seem to lower the risk of contacting the disease and can’t prove that a specific diet protects against severe COVID-19, but a plant-based diet is high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that support a healthy immune system. Fish offers vitamin D and omega-3-fatty acids that offer anti-inflammatory properties as well. 

Unfortunately, intake of healthy foods like vegetables and whole grains has decreased during the pandemic.

In a separate study, researchers who collected dietary data in June 2020 for 3,916 U.S. adults found that many had increased their consumption of unhealthy snacks, desserts, and sugary drinks during the pandemic. "Individuals may need help to avoid making these dietary changes permanent," said Dr. Sohyun Park of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coauthor of the study.  

How can you help your clients reduce the risk of severe COVID?

  • Encourage the vaccine for starters! Individuals that are vaccinated are much less likely to contract or spread COVID.
  • Advise clients to add a fruit or vegetable (or both) at every meal.
  • Provide recipes for plant-forward, meatless meals like beans and rice, lentil soup or grain bowls.
  • Swap out unhealthy snacks for nuts, seeds, dried fruit or yogurt.
  • Try flavored seltzer water in place of sugary drinks or alcohol.
  • Refer clients to mental health professionals for stress reduction.

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD


Hyunju Kim1,2Casey M Rebholz1,2Sheila Hegde3Christine LaFiura4Madhunika Raghavan4John F Lloyd5Susan Cheng5 and Sara B Seidelmann6,7 Plant-based diets, pescatarian diets and COVID-19 severity: a population-based case–control study in six countries. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health, June 8, 2021

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