This worldwide pandemic has changed many aspects of American life. One of the most prominent areas affected by the pandemic is diet as the popularity of plant-based and veganism has risen. A 2020 Food & Health survey done by The International Food Information Council found that 85% of consumer food habits have changed since the pandemic as they are turning to more plant-protein. How does a plant-based diet impact you when contracting COVID-19? Does being vegan protect you against the nasty side effects of this virus? This article will explore these questions.
Being plant-based means that consumers only eat food that is derived from plants. Often plant-based is related to diet while being vegan deals with not only diet but eliminating any products overall that have derived from or been tested on animals.
Studies have shown that incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your diet can lower your risk for heart disease and cancer. Additionally, a statement made by The National Library of science noted that “five or more portions of fruits and vegetables daily significantly increases antibody response and improves immune health”. As we all know a strong immune system is crucial in fighting off illnesses such as COVID-19.
The BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health Journal published a study in which 2,884 health care professionals (frontline workers and doctors) with exposure to COVID- 19 were studied. Their diets included being solely plant-based, pescatarian/ plant based (only consuming fish and seafood in addition to plant-based foods), and meat eaters (poultry and red meats). The study aimed to see based on their diets who would have more severe symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.
The results found that those who were plant-based had a 53-79% lower odd of moderate to severe symptoms of the virus. It is worth noting that there were also other factors that influenced the outcome of this study such as age, race, and lifestyle. The research concluded that “a healthy diet rich in nutrient dense foods may be considered protection against severe COVID-19”.
Pescatarian/ plant-based is a good option for those that want to eat healthier but do not want to be completely plant-based. This option allows you to still indulge in seafood while combining that with the benefits of many plant-based foods as well. According to the study, those who were pescatarian plant based were still at a significantly lower risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms than those who ate poultry and red meat.
An article published in Medical News today noted that there are many vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy immune system that are found in a plant-based diet. Some of these include zinc, selenium, vitamins A, C, and E to name a few.
This article concluded that “by switching to a plant-based diet that includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables or eating more plant-based foods, people will increase their intake of essential minerals and vitamins that support the immune system. This in turn may increase people’s resilience to COVID-19.”
These findings are worth consideration as we go into a time where the virus is continuing to spread, and variants are beginning to form. What we put into our bodies is very important and is the fuel that it uses to fight off virus and infection.
Consider adding some plant-based or vegan meals to your diet this holiday season. You can integrate some of the foods you love with some new, healthy choices. Your body will thank you later!