The COVID-19 pandemic is still very much here, and with the spread of new variants, there’s no true way to know what the future holds. A new prospective cohort study, published earlier this week, considered the links between diet quality and the risk and severity of COVID-19—and we can’t say we’re entirely surprised by the results.
The diet that may lower risk and severity of COVID-19.
Given the associations established between lifestyle factors, metabolic health, and COVID-19, the researchers sought to investigate how diet quality affected the disease—as well as how that intersects with socioeconomic factors.
Using data from over 500,000 participants, they scored diet quality based on a scale that emphasized healthy whole plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables. During months of follow-up, the researchers found that a healthy plant-based diet was associated with a lower risk and lower severity of COVID-19—and for individuals living in areas where that type of food is less available, the association may be even higher.
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“Addressing adverse social determinants of health, such as poor nutrition, has been shown to reduce the burden of certain infectious diseases in the past,” write the authors, “supporting calls for prioritizing social determinants of health in the public health response to COVID-19.”
In the end, they found that “even after accounting for other healthy behaviors, social determinants of health, and virus transmission measures” the data suggests that “a healthy diet was associated with lower risk of COVID-19 and severe COVID-19.”
Why hasn’t nutrition been more a part of the conversation during COVID-19?
Back in September 2020, mindbodygreen posed the question: Why aren’t we talking more about nutrition during COVID-19? And while the conversations are catching up, guidelines maybe haven’t—as Senior Health Editor Kristine Thomason reported, the CDC only discusses nutrition once in their “Food and Coronavirus” guidelines. “But, unfortunately, there’s not a single mention of nutrition as a preventive measure—it’s entirely left out of the conversation on their ‘Prevent Getting Sick‘ section,” she writes.
Since then, the link between diet, nutrition, and COVID-19 severity and infection risk has become more of the conversation, which is good. But this new report is pointing straight toward plant-based eating as the possible “best” diet for helping to lower risk and severity of infection.
What types of foods might you want to eat more of, with this in mind?
While there are other preventive measures you can take to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, perhaps eating a whole-food, plant-based diet could help to further protect you from severe illness. Foods that are rich in immune-supporting nutrients such as zinc and vitamin C are good places to start, and we have a great beginner’s guide to plant-based eating here.