Does Diet Make a Difference in the Fight Against COVID-19?


What you eat may help protect you against developing severe COVID-19.

Researchers surveyed front-line doctors and nurses from six different countries (United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain), who were directly exposed to COVID-19 patients on a daily basis. They found that among those who contracted the disease, individuals who ate a plant-based diet were 72% less likely to develop moderate-to-severe COVID-19, than those who did not eat plant-based diets.

Additionally, those who ate plant-based diets or who were pescatarian (people who eat fish but no red meat) were 43% less likely to test positive for COVID-19.

There was a type of diet that increased likelihood of getting severe COVID-19, however. Individuals who ate low-carbohydrate, high protein diets were about four times more likely to develop serious cases of COVID-19 than people following plant-based diets.

Interestingly enough, it didn’t matter how much they weighed, whether they smoked, how physically active they were, what supplements they took, or whether they had a medical condition known to increase COVID-19 risk. Nor did their age, gender, or race/ethnicity matter – their diet made all the difference.

What is it about plant-based or pescatarian diets that are so protective of your health?

Plant-based diets contain high amounts of plant foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans – and little to no animal products, such as beef, pork, chicken, and processed meats like sausage or spam. Pescatarians typically follow a plant-based diet with the addition of fish. These diets contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that support healthy functioning of the body, including a strong immune system.

Studies show that those who do not get enough nutrients are more easily overcome by colds, flu, and other viral infections.

To boost your immunity, make sure that plant foods comprise at least 50% of each meal. An easy way to ensure you get a variety of nutrients is to eat plant foods from each of the following color groups every day (see examples):

  • Red & pink: Tomatoes, watermelon, red bell pepper, apple, guava, dragonfruit
  • Green: Spinach, bok choy, taro leaves, wakame or green ogo seaweed, cucumbers, cabbage
  • Orange & yellow: Oranges, mango, papaya, pumpkin, breadfruit, Mana Ulu taro
  • Blue & purple: Eggplant, Okinawan sweet potato, grapes, blueberries, Lehua taro
  • White & brown: Banana, onions, garlic, potato, mushroom, soursop

In addition, try to eat fish at least three meals per week. This includes both fresh and canned fish. Prepare fish broiled, steamed, or baked – or eat raw fish to minimize oils that are used in frying.

Eating a plant-based is not a foreign concept. The traditional Hawaiian diet was plant-based and pono, as it was a diet that perpetuated health and vitality. Low carb, high protein diets go against our traditional pattern of eating and are not optimal for promoting immunity or health.