New research shows vegetarian and vegan diets associated with up to 73% lower risk of COVID-19
A major new study published this week in the journal Nutrients has found that people following predominantly plant-based or vegetarian diets have a significantly lower risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to those who regularly eat meat.
Researchers from universities in Italy and Brazil analyzed health and dietary data from over 2800 adults across multiple countries. Participants self-reported their dietary patterns as well as any COVID-19 infections and symptoms over 2020 and 2021.
The results showed a striking difference:
|COVID-19 Risk Compared to Non-Vegetarians
The researchers concluded that predominantly plant-based diets are associated with a lower likelihood of COVID-19 infection and severity.
Supporting Evidence on Plant-Based Diets and Immunity
This new research supports a growing body of evidence linking plant-rich diets with better immune function and lower risk from COVID-19 and other viruses.
Last year, another study found vegetarians have a 25% lower risk of developing infectious diseases including COVID-19. Research has shown plant foods boost antioxidant levels, reduce inflammation, and optimize immune cells—whereas meat, eggs and dairy can trigger inflammatory pathways.
Dietary Guidelines Shift Towards More Plants, Less Meat
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, global dietary guidelines are increasingly promoting plant-forward eating patterns. The Brazilian Ministry of Health now recommends moderate consumption of meat, eggs and dairy, with a focus on antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Many experts have been advocating these dietary changes for years. Dr. Kim Williams, past President of the American College of Cardiology, stated: “Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes contain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that boost immunity. This may be why those on plant-based diets seem to be more resilient to viruses.”
Future Pandemic Preparation and Plant-Based Eating Patterns
Increased future pandemic risk makes understanding the immune-supporting effects of plant foods more important than ever before. While more research is still needed, the current evidence indicates that populations should consume more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, and less meat and dairy, as part of pandemic preparation and response efforts.
Governments, medical institutions and healthcare workers can promote plant-forward dietary patterns to optimize public immunity. Food industries and school systems may also shift towards more plant-based and flexitarian menu options.
At the individual level, people wanting to boost their immunity can focus on getting more diverse plants in their diets, especially deeply colored fruits and vegetables. Those considering switching to vegetarian or vegan diets should ensure their diets contain sufficient iron, zinc and vitamin B12.
The Bottom Line: More Plants for Immune Resilience
The takeaway message is consistent: predominantly plant-based diets are linked to lower risks from COVID-19, likely due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties improving immune defense.
These beneficial effects also apply to other viruses and health conditions apart from the current coronavirus pandemic.
So whether preparing for the next pandemic threat, or simply wanting to stay healthy every day – eat more plants! Roughly three to four servings of vegetables and a couple portions of fruit each day are ideal targets. Beans, lentils, nuts and whole grains also optimize immunity.
Balancing that with fewer servings per week of meat, eggs and dairy supports health and resilience. This flexitarian-style diet provides ideal nutrition for robust immunity.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.