Eating a plant-rich diet helps to fight Covid-19, latest study suggests

Author: Molly Pickering

Read Time:   |  20th July 2021

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Results from the largest Covid study ever suggest that people who eat a plant-rich diet are more protected against the risks of Covid-19


An apple a day keeps Covid at bay, literally! Results from the latest Covid study suggests eating a plant-rich diet can protect against the virus.

600,000 contributors worked with ZOE COVID STUDY to fill in a detailed diet questionnaire about the food they were eating before and during the pandemic.

The data was analysed by Harvard Medical School and King’s College London, mapping the reports against COVID symptoms and positive tests reported in the app.

Furthermore, the results highlighted that people who eat a high-quality, plant-rich diet are less likely to catch COVID-19 or end up in the hospital with it.


Measuring diet quality

Rather than looking at specific foods or nutrients, the survey was designed to look at broader dietary patterns which are more reflective of how the contributors actually eat.

Each person’s answer was compiled to produce a ‘diet quality score’ that reflects the overall nutritional value of their typical diet.

Moreover, the diets with ‘high-quality scores’ contained a larger amount of plant-based, whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

Diets with higher processed foods and refined carbohydrates scored lower.

In addition, people who ate the highest quality diet were around 10% less likely to develop Covid-19, compared to those with a lower quality diet, and 40% less likely to become severely ill.

According to the ZOE study: “This is the first time that diet has been shown to reduce the risk of developing the disease.”


Better food for all

Unsurprisingly, the results suggested that the impact of diet was amplified by individual life situations.

People living in low-income neighbourhoods and having the lowest quality diet were around 25% more at risk from Covid-19 than people in more affluent communities who were eating in the same way.

Based on the results, it is predicted that nearly a quarter of cases could have been prevented if these differences in diet quality and wealth had not existed.

Study co-lead and reader in nutritional science at King’s College, Dr Sarah Berry shared: “Access to healthier food is important to everyone in society, but our findings tell us that helping those living in poorer areas to eat more healthily could have the biggest public health benefits.”

There has never been a more crucial time to fight against food poverty and to ensure everyone has access to nutritional, plant-based foods.

Ready to try something new? Here’s our guide to eating a healthy vegan diet on a budget!

Written by

Molly Pickering

Molly is the Digital Executive and former podcast host at Anthem's Vegan Food & Living, she also works across other titles including Women's Running and Classic Pop to create affiliate content for the website. Starting out as a Digital Marketing Apprentice at Vegan Food & Living in 2021, within 14 months Molly was shortlisted for ‘Best Editorial Assistant’ at the BSME Talent Awards 2022 and won the BCS Special Recognition award for Digital Marketing Apprentice of the Year in 2022

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