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Healthy, Plant-Rich Diet May Help Lower Risk of Illness — Even from COVID-19

Poor metabolic health, which is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, has been associated with increased risk and severity of COVID-19. But how much of a factor is a poor diet when it comes to COVID-19?

In a recent study, researchers found that people who maintain healthy eating habits, particularly a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, may have a somewhat lower risk of COVID-19, compared with those who have unhealthy diets. After surveying more than 590,000 adults, researchers found the risk of severe COVID-19, was 41 percent lower among those with plant-rich diets.

“Nine out of 10 Americans aren’t eating their fruits and veggies, so we need to do better,” explains Amy Kimberlain, a registered dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and Care Specialist (CDCES) with Community Health [1] at Baptist Health South Florida. “And by making changes in what we eat, we improve our health overall. Improvements in how we eat also help with other chronic health conditions.”

The researchers emphasize that a healthy diet alone will not provide enough of an immune boost to prevent infection or severe illness from COVID. They say the findings indicate that a poor diet is one of the social and economic contributors to risks associated with the coronavirus.

The findings, published in the journal Gut [2], are derived from U.S. and British adults who participated in a smartphone survey. They revealed if they tested positive for COVID and whether they had any symptoms. They also answered several questions about their weekly consumption of various foods.

“This association may be particularly evident among individuals living in areas with higher socioeconomic deprivation,” the study concludes.

The following are a few suggestions from Ms. Kimberlain when it comes to food and changes to make for a healthier diet. “Sure, there are others,” she says. “But these are where I often start with people on where to change/improve.”