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Can a Healthier Diet Decrease Your Risk and Severity of COVID-19 Symptoms?

Medically reviewed by Kevin Tin, MD, Nathan Merriman, MD, Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on March 28, 2023

Right from the beginning of COVID-19, doctors noticed that people with certain health problems were at greater risk and often had more severe symptoms of the disease when they contracted it than others without those problems. For example, healthcare teams noticed early in the pandemic that older people, people with asthma or other breathing disorders, people who were overweight, or people who had diabetes were more likely to have severe symptoms if they contracted COVID-19.


It’s also been well documented that nutrition is a factor in many diseases, including those diseases, like diabetes, that have a high risk factor for severe symptoms in COVID-19 cases. With these two facts in mind, is it possible that what you eat can affect whether you will have severe symptoms if you contract COVID-19? That’s what these researchers aimed to discover.


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COVID-19 - Positive Test

COVID-19 - Positive Test

The Study


The study, recently published in Gut, collected data from a pool of more than 500,000 participants. The researchers developed a phone app that participants used to answer questions about exposure to COVID-19 and any symptoms they were experiencing. They also used the app to keep a food diary, recording everything they ate. The researchers combed through the data, looking for both positive and negative associations between foods and severity of COVID-19 symptoms.


The evidence showed that eating a plant-based diet may help prevent severe COVID-19 symptoms. The participants who had diets highest in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods had a 41% lower risk of severe symptoms when they contracted COVID-19 and a 9% reduction of any COVID-19 infection when compared with participants who had diets that were lowest in these foods. 




The evidence continues to show that a plant-based diet can help with many diseases. Those include diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and brain issues. We can now add COVID-19 to the list of diseases that may be helped by eating more plant-based foods. If you’re looking for steps you can take to potentially decrease your risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, it’s all in your hands–or on your plate. The food you eat today can impact your health tomorrow.

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