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This One Increasingly Popular Diet May Protect Against COVID-19, Science Says

More people are hopping on this eating trend—especially considering its benefits for the immune system.

If you're looking for all the ways to protect yourself against COVID-19 (and really, who's not?), here's great news: A growing body of research is finding that a popular diet that's rapidly growing in popularity (40% of Americans are currently on it, according to a December 2019 New York Times report) may also be able to help protect you from the virus.

Yes, plant-based eating may help defend your immune system against the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, a recent article on Medical News Today explains. That's because a diet rich in fruits and vegetables contains several micronutrients (such as zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and E), antioxidants, and polyphenols that can provide your body with some of the greatest natural defenses against infections like SARS-CoV-2. The article also notes several studies, as well as recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), that have touted the health benefits of eating mostly plants in order to strengthen your immune system.

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Perhaps the most important benefit of plant-based eating in relation to COVID-19 is that the diet can help combat inflammation. A 2015 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that diets stocked with fruit, vegetables, and whole grains—with seeds, nuts, and legumes as the protein sources—can quiet physiological inflammation that meat and excess fat can cause.

A separate study in January 2021 study found a strong link between systemic inflammation and severe cases of COVID-19. The researchers evaluated the presence of C-reactive protein, which is a telling marker for systemic inflammation, among nearly 3,000 patients who had COVID-19 between March and April 2020. They found that inflammation was "strongly associated … with critical illness, and mortality in COVID-19 [patients]." Critical illness was classified as the need for intensive care admission, ventilator support, or transfer to hospice.

In other words, following a plant-based diet can help in strengthening your body's natural defenses against COVID-19, and/or potentially reduce your risk of serious complications if you happen to contract it.

To arm yourself with even more wisdom in the fight against COVID-19, check out the one thing you should drink after you get the vaccine, and sign up for our newsletter for the latest healthy eating news.

Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy