Plant-based diets and COVID-19

According to a new study¹, published in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, following a plant-based diet may reduce the severity of COVID-19. 

Researchers investigated the link between disease and different dietary patterns, surveying 2,884 health care workers, from six countries, with ‘substantial exposure’ to COVID-19. Participants were asked to complete an online survey for a period of two months – providing information on demographic characteristics, dietary information, and COVID-19 outcomes.


The survey revealed that those participants who followed a plant-based diet had a 73% lower chance of experiencing moderate to severe COVID-19 illness. In contrast, those following a diet that was low in carbohydrates and high in protein were 48% more likely to experience moderate to severe COVID-19 illness.


Intake of legumes, nuts, and vegetables was higher among those following plant-based diets. These foods contain fibre and vitamins A, C and E, which support the immune system and overall health.


In response to their findings, the authors of the study recommend a plant-based diet that avoids pro-inflammatory foods, such as red and processed meat - which are associated with negative health outcomes - to help lessen the severity of COVID-19.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider, such as an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, before making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have underlying medical conditions or specific dietary requirements. Nutritional needs can vary greatly from person to person, and individual health circumstances may require personalised dietary recommendations.

¹ Kim H, Rebholz CM, Hegde S, et al. Plant-based diets, pescatarian diets and COVID-19 severity: a population-based case–control study in six countries. BMJ Nutr Prev Health. Published online June 7, 2021. doi: 10.1136/bmjnph-2021-000272