Poor metabolic health, linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension, has been associated with increased risk and severity of COVID-19. But to what extent is poor diet a factor when it comes to COVID-19?
In a recent study, researchers found that people who maintain healthy eating habits, particularly a diet full of fruits and vegetables, may have a somewhat lower risk of developing COVID-19, compared to those who maintain unhealthy diets. After surveying more than 590,000 adults, the researchers found that the risk of severe COVID-19 cases was 41 percent lower among people who ate diets rich in plants.
“Nine out of 10 Americans are not eating their fruits and vegetables, so we need to improve that,” explains Amy Kimberlain, Registered Dietitian and Certified Educator and Diabetes Care Specialist (CDCES) with Baptist Health Department of Community Health. South Florida. “And by making changes in what we eat, we improve our overall health. Improvements in the way you eat also help with other chronic health conditions. ”
The researchers note that a healthy diet alone will not provide a sufficient immune boost to prevent infection or severe illness from COVID-19. They claim that the results indicate that a poor diet is one of the social and economic factors that contribute to the risks associated with the coronavirus.
The results, published in Gut magazine, are derived from American and British adults who participated in a survey conducted via smartphone. They revealed if they had tested positive for COVID and if they had any symptoms. They also answered several questions about their weekly consumption of various foods.
“This association may be especially evident among individuals living in areas with greater socioeconomic deprivation,” the study concludes.
The following are some suggestions from Kimberlain regarding diet and changes to make to eat a healthier diet. “Sure there are others,” she says. “But these are why I usually start with people on where to change / improve.”
- Aim for half of your grains to be whole. Oat flakes for breakfast, whole wheat pasta for lunch, and white rice for dinner. Half of the grains in that example are whole. Find ways to include whole grains instead of refined grains. Try a new grain – quinoa, farro, buckwheat – with so many to choose from there has to be one you like that can substitute a refined grain for a whole grain.
- Make half your plate non-starchy vegetables. Alternatively, as I like to say, use your dinner plate for all your veggies (and your salad plate for your grains and protein). The point is that we have to eat more vegetables. It is not only for its vitamins and minerals, but also for its FIBER. Experiment. Try a new vegetable in three different ways. Find the way you like to eat it the most. And instead of focusing on the veggies you ‘don’t like’, focus on the ones you do like. And keep adding.
- FIBER. Yes, I mentioned it in the last paragraph, however, FIBER is not talked about enough (and it deserves its own mention). Find ways to include more fiber. Fiber comes from plants and that is why the “eat more plants” and “plant-based” movement is so popular today. Fiber has many benefits. While we all know that it helps us go to the bathroom, it also helps lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, stabilize blood sugar levels, keep you full longer, and may even help reduce the risk for certain types of cancer. Vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds – try to include more of these foods to meet your daily fiber intake.
- Eliminate sugary foods. First, know how much added sugar you are consuming in these drinks and start cutting back with the intention of not drinking sugary drinks at all. The recommendations for added sugar per day (not only from drinks, but also from meals) is 6 teaspoons a day for women and children and 9 teaspoons a day for men. Once we know how much we are adding (in coffee or tea) and possibly drinking, we can start cutting back.