June 14, 2020
  • Opinion

Plant-based diets can offer protection from severe effects of COVID-19 virus

By Harriett Emerson

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are feeling especially concerned about our health. However, there is very hopeful evidence that we can defend ourselves against the worst effects of COVID-19 by strengthening our immune systems with plant foods such as whole-grain foods, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds.

There is evidence suggesting that healthy plant-based food can increase the production of antibodies in our immune system to fight COVID-19, according to biochemist and nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell, who has over 60 years experience in nutritional science. And, there is ample information showing that this beneficial effect may begin in a matter of days, enough time for people who are not yet infected by COVID-19 to strengthen their immune systems. A plant-strong diet does not mean we won’t get infected by the virus, but it should increase our defenses to avoid its worst effects, says Dr. Campbell. 

Over 90% of the people who have died from COVID-19 had pre-existing medical conditions, mostly due to bad nutrition. Studies show that a healthy plant-based diet can help prevent and sometimes reverse medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity, and therefore also help people avoid the worst effects of COVID-19. 

A shift to healthy plant-based foods can help to prevent future pandemics which could be even worse than COVID-19, which is thought to be a zoonotic disease (spread between animals and people) which originated from a ‘wet market' in Wuhan, China. In wet markets, animals are crowded next to each other, greatly increasing the risk for the spread of disease.  Meanwhile, here in the U.S., most of the ten billion animals slaughtered annually live in filthy, overcrowded factory farms which are breeding grounds for disease.

One very common myth is that we need to eat meat to get enough protein. The truth is that everyone, including vegans and vegetarians, get more protein than they need. All plant foods contain protein, with beans, lentils and chickpeas having especially high amounts. Anyone who doubts that we can thrive without animal-based protein should watch the “The Game Changers,” a documentary about world-class, plant-based athletes. 

Another myth is that it’s more expensive to eat healthy, plant-based meals. In fact, delicious meals can easily be created out of some of the cheapest foods such as oats, pasta, beans, rice, potatoes, vegetables and fruit. 

PlantPure Communities, a nonprofit organization, is co-hosting a series of free Global Jumpstarts to help people strengthen their immune systems with a 10-day program of cooking classes, daily emails, webinars, and other resources. The next Jumpstart starts on Sunday,  June 21. People can sign up at https://plantpurecommunities.org/global-jumpstart to participate. 

Anyone interested in more information on plant-based nutrition can contact Salt Lake Thrive, a local community group, at or at facebook.com/saltlakethrive

harriett_emerson.jpgHarriett Emerson lives in Salt Lake City and has a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell and the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. She is the Group Leader for Salt Lake Thrive, a local community group that raises awareness of the many benefits of plant-based nutrition, provides resources and hosts community education events.