NYS Certified Nutritionist

Plant Based Diets & Immune Response to COVID-19 Vaccines

I planned to write my preholiday season article about reducing fat and animal protein intake during our holiday feasts. Putting an emphasis on dishes made mostly of vegetables, starches, and fruits -while reducing portions of animal products and alcohol- can go a long way toward reducing caloric intake while enjoying a satisfying meal.

But, this year, there is an elephant in the living room, as we face our second holiday season living with the continuing presence of COVID-19. As I thought about this threat to us all, I read an article whose points I decided to share in the hope that we can all improve our immune systems, while the highly contagious Delta variant continues to run through our communities. All of us have been touched by the threat posed by this novel virus.

The article described a study among vaccinated health care workers revealing that those with larger waistlines, and who carry excess weight, are less likely to launch a robust immune response once given the RNA vaccines. A less than adequate immune response was also noted in those with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and those who smoke.

The smart-phone COVID Symptom Study, including nearly 600,000 participants, found that those who consume the most plant-based foods were found to have a 41% lower risk of severe COVID-19, compared to those who eat a typical American diet with its emphasis on meats, eggs, and dairy products.

A study of health care workers in six countries found that those on plant-based diets had a 73% reduced chance of developing moderate to severe COVID-19, compared with those consuming more animal proteins.

So, enjoy the roasted vegetables drizzled with a touch of olive oil; the stuffing made with vegetables, broth, egg whites, and a touch of light margarine [no trans-fats]; the cranberry sauce with less sugar; the mashed potatoes with a touch of light margarine, and broth; the roasted sweet potatoes [roasting makes them sweeter…no topping needed]; the defatted gravy on 3-4 ounces of skinned turkey; and dessert without whipped cream. Feel free to season the savory foods with herbs and spices.

It is possible making these small adjustments in our recipes could help protect ourselves, and our loved-ones, during these difficult times. Here’s to our very good health! Happy/Safe Holidays!

Dateline: Latham, Albany County, New York State