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Dietary Changes During COVID-19

Daniel Hagon

September 10, 2020

The coronavirus has radically altered the lives of many US citizens, but one change that has flown under the radar has been the massive changes in dietary habits, particularly with regard to plant-based sources of protein.

Numerous surveys conducted over the past six months have revealed that 8 in 10 Americans changed their food habits following the start of the pandemic.

Why Are People Changing Their Diets?

One of the main reasons for the change in diet is the lack of supply. Empty grocery store shelves and the closure of local restaurants has obliged people to stay at home and cook for themselves. This has forced Americans to try new things, perhaps in response to their concerns about the environment and sustainability in general, or simply because their item of choice was not in stock.

It was found in this survey that those who cooked at home consumed fewer carbohydrates as well as less sugar or fat*.

Of course, some changes have been less healthy, with some Americans eating more sweets and less fruit and vegetables as a result of the stress of the pandemic. This is a direct response to an increase of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes even healthy adults to snack more or choose junk food. In fact, one survey stated that ice cream sales had gone up by 36%.

Why Are Plant-Based Proteins a Viable Alternative to Meat?

It may surprise some, but plant-based proteins can actually provide all the protein that the body needs, with the possible exception of vitamin B-12. Experts recommend that you always check the nutrition labels to make sure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need as not all plant-based proteins are the same. However, in the case of vitamin B-12, it can simply be replaced with a vitamin supplement, nutritional yeast, or fortified foods.

Plant-based burgers in particular are full of naturally occurring fibers, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory micronutrients as well as lower calorie counts.

And snacks like tofu, hummus and almonds are excellent sources of protein if you fancy a quick snack while relaxing at home.

With 25% more people eating protein from plant sources now and with 4 out of 10 saying they thought a plant-based burger would be healthier than a meat patty, this could be an upward trend which lasts long beyond the time when the coronavirus no longer has a daily impact on our lives.

Why a Good Diet Is Important In a COVID-19 Present World

Poor metabolic health is the reason why so many Americans have underlying conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity-related cancers. It is these underlying conditions that impair immune systems and leave people vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Given that 40% of US adults are obese, with a JAMA study published in 2018 stating that poor diet was the number one cause of poor health in the US, this has left many Americans vulnerable to the coronavirus.

However, the pandemic has forced Americans to stay at home and cook, which has been confirmed by a significant increase in web traffic for cooking and recipe websites. A survey by HUNTER taken in April also stated that about half the survey’s respondents were cooking and baking more during the pandemic than before it had struck.

If this new habit sticks, and if Americans continue to branch out into plant-based proteins and healthy snacks, not only will this reduce their vulnerability to diseases like the coronavirus, but it will also lessen the risk of them developing chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease.