In The News

Viruses: Why Plants Matter


By Judi Bushala | January 19, 2021

It’s been a rough year.


We’re in a pandemic—we’ve experienced lockdowns, social distancing, masks, cancelled social events and not being with our loved ones for the holidays. Many of us have experienced job losses and sickness. Sadly, we’ve seen 400,000+ lives lost. In addition to the pandemic, here in the US we have experienced rising racial tensions, a tumultuos presidential election, and an attack on our capitol.


We’ve had a lot going on, to say the least.


With all that is happening, I’ve been experiencing some anxiety here and there, and this is no surprise considering there is uncertainty everywhere we look. I’m the type of person who likes safety and predictability. I like to see the days, weeks, months, and even years laid out ahead of me with a rough idea of how things are going to go. If I’m really honest, even an abrupt change of plans on a Saturday night gets me feeling a bit out of sorts—spontaneity is not my strong suit. 


But if you think about it, every day is uncertain—many of us just choose not to think about it. We make schedules and create routinesthings we think we can control.  And then, life happens. Someone gets sick. You lose your job. Car accidents occur. We can make all the plans we want to make ourselves feel safe and secure, and then poof! All of that goes out of the window. When I feel anxiety creeping in, one thing that helps me feel better is learning a little something about what's giving me anxiety. Gathering the facts helps me worry less about things I can’t control, and focus on things I can control.


Storm brewing


I learned this when I little. I had a big fear of tornadoes and would get sick to my stomach every time the sky turned gray, fearing that my family and I were going to be swept up by a twister. One day during a storm, my mom explained to me that if a tornado was going to come, worrying about it was not going to stop it. I had absolutely no control over tornados. She told me to focus on what we can control, and one thing we can control is our actions. We could learn how to keep ourselves safe during a storm, instead of worrying about tornados.


Well, in that moment, it was like a light bulb went on and my fear dissipated into thin air. I thought to myself, “I have no control over tornados and all of this worrying is for nothing!” But, I can control how to keep myself safe. I still remember what a great feeling that was to realize this. 


Worrying stems from a need to be in control. My fear was not about being swept away by the tornado, exactly, it was that I couldn’t control the storm and possibly a tornado from coming. When I accepted this fact and realized that there was something I could control—my safety—my fear disappeared. Even though we may not be able to control what life brings our way, such as storms or pandemics, we do have control of how we react to them, what we choose to learn from them, and our actions pertaining to them.


Some of my anxiety is the uncertainty of the virus—will I get it? Will my loved ones get it? Am I asymptomatic right now? Will I get really sick? I coughed, is that covid? Will I die from this? Instead of focusing on the uncertainty of everything, I decided the best thing that I could do was to learn everything I could about the virus, and focus on the things I can control.


Here is what I learned.


COVID close up


This coronavirus didn’t just pop up out of nowhere in 2019. Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that have been around for a long time and cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, they cause respiratory tract infections that can range from mild—even the common cold—to lethal. Coronavirus got its name from its appearance. 


Corona virus under microscope


The word corona is the Latin word for crown, and under a microscope, the virus resembles a solar corona—the bright crown-like ring of gasses surrounding the sun that is visible during a solar eclipse. 


Solar eclipse


COVID-19 is an illness that is caused by a new or novel coronavirus—one that has never been seen before. You may have heard this virus referred to as the novel coronavirus.  This just means that it’s the newest one. This new coronavirus is actually called “Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” and it’s abbreviated as SARS-CoV-2.


SARS-CoV-2 is the virus and COVID-19 is the illness, or disease, caused by this virus.


The name COVID-19 is an abbreviation, as well.  “CO” stands for “corona”, “VI” stands for “virus”, and “D” stands for “disease”. The number 19 is for the year it came about, 2019.


Got all that? Good.


One of the first things I learned is that if we do get this virus, we could get really, really sick, but chances are good that most of us won’t die—based on the statistics. The mortality rate of COVID-19 is about 1.6 percent. That means 1.6 percent of the people who get the virus will die and 98.4 percent will recover.


Great, anxiety level down a notch.  


I also learned that adults who are over the age of 65, people with compromised immune systems, and people with chronic disease—obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and lung disease are the most at risk for getting really sick. People with comorbidities—2 or more of these conditions—who are infected with this virus, experience a rapid and severe progression of the disease, often leading to death. Sigh.


This is so sad to me because I know that many of these chronic conditions do not have to exist at all—and if they didn’t exist, many of the people who have died, would still be alive.


Most adults over 50 in the US have multiple chronic conditions—meaning, they are obese and have diabtes or they have high blood pressure and they are obese. That fact alone is troubling, but this means that many of these people are at serious risk if they catch this virus! This is why thousands of people are dying every day.


And this is why plants matter


All of these chronic conditions can be prevented and 

even reversed by eating a plant-based diet.


If you eat a plant-based diet, you most likely wouldn’t have these conditions in the first place. If you are at a healthy weight, have a strong immune system, no heart disease, no diabetes, normal blood pressure—you have set yourself up for dealing with this virus in the best way possible. Sure, you may get sick—we know that even the healthiest of us can get sick from it. But, you would be way more equipped to handle it and to avoid a severe case of the disease—and mostly importantly, chances are you would not die, if you were healthy to begin with.


If you currently have a chronic condition or multiple chronic conditions, like obesity, type 2 diabetes or heart disease I want you to know that these conditions are reversible, simply by eating a plant-based dietAnimal-based foods—beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy are loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat which increase your risk for all of these conditions

Chronic disease can be slowed down, 

stopped, and even reversed by eating a whole-food, plant based diet.


Yes, we have the ability to reverse the damage that has already been done. Isn’t that unbelievable?  


Just by eating plants.


What you choose to put on your plate matters.


Join our 28-Day Kickstart and you will learn how to heal your body in the most powerful way possible—with plants. If you don’t know how to even begin doing this, we’re here for you and we’ll help you every step of the way! Now is the time to make a change because what I also learned from the experts is that we should expect more pandemics in the future. 


Scientists are warning that we humans are creating perfect conditions for more viruses to emerge. They say we should be preparing for the next one now. I had heard that this new coronavirus may have originated from an animal and then jumped to a human. I already knew that eating animals wreaks havoc on our health—but viruses can actually jump from animal to humans?


How and why does this happen? 


Wet market dangers


The outbreak of COVID-19 was traced back to a wet market in Wuhan, China. 


What is a wet market?


A quick Google search informed me that they are all over the world and they are much like farmer’s marketsselling fresh vegetables, fruit, grains, meat, eggs, and fish in an open-air setting. Some, but not all wet markets slaughter live animals like chickens and fish right in front of their customers to provide the freshest food possible.


Dangers of a wet market.


These markets are known as wet because the vendors spray water to keep the food fresh and to wash away the blood after slaughtering the animals and this causes the floors of the market to become wet. Some wet markets also sell exotic meat which means they slaughter wild animals like raccoon dogs, wild boars, bats, birds, porcupines, crocodiles, monkeys, and snakes. 


Well, wild animals carry viruses. A bat could have one virus and a monkey could have another virus. These wild animals are typically kept in small cages at the wet market and the cages are stacked on top of each other. Being so close together means that bodily fluids from the animals—saliva, blood and excrement—will spill down onto the animals below them. This is how the viruses that the animals carry spread from species to species. Because viruses evolve and change constantly—and rapidly—and because of the unsanitary conditions the animals are kept in, the viruses they carry can mix and swap genetic material to create a new virus with its own unique characteristics.


Sometimes this new virus mutates so much that it can jump from animals to humans. These are called zoonotic diseasesan infectious disease caused by a virus that has jumped from an animal to a human—which then spreads from person to person. The conditions at some of these wet markets, provide a perfect breeding ground for these new and deadly viruses.


SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—is thought to have originated in bats. Wild bats are known to carry over 100 different strains of coronavirus! It’s also possible that it originated in pangolins—scaly anteaters—which are popular in traditional Chinese medicine. 


SARS-CoV-2 could have jumped to a human from a bat or a pangolin that was caught in the wild, brought to the market, mixed with other animals, slaughtered and then eaten by a human. We aren’t entirely sure how this happened, but what we do know is that the virus is directly linked to the practices of humans handling, confining, slaughtering, selling and eating animals. If the demad to eat animals was not there, nobody would be catching the animals in the first place. They would be left to do their thing, in the wild, where they belong.


75 percent of emerging infectious diseases in 

humans—originate in animals. 


Many people in the US were outraged when they learned that this virus started in a wet market in China. It’s easy to point the finger at people from other countries when we don’t understand their culture, judging them and blaming them for generating a pandemic. Actually, most wet markets around the globe are not giant petri-dishes—they are just places to go to buy fresh produce and meat at affordable prices. 


We are missing the bigger picture. 


Eating animals all around the world—including the US—is a major risk factor for pandemics.


Let’s focus on the US. One of the biggest risks are factory farms. The high demand for meat, pork, and chicken in the US means that to generate enough meat supply, these animals must be mass-produced. I can talk for days on the horrors of factory farming, but before we point fingers at other countries, we need to understand that our factory farms are literally viral incubators


Pig-pen. Horrible conditions for animals.


99% of meat in the US comes from massive industrial facilities, or factory farms. Without going into detail on how terribly inhumane they are, factory farms are also breeding grounds for disease—the perfect environment for super strains of flu-like viruses to emerge and spread.


There are certain doctors that I listen to and trust. Dr. Anthony Fauci, our top infectious disease expert, is one of them. Another is Dr. Michael Greger, a plant-based general practitioner specializing in nutrition and the founder of, where I go to find the most current scientific data on nutrition. 


“When we overcrowd animals by the thousands, in cramped football-field-size sheds, to lie beak to beak or snout to snout, and there’s stress crippling their immune systems, and there’s ammonia from the decomposing waste burning their lungs, and there’s a lack of fresh air and sunlight—put all these factors together and you have a perfect storm environment for the emergence and spread of disease.”

Dr. Michael Greger


Viruses thrive in these kinds of conditions and it’s possible for them to mutate and infect humans. Public health professionals, like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been telling us for years about factory farms because of the risk of pandemics and the risk to human health. Factory farms contain thousands of animals—living in very unsanitary and cramped conditions—which means thousands of pounds of animal excrement. This excrement can carry dangerous bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, often leading to food-poisoning outbreaks. Do you remember the Romaine lettuce that was making people sick last year? People were afraid for months to eat Romaine lettuce, myself included. Was it the actual leafy greens making people sick? 

No, it was not.


It was the feces from cows grazing near the farm where the Romaine grew that contained E. coli bacteria that led to the contamination. The E. coli bacteria got into the water, then into the soil—the wind blew it, the cows tracked it into the fields and the Romaine was contaminated. What a mess! Maybe it’s time we listen to the experts.


 It’s unhealthy and dangerous to raise animals for food. 


Large scale slaughter house.


If we stop eating animals in mass, we would dramatically reduce our risk of the emergence of killer viruses leading to pandemics. As bad as COVID-19 is, this could be a mere dress rehearsal for a new virus that could change civilization as we know it. Today, during our current pandemic—even as limited as we may feel we are these days—our basic needs are met. We can buy our favorite foods at the grocery store, we can pick up prescriptions, we can see our doctor if we need to, the internet is up and running, we have electricity, heat and safe drinking water. If another virus emerges with a high mortality rate, like say 40 percent, that all goes away. 


Lights out, people.


To put things into perspective, as I mentioned, the mortality rate of COVID-19 is about 1.6 percent which means 1.6 percent of the people who get the virus will die. If a virus emerges where 30 or 40 percent of people who are infected die, that’s when things get scary.


History clearly shows us that it’s indeed possible. 


In 1997 the H5N1 Avian Flu jumped from birds to humans and killed over half of the people it infected. 

It had a 60% mortality rate! 


In 2002, SARS was the first deadly coronavirus jumped from bats to humans—spread to 33 countries. 8,000 people were infected and about 800 died. It had a 10% mortality rate.


In 2009, H1N1 Swine Flu popped up on a pig farm and jumped from pigs to humans and then became a global pandemic. There were 1.4 billion cases worldwide and it killed hundreds of thousands of people.


In 2012, MERS jumped from bats to camels and then to humans. More than 160 people were infected and half of them died.

A 50% mortality rate!


So, there is a looming threat of these new, deadly coronaviruses and flu-like viruses emerging that originate in animals. 


Remember when there were only 5 cases of COVID-19 in the US and we were told that the virus was going to just “wash away”? Well that didn’t happen. It boarded a jumbo jet and now we are 400,000+ dead and counting. We can’t afford to let this happen with a virus that has a 40 percent mortality rate, or higher. We need to move away from breeding, confining, slaughtering, and eating animals. We need to start preparing for the next pandemic. 


Remember, 99% of the meat that you eat comes from a factory farm. 

Animal-based foods greatly increase your risk for chronic disease.


The food you put on your plate matters


Let’s let COVID-19 be our wake up call. 


Let’s let the animals be. Let’s grow some vegetables, support local farmers, learn to love quinoa and green leafy things. Another pandemic will come and we won’t be able to control that entirely. Just like tornados. So, what actions can we take now? What we can control is if we’re going to contribute to the risk or not. What we can control is how to best equip ourselves to fight a new virus—a strong immune system and a healthy body. What we can control is what we put on our plates. Eating a plant-based diet, or as close to it as you're comfortable with, is the way to go. Today is a great day to transform you life!


Eat more plants.


Fresh Basil. Eat more plants!