Good nutrition is important for all people irrespective of their HIV status. However, when you are living with HIV, sound nutrition is even more important than ever because the condition, as well as some of the medication used in treating it, has been known to change a person’s metabolism or impact the way in which the body processes the nutrients it receives. People living with HIV have to eat well enough so that their bodies can withstand these effects. When you are HIV positive, you are also more susceptible to loss of appetite, diarrhoea and vomiting resulting in loss of essential nutrients and in turn loss of body muscle commonly referred to as wasting.
A healthy, balanced diet is one that contains food from all the basic food groups and limits daily intake of sugar, salt, alcohol and fats.
The five major food groups
To maintain your ideal weight, it helps to know more about the major food groups and what role each of them plays in your body;
- Protein – such as meat, dairy and legumes build muscles and a strong immune system.
- Carbohydrates – including starches and sugars found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, give you energy.
- Fat – such as butter, oils, cream and avocados gives you extra energy and keep your cells healthy.
- Vitamins regulate body processes and can be found in many different fresh, unprocessed foods.
- Minerals regulate body processes too and also make up body tissues.
Food and water safety
As HIV attacks the human immune system, HIV positive individuals become susceptible to many food and water-borne illnesses that are preventable through proper hygiene and cooking methods. It is therefore recommended that people living with HIV avoid eating raw and undercooked proteins such as meat, chicken, fish or seafood and eggs, and to steer clear of unpasteurized dairy products as these foods all present a higher risk for contracting food poisoning.
When using or drinking water it is best to avoid water from dams, rivers, streams or other outdoor sources and to use a water filter at home. If you’re unsure of the safety of the tap water in your home, you can significantly reduce the risk of contracting water-borne illness by using and drinking water that has been boiled (and cooled, for drinking) first.
WebMD, Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on August 17, 2014