A healthy diet is important for everyone, regardless of their HIV status. If you have HIV you do not need to follow a special diet; but good nutrition and eating healthily can help to keep your immune system strong and reduce your chances of developing illnesses.
A balanced diet is the key to good nutrition. The Government have recently made changes to their recommendations for a healthy diet, the Eatwell Guide shows us what we should aim to eat each day (click to enlarge):
Some health conditions which are common in people living with HIV can be avoided or improved by making changes to your diet. For example, conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or stroke can be caused by having too much fat in your diet.
Being overweight can also impact upon your health – eg, type 2 diabetes is commonly seen in overweight people.
Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which increases your risk of stroke and heart disease. A lack of calcium can increase the risk of osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Making simple changes to your diet can help to reduce the risk of health problems. Improving your diet can also reduce your chances of developing cancer.
Today’s HIV medicines have far fewer food restrictions than the early HIV drugs. Usually the only special requirement may be to take your medicine with or without food. NAM’s chart shows different drugs and their dietary requirements.
We need protein to build up our muscles and organs, and to strengthen our immune system.
Around 12% of your diet should be made up of protein.
Carbohydrates help provide your body with energy - you can think of them as fuel. They also contain vitamins, fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins.
In total, 38% of your diet should be made up of starchy foods, ideally made up of wholegrain versions.
Starchy food can be found in bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, oats, cassava, cereals and yams.
TIP: Choose brown (wholegrain) rice, bread, cereal and pasta as they are high in fibre. Low fat toppings for pizza and fillings for sandwiches and baked potatoes will make starchy food as healthy as possible.
Saturated and unsaturated fat:
A small amount of fat is healthy, but it is important to know the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats. The Eatwell Guide recommends that oils and spreads should make up no more than 1% of our diet and these should be made up of unsaturated oils.
Fat is important as it provides us with energy and helps us to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. The essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 come from fats and can’t be made by your body.
There are two main types of fat, saturated (‘bad’) and unsaturated (‘good’).
Saturated (‘bad’) fats include:
Unsaturated (‘good’) fats include:
TIP: Certain foods such as eggs, kidneys and shellfish contain cholesterol, known as 'dietary cholesterol'. This has less of an effect on our bodies than cholesterol resulting from eating unsaturated fats.
Too much saturated fat in your diet can raise your cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol can cause deposits to be made in your arteries, which narrow them and increase your chances of a heart attack or stroke.
The following factors can also raise your cholesterol:
TIP: The following factsheet from The Association of UK Dietitians contains some good information about cholesterol.
If you are living with HIV, some antiretroviral drugs - including some protease inhibitors - may interfere with the balance of your blood fats, leading to an increase in cholesterol and triglycerides (a type of fat) which can clog up your arteries. Reducing the saturated fats in your diet can help to lower cholesterol.
Fruit and vegetables are important because they contain vitamins and minerals and are low in calories and fat. It is important to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day - they count whether they are fresh, canned, frozen or dried. This should amount to 40% of your diet.
What is a portion?
A portion equals 80g or:
TIP: Starchy vegetables such as potatoes or cassava do not count towards your five a day - sweet potatoes do count, however.
TIP: Beans and pulses such as lentils do count, but they only count as one portion, however many you eat in a day.
TIP: A glass of unsweetened fruit juice counts as one portion, however much you drink.
NHS Choices has an in-depth page on portion sizes, as does The Association of UK Dietitians.
The Eatwell Guide recommends that you drinks six to eight glasses of fluid every day. These can include:
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I had the worst night ever xmas eve stomach pain bloated major head ache but i belief it was because i had apple cider vinigar on my spinach mixed with chichen and bacon green peppers and onion could this be the case felt much better since being so ill and never felt like this befor iam only resently diagonsed and just got out of hospital from phoumonia
This article was last reviewed on
by Anna Peters
Date due for the next review: 15/6/2019
Content Author: Kerri Virani
Current Owner: Health promotion
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