Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for everyone, but it’s especially important for those living with HIV. A well-planned diet can help boost your immune system, manage symptoms, and improve overall well-being.
In fact, HIV treatment teams often include dietary counselors, who underline the importance of adjusting nutrition and calorie needs depending on how a person responds to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), Everyday Health notes. Those living with HIV may also require more calories to maintain a healthy weight than someone without HIV, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“For people living with HIV, a healthy diet helps lower the likelihood of developing heart disease, cancers, and other conditions, while improving the quality of life,” Allison Webel, Ph.D., RN, professor and associate dean for research at UW School of Nursing in Seattle, tells Everyday Health.
Let’s take a closer look at what you should eat when you have HIV and what you should avoid.
1. Prioritize a Variety of Nutrient-Rich Foods
Aim to include a colorful array of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your meals. This ensures you receive a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support your immune system and overall health.
Antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV can cause bone demineralization (weakened bones) and increase cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A nutrient-rich diet can help combat some of these side effects.
The following are great sources of nutrition:
- Vitamin D is Available in fortified milk and fatty fish, and made by the body through sun exposure, vitamin D helps strengthen bones, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
- Calcium Calcium is also crucial to bone health. It’s available in fatty fish, dairy products, and calcium-fortified non-dairy milk and orange juice.
- Iron Red meat can help the body make hemoglobin, the blood component that helps transport oxygen. Leafy greens, seafood, whole-grain breads and pastas, eggs, liver, and even dark chocolate also boost iron levels, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- “Good” Fats High-quality olive oil, avocados, and nuts, as well as salmon, tuna, and other oily fish, promote cell growth and provide energy, says Mayo Clinic.
2. Lean Protein Sources
Incorporate lean protein sources into your diet. These foods provide essential amino acids that aid in repairing and building tissues, helping your body stay strong.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that people with HIV include protein-rich foods at all meals, such as lean beef, organic chicken, turkey, oily fish, eggs, fat-free and low-fat dairy foods, or from nuts and nut butters, beans, and seeds. Protein-dense options derived from soybeans, like edamame and tofu, are also great options for your HIV diet, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics cautions against eating raw or undercooked meat, fish, and eggs and unpasteurized dairy products, which can cause foodborne illness. You should also use separate knives and cutting boards for raw meats and produce.
Dr. Webel tells Everyday Health, you should aim to consume 1 to 1.4 grams of lean protein per