| Do I need a special diet?|
There are no special diets, or particular foods, that will boost your immune system. But there are things you can do to keep your immunity up.
If you are underweight--or you have advanced HIV disease, high viral loads, or opportunistic infections--you should include more protein and extra calories (in the form of carbohydrates and fats). You'll find tips for doing this in the next section.
If you are overweight, you should follow a well-balanced meal plan such as the ones presented on the U.S. government's Choose My Plate website (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/).Being overweight puts extra stress on your body and increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
| Adding protein to your diet|
Protein-rich foods include meats, fish, beans, dairy products, and nuts. To boost the protein in your meals:
|Spread nut butter on toast, crackers, fruit, or vegetables.|
|Add cottage cheese to fruit and tomatoes.|
|Add canned tuna to casseroles and salads.|
|Add shredded cheese to sauces, soups, omelets, baked potatoes, and steamed
|Eat yogurt on your cereal or fruit.|
|Eat hard-boiled (hard-cooked) eggs. Use them in egg-salad sandwiches or
slice and dice them for tossed salads.|
|Add diced or chopped meats to soups, salads, and sauces.|
|Add dried milk powder or egg white powder to foods (such as scrambled eggs,
casseroles, and milkshakes). |
| Adding calories to your diet|
The best way to increase calories is to add carbohydrates and some extra fat to your meals.
Carbohydrates include both starches and simple sugars.
Starches are in:
|Breads, muffins, biscuits, crackers|
Simple sugars are in:
|Fresh or dried fruit (eg, raisins, dates, apricots, etc)|
|Jelly, honey, and maple syrup added to cereal, pancakes, and waffles|
Fats are more concentrated sources of calories. Add moderate amounts of the following to your meals:
|Butter, margarine, sour cream, cream cheese, peanut butter|
|Gravy, sour cream, cream cheese, grated cheese |
|Avocados, olives, salad dressing|
| Do I need supplements?|
Our bodies need vitamins and minerals, in small amounts, to keep our cells working properly. They are essential to our staying healthy.
Even though vitamins and minerals are present in many foods, your health care provider may recommend a vitamin and mineral supplement (a pill or other form of concentrated vitamins and minerals). While vitamin and mineral supplements can be useful, they can in no way replace eating a healthy diet, which is the best source of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs. Large doses of vitamins and supplements are usually not necessary and, in fact, can be potentially toxic as well as expensive.
If you are taking a supplement, here are some things to remember:
|Always take vitamin pills on a full stomach. Take them regularly.|
|Some vitamins and minerals, if taken in high doses, can be harmful. Talk with your health care provider before taking high doses of any supplement.|
|Some people experience nausea with multivitamins, even if taken on a full stomach. |
|Iron-containing supplements can be constipating. Drink extra water and increase your fiber intake to help minimize constipation. If your provider has recommended iron-containing supplements and you cannot tolerate them, talk to your provider about other ways to increase the iron in your diet (see table below). |
The following is a table of some vitamins and minerals that affect the immune system.
| Vitamins and minerals that affect the immune system|
|Vitamin A and beta-carotene||Keeps skin, lungs, and stomach healthy.||Liver, whole eggs, milk, dark green, yellow, orange, and red
vegetables and fruit (such as spinach, pumpkin, green peppers, squash,
carrots, papaya, and mangoes); also found in orange and yellow sweet
potatoes||It's best to get vitamin A from food. Vitamin A supplements are toxic
in high doses. Supplements of beta-carotene (the form of vitamin A in
fruits and vegetables) have been shown to increase cancer risk in
|Vitamin B-group (B1, B2, B6, B12, Folate) ||Keeps the immune and nervous systems healthy.||White beans, potatoes, meat, fish, chicken, watermelon, grains, nuts,
avocados, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables||Often leads to prominent yellow color of urine when taken as a supplement. |
|Vitamin C ||Helps protect the body from infection and aids in recovery. ||Citrus fruits (such as oranges, grapefruit, and lemons), tomatoes, and
|Vitamin E ||Protects cells and helps fight off infection. ||Green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, and peanuts||Limit to 400 IU per day.|
|Iron ||Not having enough iron can cause anemia. ||Green leafy vegetables, whole grain breads and pastas, dried fruit,
beans, red meat, chicken, liver, fish, and eggs||Limit to 45 mg per day unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.
Iron may be a problem for people with HIV because it can increase the
activity of some bacteria. Iron supplements can be constipating. Supplements that do not contain iron may be better tolerated. Ask your doctor. |
|Selenium ||Important for the immune system. ||Whole grains, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, peanut butter, and nuts||Limit to 400 mcg per day. |
|Zinc ||Important for the immune system. ||Meat, fish, poultry, beans, peanuts, and milk and dairy products||Limit to 40 mg per day. |
| What should I know about food safety?|
Paying attention to food and water safety is important when you have HIV, because your immune system is already weakened and working hard to fight off infections.
If food is not handled or prepared in a safe way, germs from the food can be passed on to you. These germs can make you sick.
You need to handle and cook food properly to keep those germs from getting to you.
Here are some food safety guidelines:
|Keep everything clean! Clean your counters and utensils often. |
|Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after preparing and eating food. |
|Check expiration dates on food packaging. Do not eat a product if its expiration date has passed. |
|Rinse all fresh fruits and vegetables with clean water before eating.|
|Thaw frozen meats and other frozen foods in the refrigerator or in a microwave. Never thaw foods at room temperature. Germs that grow at room temperature can make you very sick.|
|Clean all cutting boards and knives (especially those that touch chicken and meat) with soap and hot water before using them again.|
|Make sure you cook all meat, fish, and poultry "well-done." You might want to buy a meat thermometer to help you know for sure that the meat is fully cooked. Put the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, not touching a bone. Cook the meat until it reaches 165-212 degrees F. on the thermometer. |
|Do not eat raw, soft-boiled, or "over easy" eggs, or Caesar salads with raw egg in the dressing. This includes eating uncooked cookie dough or cake batter that contains uncooked eggs. |
|Do not eat sushi, raw seafood, or raw meats, or unpasteurized milk or dairy products.|
|Keep your refrigerator cold, set no higher than 40 degrees F. Your freezer should be at 0 degrees.|
|Refrigerate leftovers at temperatures below 40 degrees F. Do not eat leftovers that have been sitting in the refrigerator for more than 3 days.|
|Keep hot items heated to over 140 degrees F, and completely reheat leftovers before eating.|
|Throw away any foods (like fruit, vegetables, and cheese) that you think might be old. If food has a moldy or rotten spot, throw it out. When in doubt, throw it out.|
|Some germs and parasites are spread through tap water. If your public water supply isn't totally pure and you have advanced HIV, it may be advisable to drink bottled or filtered water until your immune system gets stronger. |
| Can diet help ease side effects and symptoms?|
Many symptoms of HIV, as well as the side effects caused by HIV medicines, can be alleviated by using (or avoiding) certain types of foods and drinks.
Below are some tips for dealing with common problems facing people living with HIV. You should also look in the Side Effects section for more information.
|Try the BRATT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, tea, and toast). |
|Try some ginger--in tea, ginger ale, or ginger snaps.|
|Don't drink liquids at the same time you eat your meals.|
|Eat something small, such as crackers, before getting out of bed.|
|Keep something in your stomach; eat a small snack every 1-2 hours.|
Discuss with your care provider how best to take your medications to avoid nausea--some HIV medicines (for example, protease inhibitors) should be taken on a full stomach, whereas others (for example, efavirenz) should be taken on empty stomach.
|Avoid foods such as the following:
|Fatty, greasy, or fried foods|
|Very sweet foods (candy, cookies, or cake)|
|Foods with strong odors|