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Living with HIV affects your body’s ability to process nutrients naturally found in food, which is why a healthy, wholesome HIV diet is essential. Both the medications used to combat HIV and the disease itself may cause you to experience issues such as weight loss, infection and diarrhea. Making a conscious effort to maintain a healthy diet while living with HIV can help lessen effects.

Making the necessary changes to your diet can help your body to better process nutrients, strengthen your immune system and help to manage HIV symptoms. Listed below are 10 ways to maintain a healthy HIV diet.


  1. Drink More Water and Less Alcohol

Water has the ability to reduce side effects and flush out medication while transporting nutrients. Alcohol depletes your body of nutrients and causes dehydration.


  1. Eat Lean Meat for Protein

Protein found in lean meat helps build muscle, supports a strong immune system and benefits organs. Lipodystrophy, the buildup or loss of body fat, can be avoided when a diet includes very lean meat.


  1. Add Carbohydrates for Energy

It is recommended that five to six servings of fruits and vegetables are consumed each day. A variety of produce with the brightest colors such as leafy greens, carrots, citrus and dark purple fruits contain the widest variety of nutrients. Whole grains and legumes are preferred over processed versions.


  1. Avoid Simple Sugars

Limit the amount of added sugar that is in your food. Soda, candy, cookies and ice cream should be eaten in very small amounts.


  1. Choose Healthy Fats

Replace fatty meat, butter, whole-milk dairy and palm oils with fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are preferred and provide your body with the right energy.


  1. Don’t Forget Vitamins and Minerals

HIV causes damage to your cells, which is why you need more vitamins and minerals to help repair them. Taking a multi-vitamin and eating whole foods provides you with necessary vitamins and minerals and helps to boost your immune system.


  1. Strive for Nutrient-Dense Foods

There are some superstar foods that you should consider eating weekly. These foods include brazil nuts, fermented foods, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate and quinoa.


  1. Cut Out Processed Foods

Many processed foods remove the main source of nutrients and fiber from food. Eating food that contains no nutritional value will not benefit your health. Some examples of these are prepackaged meals, chips, enriched bread and packaged baked goods.


  1. Gain Back Your Appetite

A common symptom of HIV treatment is loss of appetite. Exercise and smaller, more frequent meals are an easy way to stimulate your appetite.


  1. Prepare Your Meals

Cooking will allow you to control the foods you are putting in your body and help you to avoid unhealthy choices.


Maintaining a healthy HIV diet might seem challenging at first but once you reap the benefits, you’ll see why it’s worth pursuing.

If you or a loved one is living with HIV, contact Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania to learn more about how we can help you take control of your life with HIV.