Good nutrition is important for everyone’s health. Nutrition plays an important role in the health of
the immune system and its ability to fight infection. Healthy eating also helps
you become and stay a healthy weight, and can help reduce the risk of
developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis.
Having HIV doesn’t
mean that you have to make big changes to your diet. But eating the right foods
can make you feel better, have more energy and can keep your heart and bones
healthy as you get older.
If you have
concerns or questions, your clinic will usually be able to put you in touch
with a dietitian. Dietitians can also help you to manage your weight or problems
like high cholesterol, or manage any side-effects from HIV treatment that
affect how you eat (like nausea or diarrhoea). Side-effects from HIV treatment
are often mild and lessen or go away completely with time.
For most people living with HIV, good nutrition is the
same as it would be for anyone else.
A good diet will
consist of a balance of the following types of food:
- Starchy foods
- Fruit and vegetables
- Dairy products or alternatives
- Beans, pulses, nuts, fish,
eggs and meat
- Unsaturated oils and spreads.
Foods that are
high in fat and sugar should be eaten less often and in small amounts.
Starchy foods include bread, cassava, cereals, green banana, millet, maize meal,
potatoes, pasta, couscous, rice and yam. Starchy
foods should form the basis of your diet – about a third of your food intake
each day. They provide carbohydrates for energy, fibre, calcium, iron and B
If you have a
gluten allergy or coeliac disease and need to exclude gluten from your diet,
there are many gluten-free versions of foods available including pastas and
Try to choose
wholegrain versions over refined carbohydrates where possible. Wholegrain versions
of rice, pasta, couscous, cereals and bread contain more fibre and often more
vitamins and minerals as well. Leaving skins on potatoes can also help to
increase your fibre intake.
A diet high in
fibre helps digestion and may reduce the risk of developing heart disease, type
2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
vitamins, minerals and fibre. Like starchy foods, they should make up a third of your daily food intake. Try to eat
five or more portions of fruit or vegetables each day. A portion is 80g, or
roughly equal to:
- one medium-sized piece of fruit (such as an apple, pear or orange).
- two small pieces of fruit (such as a satsuma or plum).
- a large slice of a larger fruit such as pineapple.
- three heaped tablespoons of vegetables (these can be fresh, tinned or
frozen). Vegetables such as potatoes and yams do not count towards your
five-a-day target as they are counted as starchy foods.
- three heaped tablespoons of beans or pulses (these only count towards
one of your five-a-day target, no
matter how many portions you eat).
- a handful of dried fruit (30g) or a
small glass of fresh fruit juice or a smoothie. Like beans and pulses, juices
and smoothies only count as one of your five-a-day target even if you drink
more than a glass. Fruit juice is very high in natural sugar as juicing or
blending fruit releases the sugar so it becomes ‘free sugar’.
vegetables can help protect against certain cancers and heart disease. They are
low in fat, so increasing the proportion of your diet made up of them is
helpful if you are trying to lose weight. It is also a good idea to eat a variety
of fruit and vegetables as different types provide different vitamins and
Dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, provide vitamins, minerals and particularly
calcium. You should include some dairy,
or dairy alternatives, in your diet. Some dairy foods are high in saturated
fats, so should only be eaten in small quantities, or you could choose lower-fat
versions of milk, cheese and yoghurt.
If you avoid dairy products, then these
can be replaced with fortified soya, nut, rice, oat or coconut alternatives. Check the nutrition labels as not all of these
alternatives are fortified with calcium, and organic products rarely are.
It is a good idea
to try and get your calcium from a range of sources rather than just rely on
dairy products. Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, Chinese greens (e.g. bok
choy), broccoli, dried fruits, nuts, beans such as soy and baked beans, tofu
and bread are all very good sources of calcium and also iron.
contain bones that you eat (e.g. sardines, pilchards and whitebait) are also
good sources of calcium.
Beans, pulses, nuts, fish, eggs and meat provide
protein, minerals and vitamins (particularly iron and B12 from meat). You should eat some of these protein-rich
foods as part of your diet.
Other non-animal based protein options include quinoa,
soya, tofu, Quorn products
and vegetable protein. Pulses (beans, lentils and peas) are a great source of
cheap and low-fat protein.
could benefit from eating two portions of fish a week,
including at least one portion of oily fish. Oily fish contains omega-3 which has
anti-inflammatory properties and can also help prevent some heart problems.
Department of Health has advised that people
should eat no more than 70g of red or processed meat a day,due to the risk
of bowel cancer. Both processed and red meat have been linked with other
cancers too –
red meat with pancreatic and prostate cancer and processed meat with stomach
cancer. Some meats that are high in fat can also raise cholesterol.
a good idea to eat a variety of protein-rich foods rather than just rely on red
or processed meats.
Fats from cooking oils, margarine and spreads provide energy, essential fatty acids, such as
omega-3, and fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K). Try to eat ‘unsaturated’ fats,
such as those found in nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oils and vegetable oils
and oily fish. The ‘saturated’ fats, found in meat, cheese and butter can raise
cholesterol. Other foods high in
saturated fats include cakes, biscuits and pies. These should only be eaten in small
Food and drinks high in fat or sugar should only be a small part of your
diet. They can contain empty calories and provide little or no nutrients. Too much of most sorts of food – but especially fats
and sugars – can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Sugary foods can also lead to
Salt and salty foods can lead to high blood pressure,
if eaten in large amounts, and this can increase the possibility of having a
stroke or developing heart disease or kidney problems. Adults and children over eleven should eat no more
than 6g of salt a day, and younger children less.
Some foods are high in salt (e.g. bacon, cheese, crisps,
anchovies, gravy granules and stock cubes, ham, prawns,
salami, salted and dry-roasted nuts, smoked meat and fish, salt fish, olives,
soy sauce and yeast extract). Try to eat these less often or in smaller amounts
and choose reduced-salt or ‘no added salt’ varieties of food where possible.
Bread and breakfast cereals can add a lot of salt to
your diet, especially if
you eat them frequently. Breakfast
cereals can also contain a large amount of sugar. Where possible, also check
the labels of foods such as sauces and dressings, crisps and tinned foods and
choose varieties with lower levels of salt and sugar.
Reduce the amount of salt you use in cooking. You could use more spices, herbs, garlic and lemon
to add flavour, for example.
and other convenience foods are often high in salt, sugar and fat. Eating these
too often can make it hard to have a healthy and balanced diet.
You can find out
more about eating a balanced diet on the NHS Choices website at: www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/the-eatwell-guide.aspx.