EAT A HEALTHY, BALANCED DIET
This page describes small changes you can make to your diet that can result in big improvements to your overall health and a strengthened immune system. A healthy diet can positively affect your heart, bone, liver, kidney and mental health and is a great way to be proactive with your self-care.
- Diet and HIV
- Diet and heart health
- Diet and bone health
- Diet and liver health
- Diet and kidney health
- Diet and mental health
DIET AND HIV
WHAT EFFECT CAN DIET HAVE ON MY HEALTH?
Good nutrition plays a crucial role in the health of the immune system and if you are living with HIV, it is particularly important to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
It is also important to know that some HIV medicines need to be taken with specific foods, so talk to your healthcare team who can provide you with further information about your diet.
WHAT DOES A GOOD DIET LOOK LIKE?
To ensure you get the nutrients your body needs, a balanced and healthy diet could include the following:
- Five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- Wholegrains (complex carbohydrates) such as wholemeal pasta, wholemeal or darker bread
- Low daily sugar intake
- Lower-fat, protein rich foods such as lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, lentils and beans
- Some dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese
- Healthier fats, such as vegetable and olive oil, oily fish, avocados and nuts
Talk to your healthcare team about your current diet to make sure you get enough good nutrients in your day.
VITAMIN AND MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS
A well-balanced diet should supply all of your body’s vitamin and mineral needs. If you are considering adding any supplements to your diet then speak to your healthcare team as high doses of some supplements may interact with your HIV medications.
DIET AND HEART HEALTH
HOW CAN MY DIET HELP MY HEART?
Living with HIV can affect your heart and your diet can play a role in keeping it healthy. Read our heart health page for more information about the links between HIV and heart health.
There are a number of things you can do to keep your heart as healthy as possible:
KNOW YOUR BMI (BODY MASS INDEX) SCORE
- BMI is a measure to assess you are a healthy weight for your height
- A healthy BMI is 18.5 – 24.9 kg/m2
- Having a BMI above 25 increases your risk of heart disease
- Download an app to calculate your own BMI
CHECK YOUR WAIST MEASUREMENT
- This is another measure to assess if you are a healthy size
- Use a tape measure to check if you’re in the healthy range
- White women should have a waist measure below 80cm
- For women of other ethnicities it should be also be below 80cm
REDUCE YOUR SALT INTAKE
- Too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Control the amount of salt you eat by cutting out ready-made meals which are often high in salt
- Bread and breakfast cereals are also high in salt, so limiting the amounts you eat will help to reduce your salt intake
- Replacing salt with herbs and spices or lower sodium salts can help with retaining food flavour
KEEP THE AMOUNT OF SATURATED FATS IN YOUR DIET TO A MINIMUM
- This is to prevent increases in blood fats like cholesterol and triglycerides, as these can increase the risks for heart disease
- Saturated fats are found in processed meats like sausages, ham, and burgers, in fatty meats, full-fat dairy, lard, ghee and suet
- You can replace these with monounsaturated fats from plant sources such as rapeseed oil and olive oil
DIET AND BONE HEALTH
HOW CAN DIET HELP MY BONE HEALTH?
Living with HIV means you need to be aware of your bone health and your diet can play a role in keeping your bones healthy. Read our bone health page for more information about the links between HIV and bone health.
Diet tips for healthy bones:
- Eat enough calcium, found in foods such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, dark green vegetables and sardines
- Include green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and fortified breakfast cereals
- Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or ask for help to cut down on your intake
If you wish to support your diet with vitamin and mineral supplements speak to your healthcare team, in case there are any known interactions with your HIV medications.
DIET AND LIVER HEALTH
HOW CAN DIET HELP MY LIVER HEALTH?
A well-balance diet can help maintain a healthy liver, which is important for people living with HIV as a healthy liver is essential in processing HIV medications. See our liver health page for more information about the links between liver health and HIV.
Diet tips for a healthy liver:
- Choose unsaturated oils and spread
- Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or ask for help to cut down
- Avoid salty and foods high in saturated fats
DIET AND KIDNEY HEALTH
HOW CAN DIET HELP MY KIDNEY HEALTH?
Living with HIV can affect your kidney health and your diet can play a role in keeping it healthy. See our kidney health page to learn more about the links between HIV and kidney health.
Diet tips for kidney health:
- Keep a balanced diet to give your body the nutrients and minerals it needs
- Avoid salty and foods high in saturated fats
- Don’t drink too much alcohol or caffeine
- Drink lots of fluids
DIET AND MENTAL HEALTH
HOW CAN DIET HELP MY MENTAL HEALTH?
Mental health can affect anyone, regardless of HIV diagnosis. A balanced mood and feelings of wellbeing can be protected by keeping a healthy diet. See our mental health page to learn more about the links between mental health and HIV.
Diet tips to support your mental health:
- Eat a balanced diet, including wholegrains, essential fats, protein and carbohydrates
- Ensure you consume the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol