World AIDS Day 2021: The Connection Between Nutrition And Managing HIV / AIDS

On this World AIDS Day, here’s a look at the list of diets to avoid that can benefit individuals with HIV/AIDS.

AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and as the name suggests, it attacks the body’s immune system, slowing down its ability to fight infection. India has the third largest HIV epidemic in the world, bringing the number of people living with HIV close to 2.1 million. Diagnosis is usually a devastating blow to most people because it is a difficult and complex disease to manage. For those with HIV/AIDS, lifelong medication is a harsh reality, however, in order to supplement the body’s ability to maintain a strong immune system, diet and nutrition play a major role.

On this World AIDS Day, here’s a look at the list of diets to avoid that can benefit individuals with HIV/AIDS.

Foods that contain high levels of antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that can prevent / slow down the damage to our cells caused by free radicals and unstable molecules. Some fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that are known to protect the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. Berries, red cabbage, beans, beetroot, and leafy greens like kale are all options that can be a rich source of antioxidants. For those with HIV, 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables each day is the recommended standard.

lean protein

Protein is an essential nutrient that helps the body build muscle and a strong immune system. For those trying to manage HIV/AIDS, healthy protein options such as fish, eggs and chicken are highly recommended. For vegetarians, paneer (cottage cheese), beans and nuts can also be good sources of protein.

Carbohydrates are the fuel

Carbohydrates provide the body with the energy it needs to function. The immune system of a person with HIV needs to work harder to fight the infection and this requires more energy. This is why fibrous whole grains like oats and brown rice serve the purpose of feeding the body the energy it needs to tackle infections.

Reducing salt and sugar intake

HIV may increase the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. In such cases, it may be difficult for the body to control excessive sugar or salt intake. Avoiding excessive amounts of processed foods, sugar, and sugar substitutes, along with keeping your sodium count below 2,300 milligrams a day, are easy ways to control your salt and sugar intake.

Low-fat dairy products

The good fats can help the immune system stay strong and defend itself against infections. It is recommended to target smaller portions of low-fat dairy products or low-fat lactose-free products, for those with lactose intolerance.

Drink plenty of fluids

HIV patients should drink at least 8-10 glasses of water, if not more. This helps avoid dehydration, reduces fatigue, and helps address the side effects of daily medications. Plain water can also be replaced with a few cups of liquid such as coconut water or lemon water.

Following these diet and nutrition tips can help you better manage HIV/AIDS. Good nutrition can ultimately help promote improved patient self-care and lead to a better quality of life.

(This article was written by Rohit Chilatkar, Vice President at Vitabiotics, Fitness and Nutrition Expert)

Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are those of the author, and viewers are advised to exercise discretion and take a doctor’s advice when following the advice.

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