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How can nutrition help those living with HIV?

For many people with Aids, death appears to be determined more by nutritional status or degree of weight loss than by any particular opportunistic infection. Once an Aids patient has lost 55 percent of their normal body weight, death is often close. It appears that loss of lean mass - muscle - is what is important.

Several factors can contribute to the malnutrition which further compromises immune function. A reduced food intake, increased nutrient requirements or malabsorption will all result in weight loss.

What to eat..

Good nutrition enhances the ability to fight infections. But, what is good nutrition? Good nutrition means eating foods each day that will give you the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that you need to keep your body strong. It also means eating foods that give you enough calories to maintain a healthy body weight and getting in enough protein to keep up your muscle mass.

Calorie and protein requirements are both increased in the Aids patient and these needs are further increased by any infection and fever. Simply put, it is important to make daily meals and snacks of foods contained in the Food Guide Pyramid. These are the kinds of foods known to keep us healthy:

Breads and Cereals

Breads, grains and cereals are in this group. They have a variety of vitamins (especially from the B group), minerals and also some protein in them. Try and aim for at least six servings each day.

  One serving is considered to be:

  • 1 slice of bread

  • ½ cup cereal

  • ½ cup of pasta

  • ½ cup rice

  • 1 potato

  • 3 crackers

  • ½ cup mielie pap

Fruits and Vegetables

Vegetables (raw or cooked), fruits and fruit or vegetable juices are in this group. They supply a host of important vitamins and minerals. You should aim to eat a minimum of five servings or more each day.

 One serving is considered to be:

  • 1 whole fruit e.g. banana, apple

  • 1 piece of fruit e.g. piece of watermelon

  • 1 cup of raw vegetables

  • ½ cup of cooked vegetables

  • 1 small glass of fruit or vegetable juice.

Protein Foods

Meats, fish, poultry, eggs and cheese are in this group. These foods give you protein, as well as many essential vitamins and minerals. You need to eat at least six servings each day.

  One serving is considered to be:

  • 30g of meat, fish, chicken or turkey

  • 1 egg

  • 4 thin slices cheese

  • ½ cup of cooked beans or peas

  • 1 handful of nuts

  • 1 heaped teaspoon of peanut butter

Dairy Foods 

Milk and yoghurt are in this group. These foods give you protein, vitamins and a lot of calcium. Eat two servings or more each day.

One serving is considered to be:

  • 1 cup (250 ml) of milk.

  • 1 tub yoghurt (175 ml)

Keep in mind that these are the minimum number of servings to eat each day. Because of the effect of HIV on the body, you may have to eat much more than usual to keep from losing weight.

What about junk food?

 



Sometimes it is very tempting to eat junk food instead of healthy food. A packet of crisps, a coldrink and a chocolate seem so much easier to eat, and taste good too. On the plus side, junk food usually has a lot of calories, which may help you gain weight. You can therefore enjoy these types of foods occasionally as long as they are in addition to, not instead of healthy foods.

Author - Body and Mind

Published - 2013-01-17