How to Eat for a Strong Immune System When Living with HIV?

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How to Eat for a Strong Immune System When Living with HIV

Living with HIV has areas that you need to be careful about! Unlike everyone, you have to be considerate of your activities and the food you eat! Food and a healthy diet play a significant role during HIV treatment. You must select food and diet that strengthens your immune system, keeps a balance of your weight, protects bones and muscles, and boosts your energy and health. If you’re wondering what food is good for HIV patients, this article is for you!

Here, we will list some ways you can eat for a strong immune system while living with HIV. 

A simple change in your daily diet can significantly change your overall health and how you perceive life. As the saying goes, ‘We are what we eat!’. We will discuss food from a diet point of view to the strength it offers to your body. 

Why is a Nutritional Diet important for individuals living with HIV?

If you have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), you must learn to manage your condition by taking a daily pill or a monthly shot. The treatment for HIV treatment, i.e., ART (Antiretroviral therapy), can ensure that the amount of virus in the bloodstream, also known as viral load, remains undetectable. But even well-managed HIV causes low levels of inflammation, which takes a toll on your body. Some side effects of HIV treatment alter the body’s fat distribution, often leading to weight gain and obesity.

This is the reason the HIV treatment team includes a dietary counselor, who highlights the importance of having nutrition and adjusting to calorie needs. For a person living with HIV, a healthy diet helps the likelihood of them developing any heart disease, cancer, or other health conditions while also improving the quality of life. 

5 Tips for a Healthy HIV Diet

food circle

Good nutrition can ensure your longevity and healthy life. Here are five tips on what you should eat to strengthen your immune system!

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and Vegetables are said to have kept inflammation in check. This healthy food supplements vitamins and energy to your body that works great for the immune system. 

HIV treatment causes many side effects, so you must be healthy in your diet. 

Hands down, eating vegetables is one of the best things people with HIV can do. 

It’s a great idea to consume a rainbow of foods. This includes fresh fruits, dark green leaves, red, orange, and yellow produce, beans, peas, legumes, and other starchy vegetables. 

Ensure you wash these fruits and vegetables before eating them raw and cook them to remove potentially harmful bacteria and germs. Food safety is a concern for people with HIV, as they tend to have weakened immune systems that result in vulnerability to foodborne illnesses. 


Protein is beneficial in maintaining muscle mass and works as a sword for your immune system. 

For people with HIV, protein-rich food, like lean beef, organic chicken, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy foods, must be included in each meal. Proteins are essential in maintaining muscle mass. As we mentioned earlier, people with HIV are susceptible to inflammation of muscle tissue.

Protein consumption can help you be strong, boost energy, and support a healthy immune system. Studies show that consuming 1 to 1.4 grams of lean protein per kilogram of weight is beneficial. This can be a combination of plant or animal source protein depending on the individual’s preference and food availability. To prevent foodborne illness, individuals undergoing HIV treatment should avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, fish, and eggs. 


Fiber is proven to help enhance nutrient absorption. Fiber is mainly found in rich raw vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, and whole grains. It helps improve cholesterol levels, one the individuals undergoing HIV treatment are at high risk of! Further, fiber helps balance the blood sugar and keeps the digestive system at peak efficiency, ensuring a strong immune system. 

Fiber is found in some starch foods. It offers an economical way of surprising nutritional punch in your daily diet. HIV treatment increases the risk of nutrient absorption in the body, so an easy-to-prepared meal with high fiber provides adequate protein to your body even at a low cost. So, you should include food that is rich in fiber in your daily diet. 

Vitamins and Nutrients

Vitamins and Nutrients result in fortifying your immune system. The menus centered on plants, proteins, and filters usually meet most vitamin, mineral, fat, and carbohydrate needs. 

Poele, who follows a special diet for HIV, must focus on specific nutrients to counter some potential side effects of the HIV treatment, such as bone demineralization, high cholesterol, and such. Good nutrition for people with HIV includes:

  • Vitamin D: It is available in milk, fatty fish, and also through sun exposure. Vitamin D helps strengthen the bone. 
  • Calcium: Calcium is crucial to bone health. It is available in dairy products, fatty fish, calcium-fortified non-dairy milk, and orange juice.
  • Iron: Red meat has iron that helps the body produce hemoglobin, a blood component that helps transport oxygen. Greens, seafood, whole-grain bread, pasta, eggs, and dark chocolate boost iron levels. 
  • Fats: By fat, we mean ‘good’ fats. High-quality olive oil, avocados, nuts, salmon, and tuna are healthy fats that promote sales growth and provide energy for daily activities. 


And how can we forget about the most critical elements of your diet: water! Water can counter muscle pain and fatigue. Water is important to enhance the metabolic process, move the HIV treatment medication through the body, and improve the digestion and overall immune system. 

It also helps keep the cells healthy. Further, it helps regulate body temperature for breathing. 

Being calorie-free, water helps in weight loss and reducing calorie intake. Adequate consumption of liquid helps reduce the muscle pain and fatigue that often go with HIV. 

Clean, clear, and healthy water is your best drink. You must consume 2 to 3 liters daily, equivalent to 8 to 13 8-ounce glasses. Water is important for your body for various reasons, so you must make it a must in your diet and drink water throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated. 


Undergoing HIV treatment and living your life with the virus can be challenging at times. 

But, if you consider your health and take preventive measures and extra effort to keep yourself healthy, you can lead a happy and healthy life. A nutritional diet is necessary for good health and a sound mind. In this article, we listed five important nutritional elements to include in your diet and how they help improve your heart. Depending on your preference and availability, you can add all the food to your diet.

To strengthen your immune system and ensure that your body functions smoothly, a proper diet consisting of a combination of all the nutrients and vitamins is a must!By consuming healthy food, you’re looking out for yourself, your body, and what it demands.

While a healthy diet might sound complex, you will surely gain positive results!Are you a person living with HIV? What do you eat in a day to keep yourself healthy? Do let us know!

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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