Good nutrition is important for everyone, but it is even more important for PLWHA. This is because good nutrition helps the weakened immune system get stronger. A balanced diet can improve the health status of PLWHA, building energy stores and helping patients gain weight. The energy, vitamins and minerals gained from healthy food can help fight opportunistic infections. A balanced diet enables the body to receive all of the essential nutrients it needs every day. This means eating a variety of foods from different food groups at every meal. Each of the food groups helps the body in a different way - like repairing worn out tissue, protecting against infection and increasing energy. The different food groups are:
If you look at the table below, you will see how much of the various groups you should try to eat every day:
|Food group||Servings per day||Serving size||Examples of foods|
|Bread, rice, pasta, grain||6 – 11||1 slice of bread
½ cup rice
½ cup cooked cereal
|Bread, mabele, maize meal, lebelebele, oats, rice, pasta, potato, sweet potato, corn on the cob, corn flakes|
|Vegetables||3 – 5||½ cup cooked
1 cup raw
|Carrots, cabbage, spinach, choumolia, pumpkin, tomatoes, peas, morogo, squash|
|Fruits||2 – 4||1 medium size fruit
½ can fruit
¼ cup fruit juice
|Apple, mango, banana, orange, pear, mumpudu, moretlwa, makgomane|
|Meat, poultry, fish and other alternatives||2 – 3||1 piece
½ cup dry beans
|Beef, chicken, liver, kidney, pork, lamb, fish, eggs, beans, ditloo, peanuts, peanut butter|
|Milk and milk products||2 – 3||1 cup milk or yoghurt
|Milk, cheese, yoghurt, madila|
|Fats, oils and sweets||Small amounts||1 teaspoon oil or fat
1 teaspoon sugar
|Butter, margarine, animal fat, pies, sugar, sweets, biscuits, fizzy drinks|
Buy the best quality food that you can with the money you have to spend. Try to vary your diet as much as possible - buy vegetables, meat, fruit and bread or mielie meal instead of just one food. This will help your body get as many of the nutrients that it needs as possible. Some NGOs run programmes that teach people how to grow their own vegetables - ask your health care worker or counsellor about these programmes. You can also speak to your social worker about the government's food grant programme.
If you do experience a loss of appetite, the following tips could help you eat enough food:
If anyone you know is suffering from nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea, a painful mouth or any other condition that is affecting his/her eating habits, ask a health care worker to help him/her choose the best foods.
Germs found on unwashed food and in food that has not been cooked properly can make you sick and cause diarrhoea. This is known as food poisoning and can be dangerous for PLWHA because of their already weak immune system. Don't forget that unsafe food does not always look or smell bad. The following tips will help you avoid the harmful germs in food:
Vitamin supplements can be very helpful in making sure that you get all the essential nutrients your body needs, especially if you do not eat a balanced diet. You should, however, always ask your doctor which vitamins and how much of each to take. This is very important if you are taking ARVs, because some vitamins might not work well with your ARV drugs.
No! Vitamins will help to keep your body healthy, but they will not cure you of AIDS. In fact, it would be dangerous to stop your ARVs and take vitamins or supplements only. ARVs work differently from vitamins - ARVs will decrease the amount of HIV in your blood, whereas vitamins will only boost your immune system. Always remember that there is no cure for HIV/AIDS.
No! A good diet will not cure you of HIV/AIDS and it is not a replacement for ARVs.