Tips for healthy eating

Stabroek News
November 26, 2002

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The new guide for HIV+ persons called “Healthy Eating for Better Living” explains how the main nutrients - proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals - work as a team to keep the body’s immune system strong. Water is also essential especially when fevers, diarrhea and night sweats - all symptoms of advanced HIV leave the body dehydrated. But making sure the water is safe to drink, by boiling, is very important.

The manual stresses that as soon as one is diagnosed HIV+ they should immediately start to plan a better diet, This does not mean all new foods but familiar ones better prepared and in larger amounts. Starchy foods (rice, potato) should be the basis of each meal and fruits and vegetables should be eaten every day.

The key word is a balanced and varied diet. Variety is important because foods, even those within the same group don’t have exactly the same nutrients. The manual does not advocate a vegetarian diet and in fact notes that the most easily digested protein comes from beef. Legumes - bean and peas - are considered a good meat alternative.

“Alcohol can interfere with immunity by depleting the body of the vitamins used to boost the immune system and should be avoided at all costs,” the book states.

For people with HIV, food poisoning is very dangerous and the book gives advice on procedures persons should follow when preparing food. This includes thoroughly cooking all meat and seafood, avoiding any food you are doubtful of.

All milk products should be pasteurised and persons should look after leftovers by covering and refrigerating them immediately.

The guide offers help for the times when the symptoms of HIV come on and hinder healthy eating. Parents of children and infants with HIV are given advice including increasing the energy and protein content in the diet and not to use food as a reward or punishment. A chapter on drugs and nutrition examines side effects of common anti-retrovirals and other HIV related drugs.

Persons with HIV are ultimately recommended to be kind to themselves, get regular exercise, get lots of rest and sleep and not worry too much about little things. Finding support through groups, family and friends is also helpful.

The menus in the book include nutritious milk shakes, sweet and sour chicken and salads.

The guide ends with an uplifitng quote for all those living with HIV: “Dance like nobody’s watching, Love like you’ll never get hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening and live like there’s heaven on earth.”

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