for Veterans and the Public
Why is nutrition important?
Nutrition is important for everyone because food gives our bodies the nutrients they need to stay healthy, grow, and work properly. Foods are made up of six classes of nutrients, each with its own special role in the body:
- Protein builds muscles and a strong immune system.
- Carbohydrates (including vegetables, fruits, grains) give you energy.
- Fat gives you extra energy.
- Vitamins regulate body processes.
- Minerals regulate body processes and also make up body tissues.
- Water gives cells shape and acts as a medium where body processes can occur.
Having good nutrition means eating the right types of foods in the right amounts so you get these important nutrients.
Do I need a special diet?
There are no special diets, or particular foods, that will directly boost your immune system. But there are things you can do to keep your immunity up.
When you are infected with HIV, your immune system has to work very hard to fight off infections--and this takes energy (measured in calories). For some people, this may mean you need to eat more food than you used to.
If you are underweight--or you have advanced HIV disease, high viral loads, or opportunistic infections--you should include more protein as well as extra calories (in the form of carbohydrates and fats). You'll find tips for doing this in the next section.
If you are overweight, find help on My HealtheVet's Healthy Eating Centers. Keep in mind, you may need to eat more nutritious foods to meet your body's needs.