Vitamins B6, B12, folate and the mineral iron play important roles in blood formation.
Obtain adequate amounts of these nutrients by eating a healthy balanced diet consisting of a variety of foods from animal and plant sources. A B vitamin or iron deficiency may affect your body's ability to transport oxygen to your cells and tissues and could cause anemia, symptoms of which include fatigue and weakness.
Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. It is needed to make hemoglobin, the red protein in red blood cells which transports oxygen to tissues and cells in the body. Vitamin B6 also helps keep the lymphoid organs healthy – these organs manufacture white blood cells for fighting infections. Good sources of vitamin B6 include fortified cereals, potatoes, bananas, garbanzo beans, chicken breast, pork, beef, trout and sunflower seeds. The Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin B6 for adult men and women is 1.3 mg, states the Office of Dietary Supplements.
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is needed for synthesizing red blood cells in bone marrow tissue. Good sources include liver, fortified breakfast cereals, trout, salmon, yogurt, milk, cheese and eggs. It is generally agreed that B12 from plant sources such as algae, seaweeds and fermented soya is unlikely to satisfy dietary needs, says the Vegetarian Society. The Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin B12 for males and females aged 14 and over is 2.4 mcg, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin B12 deficiency may result in the creation of abnormal red blood cells known as megoblasts, notes the Vegetarian Society.
Folate, the synthetic form of which is folic acid, is a B-group vitamin needed to make red blood cells. Good sources include fortified breakfast cereals, beef liver, cow peas, spinach, asparagus, baked beans, green peas and broccoli. The Recommended Dietary Allowance of folate for male and female adults is 400mcg. A folate deficiency may occur when there is an increased need for folate, such as during pregnancy, or if too little folate is obtained from the diet. Some medications may interfere with folate metabolism. Folate deficiency can result in large red blood cells that contain inadequate amounts of hemoglobin, says the Office of Dietary Supplements.
The mineral iron is an important component of hemoglobin. Heme iron from animal sources is absorbed more easily than non-heme iron from plant sources. Good sources of iron include chicken liver, oysters, beef, turkey, fortified breakfast cereals, soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, blackstrap molasses and spinach. The Recommended Dietary Allowance of iron for males and females aged 19 to 50 years is 8mg and 18mg respectively, says the Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron deficiency is caused by eating too little iron-rich food, poor iron absorption, blood loss or rapid growth. Pregnant women, women of reproductive age and children are most at risk of iron deficiency, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center.