Do Certain Foods Raise Hemoglobin Blood Levels?

Hemoglobin provides oxygen to your body. It's possible to consume a diet to raise hemoglobin levels. However, diet alone is unlikely to be sufficient if your levels are low, so you should talk to your doctor to figure out what's causing the issue.

A diet to raise hemoglobin levels would involve foods rich in nutrients like copper, iron, vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin B12. (Image: ALLEKO/iStock/GettyImages)

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A diet to raise hemoglobin levels would involve foods rich in nutrients like copper, iron, vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin B12.

Hemoglobin and Blood Health

Hemoglobin is a protein that's part of your red blood cells. This means your hemoglobin levels are determined by the number of red blood cells in your body. This protein is critically important for your health because it provides oxygen to the various tissues and organs in your body.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, hemoglobin's normal range can vary. For men, normal hemoglobin levels range between 14 and 17 grams per deciliter. For women, normal hemoglobin levels range between 12 and 15 grams per deciliter.

Low hemoglobin causes vary, but there are typically three main reasons:

  1. Your body is producing fewer red blood cells than it should.
  2. Your body is destroying your red blood cells and not producing more fast enough.
  3. Blood loss. This may occur from injury or illness. However, women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding may have lower hemoglobin levels than average and still be healthy.

Regardless of the reason, low hemoglobin levels may result in or be accompanied by various health issues. These include anemia, cancer, and various different kidney, lung and cardiovascular problems. It's rare for hemoglobin levels to be due to nutrition alone, unless you're a vegan or vegetarian who isn't consuming enough vitamin B12 and iron.

Since low hemoglobin levels are often a sign of a serious medical issue, you should consult your doctor to figure out the exact cause of this problem. In such cases, your doctor will likely recommend various strategies to raise these levels. These strategies may vary, depending on the cause of the problem.

It's important to be aware that diet alone can't resolve low hemoglobin levels when they are due to issues like ulcer, cancer or organ dysfunctions. However, once the underlying medical issue has been resolved, your doctor will likely recommend certain dietary changes. For example, the consumption of certain foods can increase blood cell production, which can, in turn, raise your hemoglobin levels.

Blood Health and Nutrient Consumption

According to Harvard Health and the Food and Drug Administration, many different vitamins and minerals are important to your blood health. These include copper, iron, vitamin A and several B-complex vitamins (specifically, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin B12). All of these nutrients have the potential to positively affect your hemoglobin levels because they're involved in red blood cell production.

A healthy diet involves daily consumption of all of these essential nutrients. The recommended daily values for these nutrients are:

  • 2 milligrams for copper
  • 18 milligrams for iron
  • 5,000 international units for vitamin A
  • 1.7 milligrams for riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • 20 milligrams for niacin (vitamin B3)
  • 10 milligrams for vitamin B5
  • 2 milligrams for vitamin B6
  • 400 micrograms for folic acid (vitamin B9)
  • 6 micrograms for cobalamin (vitamin B12)

Various other essential nutrients affect your cardiovascular health, which in turn can also affect your blood cell production. These include vitamins C, D and K as well as minerals like calcium, chromium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Vitamin D is a particularly important nutrient that can affect your blood health. The Food and Drug Administration reports that this vitamin mainly regulates your blood pressure, but both a June 2013 study in Clinica Chimica Acta and a February 2015 study in the journal AGE reported that vitamin D can affect hemoglobin levels. Low vitamin D was also found to be directly related to the risk of anemia.

Foods to Raise Hemoglobin Levels

The nutrients involved in blood cell production can all be obtained through both animal and plant-based foods. However, a diet to raise hemoglobin levels doesn't have to involve major changes — it simply needs to include the vitamins and minerals involved in blood cell production.

Meat eaters can easily obtain a variety of of these vitamins and minerals through consumption of beef liver. The USDA states that 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of liver contains:

  • 860 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin A
  • 15 percent of the DV for vitamin B1 (thiamin)
  • 263 percent of the DV for vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • 109 percent of the DV for vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • 139 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
  • 60 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
  • 65 percent of the DV for vitamin B9 (folic acid)
  • 3,464 percent of the DV for vitamin B12
  • 1,621 percent of the DV for copper
  • 34 percent of the DV for iron
  • 5 percent of the DV for magnesium
  • 15 percent of the DV for manganese
  • 39 percent of the DV for phosphorus
  • 7 percent of the DV for potassium
  • 60 percent of the DV for selenium
  • 48 percent of the DV for zinc

This means you can easily get large amounts of blood cell producing nutrients by consuming even small amounts of beef liver. Other types of animal livers, like chicken and pork liver, are also very nutritious foods.

It's much harder to obtain copper, iron, vitamin A and B-complex vitamins from one source if you follow a plant-based diet. However, many grains and cereals are enriched with iron and certain B-complex vitamins.

Vitamin B12 is perhaps the hardest nutrient to get from plant-based sources. This vitamin can be easily obtained through the consumption of animal products like meat, seafood, dairy and eggs. However, a few types of mushrooms and sea vegetables are rich plant-based sources of this nutrient.

Products That Prevent Nutrient Absorption

Certain foods, beverages and supplements can interfere with nutrient absorption. For example, according to an interview with Monica Heather Auslander, MS, RD, LD/N, for Bustle, "Iron and calcium inhibit each other's absorption." This means that ingesting dairy products and calcium supplements can potentially prevent you from getting enough iron.

The Stanford Blood Center explains that other commonly consumed foods and beverages can hinder iron absorption too. These include products like coffee, tea, alcoholic beverages and foods rich in dietary fiber.

However, this doesn't mean that you need to avoid these foods. In fact, certain foods, like those rich in fiber, are essential for good gastrointestinal health. However, a diet to raise hemoglobin levels might mean you need to make adjustments if you're consuming a lot of these foods. You may need to consume more of certain foods or even take supplements.

Just like certain products can hinder the absorption of certain nutrients, others can help. In iron's case, you can consume more foods rich in vitamin C. This nutrient can help your body absorb this mineral more easily.

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