Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Because iron is an important component of hemoglobin, consuming iron-rich foods will raise your hemoglobin levels. Low hemoglobin levels can lead to iron deficiency anemia. This condition causes a rapid heartbeat, fatigue, a weakened immune system and shortness of breath.
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Many foods are enriched with iron to increase your daily intake. These products include breakfast cereals, pasta, bread, malted drinks and grits. The Food and Nutrition Board recommends 18 milligrams of iron for women and 8 milligrams for men. Many cereals contain enough iron to fulfill your daily allowance in one serving. Check package labels for more information.
The iron from animal sources is more easily absorbed by your body than the iron from plant sources. Therefore seafood, poultry, eggs and beef are good sources of iron. Seafood selections include clams, salmon, oysters and sardines. Other sources include beef and chicken liver. These foods are also good sources of protein, which you need for tissue growth and repair.
If you are a vegan, eat pulses and beans to raise your hemoglobin levels. Good sources include garbonzo beans, dried peas, red kidney beans, lentils, soybeans, black beans, white beans and cowpeas. The American Dietetic Association encourages eating these foods with vitamin C-rich foods to maximize iron absorption. The Office of Dietary Supplements lists citrus fruits and juices, kiwi fruit, broccoli, baked potatoes and tomatoes as rich sources of vitamin C. Snack on dried prunes, apricots, raisins, Brazil nuts and almonds.
Vitamin B-12 and folate also aid in the production of red blood cells. Folate naturally occurs in turnip greens, okra, collards, artichokes, spinach and asparagus. Cheese, milk and yogurt are rich sources of B-12. Choose nonfat and low-fat varieties. Avoid consuming dairy products with iron-rich foods because the calcium in them reduces the absorption of iron.