It's no exaggeration to say that donating blood can save a life. According to statistics from the American Red Cross, every two seconds somebody in the U.S. needs blood. The cause can range from chronic illness to traumatic injury, cancer treatments and more, but the source is still the same: A person like you who's willing to take a little time out of the day and donate the life-saving substance only your body can make.
Although donating blood is very safe, a little aftercare — including the right foods — can help you bounce back more quickly.
Did you know? What you eat before donating can make a difference too. Drink plenty of water the day before and the morning of so you're well hydrated. Have a good breakfast before you donate (avoid super-fatty foods) and feel free to nibble on something salty the day before. The salt helps your body balance its fluid levels.
What's Good to Eat After Bloodwork or Donating Blood
The most obvious "best" food to eat after blood donation is anything rich in iron and vitamin C. Iron supports the production of hemoglobin, which helps transport oxygen to your tissues and becomes depleted when you donate, while vitamin C helps your body more readily absorb the iron. Foods rich in iron include meat, fish and other seafood, nuts, eggs, raisins, legumes and greens like chard and spinach.
Your body most readily absorbs heme iron, which comes primarily from animal sources. If you're consuming nonheme iron (mostly from plant sources), it's especially important to also consume vitamin C, to help with iron absorption. Orange juice and other citrus fruits are among the best sources of vitamin C, but you'll also get vitamin C from other plant-based sources like chard, broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries and kiwi fruit.
Other Blood-Building Vitamins
Other blood-building vitamins you should consume after donating blood include vitamin B9 or folic acid (present in foods like leafy greens, liver, orange juice and asparagus); vitamin B2 or riboflavin (present in dairy foods); and vitamin B6 (present in foods such as potatoes and bananas), all recommended by Carter BloodCare.
You won't be allowed to donate blood at all if your iron and hemoglobin levels are too low — so you may want to eat these blood-building foods before you donate too.
Rehydrate After Giving Blood
Most people give about a pint of blood in each donation. There's a lot of water in that life-giving fluid you've just provided, so rehydrating after your donation is every bit as important as snacking to build up your blood. The American Red Cross recommends drinking an extra 32 ounces of liquid — in addition to the quantity you'd normally drink — after donating.
According to Bloodworks Northwest, it's especially important to drink extra fluids in the first four hours after your donation. Blood centers ask you to wait a short time in their central recovery area to ensure you don't have any ill effects from the donation; this is a great chance to get a head start on rehydrating, because they always have fluids like water, orange juice and sports drinks available in that waiting area.
What Not to Do After You Donate Blood
There are also a few things you should not do in the 24 hours after you donate blood. These include:
- No alcohol for 24 hours.
- Skip the heavy lifting and vigorous exercise during that time period.
- Don't put yourself in positions (like climbing ladders) where fainting might lead to injury.
- American Red Cross: What to Do Before, During and After Your Donation
- American Red Cross: Blood News & Blood Supply
- The Well by Northwell: 5 Things You Never Knew About Donating Blood
- American Red Cross: 50 Quick Facts
- Carter Bloodcare: What to Do After You Donate
- Iron Disorders Institute: Iron We Consume
- Stanford Medicine: Ways to Boost Blood Iron Levels While Eating a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet
- Stanford Blood Center: Eating for Good Blood