Hemoglobin is an important component in your blood needed to transport oxygen to all parts of your body. If you have a low hemoglobin count or anemia, eating certain foods may be of benefit to increase your red blood cells. A diet plan for anemia should include a healthy balance of foods rich in iron and vitamins that help to assist your body absorb nutrients.
Pair Up Iron and Vitamin C
The body needs iron to make hemoglobin. A deficiency in iron can develop from poor iron intake, decreased gut absorption of iron, excessive bleeding or increased iron demand — as in pregnancy. In order to treat iron deficiency anemia, your doctor may recommend iron supplements and iron-rich foods to increase blood count, including:
- Red meat
- Pork and seafood
- Dark leafy vegetables, including spinach
- Beans and lentils
- Iron-fortified cereals
Your doctor may also recommend an increase in dietary vitamin C to help iron absorption. Vitamin C-rich foods include:
- Red or green peppers
- Kiwi fruit
- Citrus fruits, such as oranges and tangerines
Eat Foods High in Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is needed for red blood cells to grow and mature properly. Vitamin B12 deficiency may result from a lack of dietary vitamin B12, which is found in meat, seafood, eggs, dairy products and fortified cereals or breads. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also result from an autoimmune condition called pernicious anemia that limits the body's ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food. In addition to dietary changes, prescription vitamin B12 supplements or shots are needed to treat vitamin B12 deficiency.
Folate For Your Blood
Like vitamin B12, your body needs folate to make normal red blood cells. Pregnancy, certain anti-seizure medications, alcohol abuse and celiac disease can lower folate levels in the body. Rich sources of folate, a B vitamin, include:
- Spinach and other leafy green vegetables
- Asparagus and Brussels sprouts
- Beef liver
- Dried beans
- Fortified breads, cereals and pasta
Increase Your Fluid Intake
Blood plasma is made up mostly of water. A decrease in plasma may be caused by blood loss, diarrhea, vomiting, other medical conditions and side effects of medications. Fluids, not food, are needed to treat blood plasma loss. If hypovolemia is severe, you will need fluids or blood given intravenously. If the plasma loss is mild — as in the case of dehydration from diarrhea — drinking fluids by mouth may be sufficient.
Warnings and Precautions
Anemia and hypovolemia need to be evaluated by your doctor. If you think you may have anemia, see your doctor. While mild anemia may cause no symptoms, you may experience fatigue or pale skin. As anemia becomes more severe, the symptoms usually worsen. Warning signs that warrant immediate medical care include bright red blood in your stool, black stools, chest pain, trouble breathing or feeling faint.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: How Is Anemia Treated?
- American Family Physician: Iron Deficiency Anemia: Evaluation and Management
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- Clinical Medicine and Research: Megaloblastic Anemia and Other Causes of Macrocytosis
- American Family Physician: Update on Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Your Guide to Anemia
- American Journal of Kidney Disease: Volume Depletion Versus Dehydration: How Understanding the Difference Can Guide Therapy