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Nutrition for Low Hgb From Chemo Treatments

author image Katrina Josey
Katrina Josey is an exercise physiologist and health education specialist in Ohio. She is experienced in the full life cycle of developing health and wellness programs. Katrina was the managing editor of a major website's fitness channel and has over 10 years of professional experience including clinical exercise testing. Her volunteer experience includes AmeriCorps service and wellness ministry work.
Nutrition for Low Hgb From Chemo Treatments
A grilled steak served with a spinach and hazelnut salad. Photo Credit: -lvinst-/iStock/Getty Images

Hemoglobin is the protein on red blood cells that carries iron. Some chemotherapy drugs may affect your bone marrow, the site where red blood cells are made. This may result in anemia, which can cause you to feel weak, faint or short of breath, according to This chemotherapy side effect on your bone marrow is not permanent and may be helped through proper nutrition. Eating a diet rich in protein, vitamins and minerals can help your body rebuild its red blood cell count and increase the amount of iron on your existing red blood cells.

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Iron is a mineral found in each of your body's cells and is used to make new red blood cells. Including iron-rich foods in your diet will also improve your hemoglobin count. Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, breads, pastas and other grains that are fortified with iron. Foods that are naturally rich in iron include lean red meat, eggs, dried beans, tuna, oysters and dried fruits. Using cast iron cookware can also help to increase iron in your diet.

Vitamins B6, B12, E and Folic Acid

Your body uses vitamins B6, B12, E and folic acid to make new red blood cells. Vitamin B12 and folate work in tandem to manufacture new blood cells. The only naturally occurring sources of vitamin B12 are animal proteins, such as red meat. However, some soy protein products, such as tofu, are fortified with vitamin B12. Leafy green vegetables, nuts and legumes are good sources of folate and B vitamins. Spinach, broccoli and other dark green vegetables are high in these vitamins as well. Vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant, is abundant in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C in a meal helps the body optimize its absorption of iron. All fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, but some have more than others. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are rich in vitamin C. Leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and limes, are also naturally rich in vitamin C. Drink fruit juices with vitamin C during meals to maximize your iron uptake.


Drinking caffeinated beverages may affect your hemoglobin levels due to its effect on iron. Caffeine limits the amount of iron your body can absorb with a meal. If you wish to keep caffeinated beverages in your diet, avoid drinking them with meals to give your body time to absorb as much iron as possible.

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