Nutrition and Blood

nutrition and blood

Nutrition and Blood:

Are you feeling weak or fatigued? You may be experiencing symptoms of anemia. Anemia occurs when your red blood cell (RBC) count is low. If your RBC count is low, your body has to work harder to deliver oxygen throughout your body.

RBCs are the most common cells in human blood. The body produces millions each day.

RBCs are produced in the bone marrow and circulate around the body for 120 days. Then, they go to the liver, which destroys them and recycles their cellular components.

Anemia can put you at risk for a number of complications, so it’s important to get your RBC levels back on track as soon as possible.

Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells. As above, these cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. In addition to transporting oxygen, hemoglobin carries carbon dioxide out of the cells and into the lungs. Carbon dioxide is then released as a person exhales. Having low hemoglobin can make it difficult for the body to perform these functions.

A person can raise their hemoglobin levels at home by:
Increasing iron intake:

A person with reduced levels of hemoglobin may benefit from eating more iron-rich foods. Iron serves to boost the production of hemoglobin, which also helps to form more red blood cells.

Iron-rich foods include:

foods rich in iron

  • meat and fish
  • soy products, including tofu and edamame
  • eggs
  • dried fruits, such as dates and figs
  • broccoli
  • green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach
  • green beans
  • nuts and seeds
  • peanut butter
Increasing folate intake:

Folate is a type of vitamin B (Vitamin B9) that plays an essential part in hemoglobin production. The body uses folate to produce heme, a component of hemoglobin that helps to carry oxygen. If a person does not get enough folate their red blood cells will not be able to mature, which could lead to folate-deficiency anemia and low hemoglobin levels.

folic acid - vitamin B9

Folate-rich foods include:

  • beef
  • spinach
  • rice
  • peanuts
  • black-eyed peas
  • kidney beans
  • avocadoes
  • lettuce
Increasing B12 intake:

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that your body can’t make on its own, so you need to get it from your diet or supplements. Vegetarians, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and others at high risk of deficiency may want to track their diets closely to make sure they’re getting enough.

This water-soluble vitamin has many essential functions in your body. It’s necessary for keeping your nerves healthy and supporting the production of DNA and red blood cells, as well as maintaining normal brain function.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) is about 2.4 mcg but slightly higher for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the stomach with the help of a protein called intrinsic factor. This substance binds to the vitamin B12 molecule and facilitates its absorption into your blood and cells.

Your body stores excess vitamin B12 in the liver, so if you consume more than the RDI, your body will save it for future use.

You may develop a vitamin B12 deficiency if your body does not produce enough intrinsic factor, or if you don’t eat enough vitamin-B12-rich foods.

Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products, especially meat and dairy products. Luckily for those on vegans diets, fortified foods can be good sources of this vitamin too.

Foods rich in B12

Healthy foods that are very high in vitamin B12:
  • Animal Liver and Kidneys
  • Clams “Clams are small, chewy shellfish that are packed with nutrients”
  • Sardines
  • Beef
  • Fortified Cereal
  • Tuna
  • Fortified Nutritional Yeast
  • Trout
  • Salmon
  • Milk and dairy products like yogurt and cheese
  • Eggs
Vitamin C: 

This vitamin may help your body better absorb iron. The average adult needs about 500 mg per day.

Best food sources of vitamin C:

Citrus fruits such as orange, kiwi, lemon, guava, grapefruit, and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and capsicums are rich, natural sources of vitamin C. Other vitamin C-rich fruits include papaya, cantaloupe, and strawberries.


Copper intake doesn’t directly result in RBC production, but it can help your RBCs access the iron they need to replicate.

Foods high in copper include:

  • poultry
  • shellfish
  • liver
  • beans
  • cherries
  • nuts

Zinc is a trace mineral that is a cation and cofactor for over two hundred enzymes in the human body that play a direct role in RNA, DNA, and protein synthesis. Zinc also is a cofactor for enzymes involved in energy metabolism. It is important for wound healing, transport of vitamin A, taste perception, growth and development, and cofactor in genetic material and protein. Zinc is a required cofactor for an enzyme that synthesizes the heme portion of hemoglobin and severely deficient zinc diets can result in anemia.

It is estimated that half of the world’s population has a zinc-deficient diet. This is largely a consequence of the lack of red meat and seafood in the diet and reliance on cereal grains as the main dietary staple.

The best way to ensure you are getting enough is to eat a varied diet with good sources of zinc, such as meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, legumes, and dairy.

Vitamin A:

Vitamin A (retinol) also supports RBC production in this manner. Foods rich in vitamin A include:

  • dark, leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale
  • sweet potatoes
  • squash
  • carrots
  • red peppers
  • fruits, such as watermelon, grapefruit, and cantaloupe

Bethany Cadman and Daniel Murrell, MD. How to increase hemoglobin: Foods, home remedies, and more

Arlene Semeco, MS, RD. Top 12 Foods That Are High in Vitamin B12

Neel Duggal and Deborah Weatherspoon. How to Increase Your Red Blood Cell Count

Prasad, Ananda. “Zinc deficiency.” BMJ 2003 February 22; 326(7386): 409–410. doi: 10.1136/bmj.326.7386.409. Accessed October 2, 2011.

Minerals Important for Blood Function and Renewal.


  • Avatar Cindy

    I am a 71 year old female who had a CBC done 2 days ago. Everything was fine except my platelet count was 40. Is that a sure sign of lukemia

    • Hi Cindy,
      Thank you for your comment.
      No, the low platelet count is not a sure sign of leukemia!
      Low platelets could be immune or reactive to infection/inflammation, or spurious or any other cause.
      I would suggest a blood smear initially.
      Best wishes,

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