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,

  • Avatar Samira

    My grandmother has Anemia and low red blood cell count. At the hospital they gave her a pint of blood, but she feels about the same with no big change. Her hemoglobin count is still around 6.6. In three weeks she will go back and they will give her this shot, if her insurance company pays, to help her body learn to produce better red blood cells. After that we will see. Any words of advice?

    • Hi Samira,
      Thank you for your comment.
      There are several types of anemia and the treatment for each type is different.
      I would suggest to send me her CBC in a private message through our “contact us” form or our email to have a look and advise.

  • Avatar Barry Rands

    I just got the results of my latest blood test and am “abnormal” (about 5% below the normal range per the testing lab) on the first four measured values, WBC, RBC, HGB, and HCT. This is a chronic condition for me since I first noticed it in 2013. I have seen cardiologists and had a cancer screening and have changed primary care physicians several times over the past 7 years. No one seems to know what to do. I have no obvious symptoms except that I do a lot of cycling and when I get back from a workout, it sometimes takes an hour before my heart rate goes below 100 bpm. I did a cardio stress test and my max bpm is 175. So my heart is pretty strong for a 70 year old. My Fitbit tells me that my VO2max is over 40. I eat everything suggested, especially nuts and seeds (chia, flax, almonds, peanuts) greens, legumes, etc. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Barry,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Ideally, you should send me your full CBC to have a look at the other indices like MCV, MCH, RDW, and platelets. I would suggest initially to ask your lab for a blood smear and to check your serum iron/B12/folate, LDH, and serum immunoglobulins.

  • Avatar Quintin McDaniel

    I’ve also noticed a much slower hair and nail growth, if that helps as a symptom.

  • Avatar Quintin McDaniel

    Good morning,
    I started doing a 1600 calorie diet when I was 225 lbs (male). From Feb till now, I have lost almost 70lbs, and I’m down to 153 lbs. I’m also lifting weights and have gained some muscle. Along with the 1600 calories, I tried to do 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fat.
    I got bloodwork in July and now in Aug, and my CBC is still off.
    In July, everything was normal except:
    HOMOCYSTEINE 11.6 H Normal: <11.4 umol/L
    UREA NITROGEN (BUN) 27 H Normal: 7-25 mg/dL
    MPV 12.6 H Normal: 7.5-12.5 fL
    IRON BINDING CAPACITY 238 L Normal: 250-425 mcg/dL (calc)
    % SATURATION 52 H Normal: 20-48 % (calc)

    In August, everything was normal except:
    UREA NITROGEN (BUN) 35 H Normal: 7-25 mg/dL
    BUN/CREATININE RATIO 34 H Normal: 6-22 (calc)
    RED BLOOD CELL COUNT 3.86 L Normal: 4.20-5.80 Million/uL
    HEMOGLOBIN 12.4 L Normal: 13.2-17.1 g/dL
    HEMATOCRIT 38.1 L Normal: 38.5-50.0 %
    RDW 16.9 H Normal: 11.0-15.0 %
    IRON BINDING CAPACITY 240 L Normal: 250-425 mcg/dL (calc)
    % SATURATION 54 H Normal: 20-48 % (calc)

    Any ideas on what my problem is? My iron levels, ferritin, and transferrin level were normal. My Vitamin B12 and Folate levels came back normal. My current thought is maybe I'm taking in too much protein putting stress on my kidneys, and it's spending all of its time trying to break down protein? Causing the excess nitrogen and maybe causing a lower EPO value, thus the lower rbc?
    If you send me an email, I can send you my entire bloodwork. I'm trying to go see a dr, but no one is taking patients for weeks! Symptom wise constipation,EXTREME fatigue, and much slower than normal hair and nail growth are the biggest problems for me. Also getting easy nail seperation. Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Quintin,
      I would suggest consulting a dietician for specific answers to your queries.
      Generally speaking, I encourage gradual rather than rapid weight loss.
      Rapid weight loss plans are not sustainable and have their disadvantages including:
      May trigger painful gout ‘attack’.
      May trigger gall bladder ‘attack’. Biliary sludge appears to build up during rapid weight loss diets and fasting and this in turn causes gall stones to form.
      Loss of energy to get out and continue to do physical exercise.
      Change in bowel pattern is the other downside when the carb content is low. Your bowels may seize up – constipation, straining, hemorrhoids – due to a lower than usual fiber and fat intake.
      Inadequate vitamin, mineral, and trace element intake which will leave you feeling run-down and tired.
      Loss of muscle mass even with continued good exercise due to an inadequate protein and essential (indispensable) amino acid intake.
      A rapid drop in blood glucose levels and hypo events if you have diabetes.
      Risk of fall or light-headedness due to drop in blood pressure.
      Strong likelihood that you’ll regain the lost weight plus more when you come off the plan!
      You can read more in this article.

  • Avatar Carla G Jones

    I have been diagnosed with ME/CFS. how can I promote energy production although EBV inhibits cells ability to do so?

    • Hi Carla,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Symptoms of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) may appear similar to many other illnesses and there is no test to confirm ME/CFS. This makes ME/CFS difficult to diagnose. The illness can be unpredictable. Symptoms may come and go, or there may be changes in how bad they are over time. There is no cure or approved treatment for ME/CFS. However, I would suggest reading this article:
      Treatment of ME/CFS

  • Thanks for this in-depth review.I am a korean man and can’t eat without korean food.
    I am planning to visit Toronto but concern about the food.
    But your guide helps a lot as it helps me to go a restaurant where I can find my fav korean food.
    Thanks again for this useful guide.Please reply me soon.

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