June 14th is World Blood Donor Day, which means it’s the perfect time to donate blood. However, if you’re anything like me, your luck with being a successful donor might be low. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called the clinic to book my appointment then arrived on time only to be turned away because my hemoglobin was too low? Well, it turns out I’m not alone.
Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and helps carry oxygen to all parts of your body. It is made by your body from the mineral iron. Without enough iron, your body will not have enough hemoglobin, and you may develop iron deficiency anemia.
Unfortunately, approximately 10% of female donors do not meet the minimum hemoglobin criteria on a given blood donation. Men on the other hand, rarely have low hemoglobin levels. One of the best ways to decrease your chances of being turned away due to low hemoglobin is to make iron-rich foods part of your regular diet.
Consider the following, heme iron, which is animal based, is much better absorbed than plant based non-heme iron. The trick is to eat a combination of heme and non-heme iron. Pairing iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C also increases your body’s absorption of iron.
Try these suggestions:
- Beef (heme iron) with a spinach salad (non-heme iron)
- Iron fortified breakfast cereal (non-heme iron) with an orange (vitamin C)
- Lentils, cooked (non-heme iron) with broccoli (vitamin C) in a tomato sauce
With sufficient iron not only will you feel better, but you’ll also increase your chances of being able to donate blood regularly and safely.
Jess Pirnak is in her last year of the dietetics program at UBC. She is currently an intern at Provincial Health Services Authority where she’s been since September. She holds a previous degree in Psychology. One of her passions in dietetics is education and writing, which is why she was so excited to write a post for Healthy Families BC. In her spare time you will find Jess hiking with her dog or rock climbing.