If you have been deferred today as a blood donor because of a low hemoglobin level (also referred to as red blood cell count), it does not necessarily mean you cannot donate in the future. In fact, in many cases a simple change in your diet is all that is needed to increase your hemoglobin level.

Iron and Your Diet

Iron, when combined with certain proteins, becomes hemoglobin in red blood cells. Iron is present in small amounts in the body. Its function is to carry oxygen to the body's tissues. Because oxygen helps convert food into energy, too little iron and hemoglobin can trigger an internal energy crisis. All blood donors at Community Blood Services of Illinois must have a hemoglobin level greater than or equal to 12.5 g/dL prior to each donation. This standard was established to protect the health of the blood donor, as it is our goal for every donor to feel good after each donation.

Iron-rich foods help to promote blood regeneration. Lean meats, eggs, whole grains, enriched breads, cereals and potatoes are all good sources of iron. Other foods valuable for their iron content include green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, legumes (peas, beans, lentils) and molasses. With a few exceptions, such as the potato and enriched white bread, foods poor in iron generally have a noticeable lack of pigment. It may be helpful to remember that white foods are not good builders of red blood cells.

You can increase the amount of iron your body absorbs by eating foods high in vitamin C along with ones rich in iron.

Thank you for your willingness to give the gift of life. We hope to see you again in a few weeks. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to ask us today or call us at 367-2202 or 800-217-GIVE (4483).

High Iron Foods

  • Beet Greens
  • Carob Flour or Carob Powder
  • Chard
  • Chicken
  • Clams
  • Dates
  • Dried Apricots
  • Dried Beans or Peas
  • Dried Peaches
  • Prunes or Prune Juice
  • Duck
  • Eggs
  • Enriched Breads
  • Ham Iron-Fortified Cereal
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Liver
  • Liver Sausage
  • Meat, Especially Lean Beef or Pork
  • Molasses (Blackstrap)
  • Oysters
  • Potatoes in the Skin
  • Pumpkin
  • Raisins
  • Sardines
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp Soybeans and Soy Products
  • Spinach
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Veal
  • Wheat Germ
  • Whole-Grain Breads

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