iron foods

Women and Hemoglobin — What It Is and How to Give Yours a Boost

March 9, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Please note, there may be more current information available related to iron and blood donation. Visit our Iron and Blood Donation page for more. 

Yesterday (Wednesday, March 8) was International Women’s Day, which of course got us thinking about our stellar female donors and the topic of women and hemoglobin!

Roughly half of all donors in the United States are female, which is an incredible accomplishment given that women are more likely to be temporarily deferred from donating due to low hemoglobin levels.

Hemoglobin is a protein found in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissue throughout the body. In order to donate blood, individuals must have a certain level of hemoglobin: 13.0 g/dL for men, and 12.5 g/dL for women and nonbinary donors. Unfortunately, women have naturally lower hemoglobin count than men.

However, there are some simple ways that women (or anyone) can try to increase their hemoglobin count. The most common causes of low hemoglobin count are low iron levels and menstrual blood loss. While unfortunately there isn’t anything you can do about the blood loss, there are some easy methods to try to boost your iron levels if you are concerned about your hemoglobin. A great way to increase your iron is by eating well-balanced diet. Meat, fish, and poultry contain a significant amount of heme-iron, which is easier to absorb than non-heme iron. You can boost your hemoglobin count by eating sources of heme-iron, like:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Shrimp
  • Halibut

If you prefer to stay away from meat and fish, no need to worry. Although non-heme iron (which is found in plant sources) is harder to absorb, it is still quite helpful in increasing hemoglobin count.  Give these sources of non-heme iron a try:

  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Cooked spinach, asparagus, and green beens
  • Potatoes
  • Avocado
  • Whole wheat bread

Eating foods with high vitamin C like citrus fruits and tomatoes will increase your ability to absorb non-heme iron, which will also help your hemoglobin.

So ladies (and gentlemen), grab some chicken and veggies, boost that hemoglobin, and come in to donate blood! Make an appointment or give us a call at 650-723-7831.