Why is it important to increase hemoglobin when the count is low? What is hemoglobin actually? Hemoglobin is a type of protein that is very important in your red blood cell. It helps carry oxygen throughout your body for energy. If you have low hemoglobin level in your blood, you will easily get tired and dizzy! That is why you must make sure your hemoglobin count is within normal range. Here are the normal ranges that you should achieve:
- Adult males: 14 to 18 gm/dL
- Adult women: 12 to 16 gm/dL
What Happens When You Are Low in Hemoglobin?
People who consistently low in hemoglobin may have anemia. One of the common types of anemia is iron deficiency anemia which is caused by low of iron in the body. Iron is an important mineral in making the hemoglobin. Without enough iron, hemoglobin count will be low and your body would not be able to carry oxygen efficiently.
These are some of the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
- Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
- Cold hands and feet
- Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
- Brittle nails
People who have blood loss, pregnancy and certain diseases (e.g. celiac disease, autoimmune diseases) are at higher risk of getting iron deficiency anemia. Moreover, low intake of iron in the diet can also lead to anemia! It is very important to ensure your diet is rich in iron in order to increase hemoglobin so you would not get tired easily.
How to Increase Hemoglobin Naturally?
1. Eat Foods Rich in Iron and Vitamin B-12
Other than iron, vitamin B-12 is also important in red blood cell production. Protein foods are the main source of iron and vitamin B-12. These are some of the foods that are rich in iron and vitamin B-12:
- Deep-sea fish (mackerel, sardine, salmon)
- Red meat (beef, mutton, pork)
- Internal organs
- Cockles and shellfish
Furthermore, these foods contain heme iron type. It is the best form of iron, readily absorbed up to 40% by our body. Meanwhile, only 20% of non-heme iron in food is absorbed into the bloodstream. So, it is advised to eat more heme iron as a way to increase hemoglobin.
Foods that are rich in non-heme iron are usually plant based such as:
- Spinach and dark green vegetables (e.g. broccoli, kale, swamp cabbage)
- Dried fruit (raisin, date, fig, prune)
- Nuts like almond, cashew, macadamia
- Soybean product like tofu, tempeh, natto
- Control the portion and frequency of high saturated fat foods like internal organs and red meat. 1 to 2 times a week is the recommended intake of red meat. Eat more white meat like chicken and fish
- Pick a lean meat protein, remove the skin and visible fat
- Limit deep-fried dish when eating protein. Go for healthier cooking methods like grilled, soup, steam and bake
- Eat more heme-iron source food. Make sure to include these foods at least in two main meals a day
2. Eat More Vitamin C Rich Foods
Vitamin C really helps in the absorption of iron into your body. So make sure you get more vitamin C each day, the best is from natural food. Fruits and vegetables are the main sources of vitamin C. That includes:
- Citrus fruit (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit)
- Berries (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry)
- Bell peppers
- Dark leafy vegetables
- Limit sugar intake (no more than 1 teaspoon) if you want to make fruit juice. Best to skip it altogether. Too much sugar intake can increase the risk of getting diabetes. Try not to strain the fiber because fiber can give you a lot of benefits. But the best way is to eat whole fruit! You save more time from blending it!
- Eat vitamin C rich food during a meal that consists of rich iron food. For example, you can eat fruit before/after a meal, or squeeze lemon juice on your green salad.
3. Eat vitamin A and Beta-Carotene rich food
Vitamin A and beta-carotene are very important for healthy vision, maintain healthy teeth, soft tissue, and skin. Moreover, a research article also showed that vitamin A and beta-carotene can actually help in increasing iron absorption from plant-based food such as rice, wheat, and corn.
Therefore, it would be great if you can enrich your diet with food that high in vitamin A and beta-carotene by adding more of vegetables and fruits, for example;
- Sweet potato
- Red peppers
4. Avoid Eating Iron-Rich Food Together with Caffeinated Drinks
It was found that drinking black tea with a meal reduced iron absorption into your body up to 60 to 70%. However, the rate of absorption only reduced by 20% when it was drank between meals. Drinks such as cocoa drink, coffee, tea, and coke contain high levels of caffeine. To counteract the negative effect of the substances, try not to drink a caffeinated beverage with iron-rich foods. Leave few hours gap between your main meal and these drinks.
Iron is very important for your health especially to increase hemoglobin in your red blood cells. Getting it from natural sources is the best way. You are not only getting enough iron, but also a wide array of nutrients such as vitamin, minerals, fiber and many more!