Which Foods Increase Red Blood Cells
Why is blood red? It seems an obvious question, but answering it helps us understand how the human body works. It is because of red blood cells (RBCs), but then you might ask why are red blood cells red? The protein haemoglobin carries oxygen around the body by binding it to iron molecules. When this process happens the molecules turn red. This process is fundamental to our staying alive as the RBCs pick up oxygen in our lungs and transport it to the rest of the body. If you don't have enough RBCs you can develop anemia or other nutritional deficiencies which can be life threatening. This is why oneHOWTO can help you know which foods increase red blood cells to ensure you have a diet for a healthy and active life.
Iron-rich foods increase red blood cells
Anemia has three main causes, one of the most common being a decrease in the production of red blood cells. The reason for this is often because of an iron deficiency. The cause of iron deficiency may be due to physical trauma (particularly one which results in a lot bleeding) or physical exertion. If you are an athlete you need to be particularly careful of maintaining your RBC count as overexertion and profuse sweating can lead to iron deficiencies. Many think that iron deficiency comes from a genetic cause, but there is insufficient medical evidence to support this. One of the most common causes of iron deficiency is an insufficient intake and that means food.
As we said before, iron is important in haemoglobin production which is in turn necessary to oxygenate RBCs and keep us alive. This is why people with anemia (also spelled anaemia) feel so run down. They do not have enough oxygen in their RBCs to "grease the wheels" as it were and they become sluggish and tired. In developing countries, up to 2/3 of women and children suffer anemia, the majority down to insufficient diet. This is why it is important to have a diet where we eat foods rich in iron to increase RBCs. If we are fortunate enough to have access to this food, it is important to eat the right kind so we can maintain a healthy level and, therefore, a healthy life.
Here is a list of foods that increase RBCs which will help with iron absorption in the blood:
- Meats such beef, chicken, turkey or pork. It is important to keep them lean as fatty meats, even if they contain iron, will be counterproductive to your overall health
- Molluscs such as cockles, clams or mussels
- Legumes such as lentils or beans
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale, chard or lamb's lettuce
- Whole grains
- Dried raisins
Foods rich in vitamin B12 to increase the red blood cells
A lack of iron is not the only cause of low red blood cells and anemia. A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to a different type of anemia known as pernicious anemia or, more obviously, vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. It leads to similar symptoms as iron deficiency anemia and includes shortness of breath, poor balance and even chest pain.
Vitamin B12 helps produce RBCs in the bone marrow and can help against some of these symptoms by strengthening the body.Vitamin B12 is not produced naturally by the human body and, because of this, we need to get it from our diet. Meat is a major source of vitamin B12, but this can lead to some misinformation. People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet will not eat meat or eggs, which leads some people into thinking such a diet is risky or dangerous. However, you are able to get vitamin B12 from other sources, not just animal products, like you can with iron. Foods for production of red blood cells that boost vitamin B12 intake, both animal and plant based, include:
- Cold water fish like sardines or salmon.
- Milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt. These should be preferably skimmed or low-fat, again for overall nutritional benefit.
- Soya beans and other soy products.
- Beef (especially offal such as liver).
- Beer yeast.
- Wheat germ.
Foods rich in folic acid to increase red blood cells
Another important nutrient we need to help increase production is folic acid. Folate deficiency is when we don't have enough folic acid in our systems and can lead to - you may have guessed it - folate deficiency anemia. Folic acid is also known as vitamin B9 and also needs to come from our diet. However, there are differences between different types of anemia and it has different symptoms. If you look at the red blood cells of someone with folate deficiency anemia, then you will see that they are enlarged and have an abnormal appearance.
Even without the aid of a microscope, you can see more subtle differences. Folate deficiency anemia is often linked to behavior disorders such as irritability and mood swings. However, there are also many crossover symptoms. There are also situational issues which might affect folic acid or vitamin B9 levels and a change in RBCs. While women are slightly more likely to develop anemia in general, pregnant women need to be particularly careful with folic acid intake. This is also the case after birth when lactation can affect it too. Medications can affect it, as can alcohol and tobacco consumption.
Folic acid or vitamin B9 favourably influences the production of RBCs. This is why we are including it on our list of foods that increase red blood cells. Thus, we recommend incorporating into your diet:
- Legumes such as lentils and beans.
- Green leafy vegetables like Brussels sprouts, spinach or broccoli.
- Dried beans.
- Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, strawberries or kiwi.
- Breads and cereals fortified with folic acid.
It is important to remember it's not just what you eat, but how you eat which can affect nutrient absorption and production of red blood cells. This is particularly the case with vegetables. Many people will cover vegetables in water and boil them for eating, but this can lead to nutrient leaching. This is when the nutrients leak out into the water as they are cooked, which reduces the value of the food you cook. The best way to get around it is to eat raw or cook with a steamer which does not allow for as much leaching.
Copper intake for increase of red blood cells
Copper is a mineral which is essential in the absorption of iron. It is also important in the production of melanin and helps with bone strength and tissue health. Like iron, folate and vitamin B12, you can get copper from your diet. While over-consumption of anything can be detrimental to your health, eating too much copper is a particular concern. The following list are foods which are rich in copper, but make sure to eat them as part of a balanced diet:
- Mushrooms (particularly shiitake and morel)
- Crustaceans (langoustines, lobster, shrimp)
- Other seafood like octopus and squid
- Seeds and nuts like cashews and hazelnuts
- Raw kale
- Legumes like beans, chickpeas, etc.
Other ways to increase blood cells
While controlling our diet is one of the best ways to increase red blood cells, it is not always something we are able to do very easily. This is especially the case if we have certain dietary requirements and allergies which prevent us from eating foods that aid our cell count. These include vitamin boosters in the form of tablets and injections. There are other vitamins which increase RBCs and these include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A (retinol)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E
Vitamin C is very important in healthy blood cells, but is also important for many other factors affecting human health. It is found in fruit in particular, but also has many other sources.
Lifestyle is important if you have a low RBC count or anemia. As we said before, smoking and alcohol consumption affects vitamin B9 intake, so you may want to cut out or lower your intake.
Regular exercise and a balanced diet are very important if you require increased red blood cells. If you need some help, you can check out our BeatFit video for some great ways to stay in shape as well as having fun.
This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.
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