7 Foods to Increase Hemoglobin Levels in the BodyDr. Surya Bhagwati
Hemoglobin levels can drop for a variety of reasons, with some of the most common causes including iron deficiency anemia, pregnancy, and liver disease. Some individuals may also have low hemoglobin levels with no clear underlying cause. No matter what’s behind those low hemoglobin levels, it’s important that you don’t ignore low hemoglobin levels as this can have serious consequences. After all, hemoglobin is essential for red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body; hemoglobin also helps in the removal of carbon dioxide. To address the problem of low hemoglobin levels, you need to make changes to your diet as certain nutrients are essential for the production of hemoglobin. Most essential of these are iron and folate. Both iron and folate deficiencies are associated with conditions like iron anemia and low hemoglobin levels.
The Best Foods to Increase Hemoglobin Levels
Spinach tops the list of foods to add to your diet if you have low hemoglobin levels as this leafy green is low in calories, but packs a good amount iron and even more folate. A 100 grams serving of spinach would give you 15% of your daily iron requirement and roughly 50% of your folate requirement. Spinach is also rich in vitamin C, which makes it even more effective at boosting hemoglobin levels naturally, since vitamin C improves absorption of iron.
In addition to its helpfulness at improving iron and folate intake for increased hemoglobin production, spinach is a nutritionally dense veggie that is rich in antioxidants like carotenoids that can protect against a wide variety of ailments. In addition to spinach, you can also consume other leafy greens with similar nutritional profiles, such as kale and broccoli.
Legumes like black eyed peas, kidney beans, and chickpeas are some other healthy sources of both iron and folate. While the amounts of each nutrient can vary, most beans contain a good amount of both, while providing you with other important minerals like magnesium and potassium. Just half a cup of cooked black beans contains 1.8 grams of iron, which is 10% of your daily requirement, while half a cup of cooked kidney beans contains about 66 mcg of folate, which is 16.5% of your daily requirement. In addition to giving you a good amount of iron and folate to maintain healthy hemoglobin levels, legumes are also a good source of protein, dietary fiber, and antioxidants.
3. Pumpkin Seeds
While it’s true that healthy Ayurvedic snack recommendations have lost out to chips and chaklis, seeds like roasted makhanas are making a comeback among the health conscious. Pumpkin seeds are just as convenient and tasty a snacking option and would also be an excellent choice if you’re trying to raise your hemoglobin levels. These seeds are a good source of iron, with a 28 gram serving providing you with 2.5mg of iron or 14% of your daily requirement and 17mcg of folate or 4% of your daily requirement. Like pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds also give you a small dose of both nutrients, with 8% of your required iron intake and 6% of folate. These seeds are also rich in micronutrients like zinc and magnesium.
Regarded as a superfood and one of the best alternatives to grains that contain gluten (if you have celiac disease), quinoa classified as a pseudocereal. Aside from the fact that it is gluten free, quinoa contains a higher amount of protein than most grains and is rich in nutrients like iron, folate, magnesium, copper, and manganese, among others. Just 1 cup of cooked quinoa will give you about 2.8 grams of iron or 16% of your daily requirement. Its folate content is even better, with the same size serving delivering 77.7mcg or 19% of your folate requirement. Incidentally, quinoa also has a higher concentration of antioxidants as compared to most of the commonly consumed grains.
Tofu has been popularized as a meat substitute in those who have switched to vegetarian or vegan diets and is a soy-based food. It is one of the healthiest vegetarian sources of protein and is also notable for its iron and folate content. A half cup serving of tofu will give you at least 3.4 grams of iron or 19% of your daily requirement, while giving you 36.5mcg or 9% of your folate requirement. It’s worth noting that in addition to containing other important nutrients like thiamine, calcium, and selenium, tofu is also an excellent source of isoflavones, which are associated with increased protection against insulin resistance and heart disease.
6. Dark Chocolate
The stress here is on the ‘dark’ chocolate, particularly those containing at least 70% cocoa or higher, as regular chocolates will just give you a lot of sugar. Dark chocolate is extremely healthy and it has a rich flavor that you can appreciate once you get accustomed to it. Although dark chocolate doesn’t contain any folate, a 28 gram serving of dark chocolate packs in 3.4 grams of iron, giving you 19% of your daily requirement in one go. It is also regarded as one of the healthiest foods when consumed in moderation because its antioxidant content is even higher than that from certain fruit extracts. Studies show that dark chocolate has a positive influence on cholesterol levels, possibly reducing heart attack and stroke risk.
7. Breakfast Cereal
Many breakfast cereals are fortified with essential micronutrients that are commonly lacking in our diets. Most cereals therefore include iron and folic acid, but the content can vary greatly among different brands. This makes it important to read the labels carefully, as many cereals contain fairly high amounts of iron and folate and they also have higher bioavailability. At the same time, fortified nutrients may not be metabolized as efficiently, so it’s best to use such foods as a backup but not as the main source of nutrition.
It should be pointed out here that our focus has been on plant based foods as our population is predominantly vegetarian. However, non-vegetarian foods like eggs, liver, shellfish, red meats, and fatty fish are regarded as some of the best sources of iron, but they have little to no folate. When you consume plant based foods to boost iron and folate intake, you should also keep in mind that iron from vegetarian foods is classified as non-heme iron, which is not as easily absorbed by the body. To improve absorption of non-heme iron, it is advisable to consume vitamin C rich foods like citrus fruits along with the foods listed above.
- FoodData Central, USDA – US Department of Agriculture, fdc.nal.usda.gov/index.html
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