Why hemoglobin is important, and what happens when it’s low
Hemoglobin does a very important job in your body. It’s the part of your red blood cells that supplies your organs and tissues with oxygen. If your levels of hemoglobin decrease, you can develop anemia and get symptoms such as persistent tiredness, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness and pale skin.
Many things can lead to low hemoglobin levels, and the most common causes of insufficient hemoglobin have to do with diet. Vegans and vegetarians can be at risk for anemia.
How to improve your hemoglobin levels if you eat a plant-based diet
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, don’t rush to buy iron supplements and vitamin B complex supplements just yet. With a balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods and products fortified with vitamin B12, you may be able to avoid anemia without taking any supplements.
Let’s start with iron. Iron is a micronutrient, meaning you need to consume a very small amount of it every day in order to function. Adult men aged 19 to 50 need 8 mg of iron daily; women in the same age group need 18 mg a day (27 mg during pregnancy). Adults of both sexes aged 51 and older need 8 mg of iron daily.
Beans, lentils, peas, and some nuts and vegetables are good sources of iron. To help your body absorb more iron from food, you also need to consume enough vitamin A and vitamin C.
While you can get iron from plant source foods, it’s a different story with vitamin B12, another essential nutrient for red blood cells production. If you are on a vegetarian or vegan diet, you have to add enough fortified products into your diet to get enough of this nutrient. It’s often added to cereals (just make sure they are sugarless and have no other additives), rice, soy milk, and other products.
Which specific foods can I add to my diet to boost my hemoglobin levels and decrease the risk of anemia?
To get enough vitamin B12, eat more foods fortified with this vitamin. Check the labels of the foods you buy and calculate the amount of vitamin B12 you’re getting.
To include more iron into your diet, eat more of the following:
- white beans;
- dark chocolate;
- sun-dried tomatoes;
- dried fruits, including prunes, raisins, and apricots;
- spinach and other dark leafy greens;
To help your body absorb the iron, eat more foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and berries. You also need to get enough vitamin A, which is found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes.
Another important nutrient we haven’t mentioned is folate. Folate is a B vitamin, and it’s essential for hemoglobin production. Spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, and black-eyed peas are among the greatest sources of folate.
When to see a doctor
Sometimes, the changes you make in your diet are not enough to bring your hemoglobin to normal levels. See your doctor if you have the following symptoms:
- persistent tiredness;
- muscle weakness;
- pale skin and gums;
- feeling short of breath after regular activities;
- easy bruising.
You should also contact your doctor before trying any supplements.
This article is solely for informational purposes. Before using any of the information provided above, consult a certified specialist. Use of the information outlined above can be harmful to health. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm or other consequences that may result from the use of the information provided above.