Norman Regional Health System

Boost Your Iron Level Before You Donate!

It is important to increase your iron intake in the weeks before you donate. Low hematocrit is the most frequent reason those wanting to donate are disqualified. Low hematocrit can be related to a low iron level. The great news is that it is usually temporary!

How to help your body absorb iron:

  • Add fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C to your diet. Vitamin C can enhance the iron absorption by as much as 20 times.
  • Refrain from tea drinks since tannic acid can interfere with iron absorption. Coffee, milk, fiber and soy protein may also block the absorption of iron.

Recommended daily dietary iron intake:

  • Females, age 19-50: 18mg
  • Females, age 50 and older: 8mg
  • Males, age 19 and older: 8mg

What is hematocrit?

Hematocrit is the percentage of blood volume that is red blood cells. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), your hematocrit must be at least 38% to donate blood for another person. This is to protect donors from becoming anemic by donating blood.

Common reasons for low hematocrit (a possible sign of low iron) are:

  • A low-iron diet
  • Menstrual blood loss
  • A diet low in folate, Vitamin B6 or B12

People with chronic illnesses such as arthritis, diabetes and kidney disease may also have a low hematocrit and possible low iron levels in their body.

What can I do if my diet seems to be the only reason for my low hematocrit?

Eat more high-iron foods, such as:

  • Red meat (especially liver)
  • Pork, chicken, or turkey
  • Fish and shellfish (oysters, clams, shrimp, scallops)
  • Dried fruit (raisins, apricots, prunes, preaches)
  • Spinach and other dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Beans, peas, and nuts
  • Iron-fortified breads and cereals

Eating foods rich in vitamin C (citrus fruits, broccoli and tomatoes) helps in iron absorption. Avoid drinking tea while eating high-iron foods. Coffee, milk, fiber and soy protein may also block the absorption of iron. Over-the-counter iron supplements can be taken after consulting with a doctor to determine the exact cause of low hematocrit.