How to increase your Red Blood Cell (RBC) count?
Red blood cells (RBC) also called as erythrocytes are the most abundant cell type in the human body without which an individual will not be able to survive even for a moment. Hemoglobin is a respiratory pigment present in the RBC, which gives blood its color. Additionally, the Red Blood Cell is anucleated, which leaves more room for hemoglobin.
What is the function of RBC?
Haemoglobin, present in the Red blood cell is the carrier of oxygen all throughout the body. It provides oxygen to all tissues and cells of the body and takes the carbon dioxide away. It is majorly comprised of Iron.
What are the consequences of Iron deficiency?
If you don't have enough iron in your body, your body won't be able to make enough RBCs. Therefore iron deficiency may cause several health issues in the body as all the cells of the body will not receive enough oxygen. The most common health issue is Iron Deficiency Anaemia caused either due to reduced intake of iron rich foods, increased demand of iron by the body or due to poor absorption of iron by the body.
What are the symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anaemia ?
You may feel tired throughout the day. Common symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, breathlessness, pale skin, dull eyes, light headedness, dizziness and a fast heartbeat.
What are the major nutrients required for RBC production?
Your bone marrow continuously produces newer red blood cells to replace the ones that have reached the end of their lifespan (100-120 days). The rate at which production of RBCs occurs, highly depends on your diet. Therefore eating foods that are rich in certain nutrients will increase the production of RBC.
The major Nutrients required for an optimum RBC production are Vitamin A, Iron, B-Vitamins, Folate and Copper.
Iron forms the active part of heme in the blood and thereby eating iron rich foods, helps in production of healthy RBCs. Vitamin B6, B9, B12 all contribute in the production of haemoglobin.
How to increase your RBC count?
In order to increase your RBC count, your diet should be rich in Iron. There are two types of Iron- haeme iron and non- haeme iron. Heame iron is better absorbed by the body and comes from animal products like beef, pork, chicken etc.
But Vegetarians do not get tensed! There are vegetarian sources of iron as well which provide the non-haeme iron that has to be converted to haeme iron in the body to be absorbed. The sources are – garden cress seeds, turmeric powder, leafy vegetables – spinach, fenugreek, cauliflower greens and dil leaves, lentils and beans.
For more information on iron rich sources refer to our article on Iron Rich Foods.
5 Tips to get enough Iron
1. If you are a non vegetarian, eat lean red meat, chicken and fish – they have good quantity of haeme iron which is absorbed easily. Eating it several times a week may help if you are deficient.
2. If you are a vegetarian, choose non-haeme sources like green leafy vegetables, eat a tablespoon of gardencress seeds at least thrice a week and include lots of iron rich plant sources.
3. Consume foods rich in Vitamin C like lemon, orange, sweet lime, guava and berries, it will facilitate the absorption of iron in your body.
For example: Some lemon juice drizzled over leafy greens will increase the amount you absorb.
4. Avoid coffee, tea or milk during meals, they can hinder iron absorption. Have it between the meals.
5. Foods containing phytates (cereals and grains), calcium ( milk and dairy) and polyphenols (tea and coffee) can hinder iron absorption. Do not consume them with iron sources.
Because of menstrual losses, requirement of iron for women is higher than that of men. And the requirements of pregnant ladies is even more high!However, too much of iron can cause iron toxicity so make sure you have them in the recommended amounts! Refer to our article on Daily Iron Requirements.
By carefully selecting the foods you eat and knowing how certain foods can enhance or inhibit absorption, you can make sure you are getting the iron you need. This will help you in maintaining an optimum Red Blood Cell (RBC) count!
Stay informed and make wise choices!