Blood is the medium of transportation and nutrition. Red blood cells, or erythrocytes, are the oxygen carrying cells found in blood, supplying oxygen to all parts of the body. They have a maximum life span of about 120 days, and hence need to be replaced rather quickly. The body is constantly making new cells and replacing dying ones. A key factor in this cycle is your nutritional well-being and fitness. Find out the foods that increase red blood cell production and help your body maintain its blood cell count.
Why could your red blood cell count be low? There could be a number of reasons for having a low red blood cell count:
Anemia – A condition in which the body produces insufficient red cells or they contain little hemoglobin (the key component involved in oxygen transport)
Bone marrow malfunctions
Use of certain medications
Hemolysis due to injury
A few important dietary changes to meet your nutrient deficiencies are the best way to enhance red cell production. Blood building foods do just that. They contain the specific components required for stimulating blood cell production.
Iron is an integral structural component in hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the pigment present in red blood cells that binds and helps transport oxygen around the body. Iron deficiency through blood loss (childbirth, mensuration, hemolysis, etc.) or an inability to absorb the nutrient can have severe affects on health. Eating foods rich in iron can help maintain the level of iron required by the body. Such foods include dark leafy vegetables (spinach, kale), kidney beans, liver, egg yolks, red meat, raisins and whole grains. Certain processed foods, such as breads, flour, milk, etc are also fortified with iron.
Copper, like iron, is also required for the production of hemoglobin. It helps in assuring that all cells can access the chemical form of iron that is required for red blood cells. Foods rich in copper include oysters, mushrooms, nuts, pulses, dried food, avocados and pulses.
The three types of cells found in blood specialize from stem cells present in the bone marrow. Vitamin A, along with other chemicals, plays a role in determining the development and differentiation of stem cells into red blood cells. It also makes sure that the production and replacement is balanced, maintaining an adequate level of cells. Moreover, it ensures that emerging cells have access to iron for manufacturing hemoglobin. Vitamin A is found in carrots, kale, dried apricots, melon, red peppers, and tropical fruits such as mango.
This water-soluble vitamin is essential for all aspects of growth and maintenance. Vitamin B6 plays a role in the metabolism of red blood cells and proteins. Fish, rice, chicken, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, legumes, whole-grains and nuts are the best sources of vitamin B6.
Vitamin B9 (Folate/Folic Acid)
Folic acid is a B-complex that assists the production of new and healthy red blood cells. People with a deficiency of vitamin B9 usually develop anemia and heart diseases. The occurrence of certain types of cancer and neural defects is also common in such people. Good food sources of vitamin B9 include cereals, leafy vegetables, peas, dried beans and nuts. Synthetic folic acid is also used to fortify flours, breads and macaroni products.
Vitamin B12 is also a B-complex vitamin. The methylcobalamin from of vitamin B12 is preferred. It is involved in the synthesis of DNA (hereditary material) and red blood cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency results in a condition known as megaloblastic anemia. This occurs as a result of abnormal cell division in the bone marrow, which produces large immature red cells, or megaloblasts. These cells are not capable of transporting oxygen. Sources of vitamin B12 are beef, fish, liver, eggs, red meat and dairy products.
Other than these foods that increase red blood cell production, certain supplements are also available. But they should only be taken after proper medical counsel. Vitamin C and E also increase iron absorption and assist red cell production respectively. Lifestyle changes and exercise has its role to play as well.