“Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein present in red blood cells and is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. It is necessary to maintain normal levels of hemoglobin in your blood for your body to function properly i.e. 14 to 18 g/dl for adult men and 12 to 16 g/dl for adult women. When the level of hemoglobin drops, it can cause weakness, fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, poor appetite and rapid heartbeat. If the level of hemoglobin decreases significantly, the condition may be diagnosed as anemia and symptoms can become severe”, says Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja, Fortis Hospital.
According to UNICEF’s report released in the 2011, close to 56% teenage Indian girls could be anaemic. The report further states that, “issues like malnutrition and anemia affect large sections of the Indian population”.
Who Needs More Iron?
“Everyone needs iron, but people who are particularly susceptible to low hemoglobin includes menstruating women, pregnant women, growing children and patients recovering from illnesses”, adds Dr. Ahuja. “It is a crucial stage when a female starts menstruating, because the body is losing out on a lot of blood. Your body needs more iron at that point, so if you don’t take precautions early on – it can lead to anemia in the future”, says Dr. Anshul Jaibharat, Delhi-based Nutritionist.
We’ve spoken to experts and listed natural ways to restore your hemoglobin to normal levels. The length of time you’ll need to continue using these effective remedies depends on your hemoglobin level and how often your doctor checks it for improvement.
7 Ways to Increase Hemoglobin
1. Eat Iron-Rich Foods
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of low hemoglobin levels, according to the National Anemia Action Council. “The top iron rich foods include green leafy vegetables like spinach, beetroot, tofu, asparagus, chicken liver, whole egg, oysters, apple, pomegranate, apricot, watermelon, prunes, pumpkin seeds, dates, almonds, raisins, amla and jaggery”, adds Dr. Anshul Jaibharat.
2. Increase Vitamin C Intake
“It is important to have a combination of both iron and vitamin C as the latter is a carrier rich molecule that can be used for better absorption of iron”, says Dr. Anju Sood, Bangalore-based Nutritionist. Eat foods rich in vitamin C such as oranges, lemon, strawberries, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, grapefruit and tomatoes.
3. Increase Folic Acid Intake
“Folic acid, a B-complex vitamin, is required to make red blood cells and a folic acid deficiency automatically leads to a low level of hemoglobin”, says Dr. Ahuja, Fortis Hospital. Some good food sources of folic acid are green leafy vegetables, sprouts, dried beans, wheat germ, peanuts, bananas, broccoli and chicken liver. “Beetroot is also highly recommended to increase the body’s red blood cell count as it is high in folic acid as well as iron, potassium and fiber”, says Nutritionist and Dietician Sheela Krishnaswamy.
4. An Apple (or Pomegranate) a Day Keeps The Doctor Away
An apple a day can help maintain a normal level of hemoglobin, since apples are rich in iron plus other health-friendly components that are required for a healthy hemoglobin count. You can either eat 1 apple a day, or drink juice made with ½ cup each of apple and beetroot juice twice a day. Add a dash of ginger or lemon juice for extra flavour. “Pomegranate is also rich in iron, calcium, fiber and protein. Its nutritional value can help increase hemoglobin and promote healthy blood flow”, says Dr. Jaibharat.
5. Drink Nettle Tea
“Nettle is a herb that is a good source of B vitamins, iron, vitamin C and can play a key role in raising your hemoglobin level”, says Dr. Adarsh Kumar, Internal Medicine, National Heart Institute. All you need to do, is add 2 teaspoons of dried nettle leaves to a cup of hot water and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Then strain, and add a little honey. Drink this twice daily.
6. Avoid Iron Blockers
Avoid eating foods that can block your body’s ability to absorb iron, especially if you have a low hemoglobin count i.e. coffee, tea, cola drinks, wine, beer, etc.
Moderate to high intensity workouts are highly recommended, because when you exercise – your body produces more hemoglobin to meet the increasing demand for oxygen throughout the body.