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Why Is Iron Important for Donating Blood?

Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron helps the body make new red blood cells and can help replace those lost after blood donations.

Hemoglobin, Low Iron, and Eligibility

Prior to donating blood, all donors will receive a free health screening. This screening includes testing hemoglobin levels.

Since iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, a low hemoglobin level can indicate low iron stores and anemia. If your hemoglobin is too low, we will ask that you wait to donate.

Normal Hemoglobin Ranges

 

Female Donors: 12 to 16 g/dL

Male Donors: 14 to 18 g/dL

What if My Hemoglobin Was Not in Range?

 

If you were not able to donate on your recent attempt because your hemoglobin was too low, you may be able to donate in the future. We recommend eating a well-balanced diet with foods that are rich in iron.


Hemoglobin Ranges for Whole Blood Donation:

Female Donors: 12.5 to 20.0 g/dL

Male Donors: 13.0 to 20.0 g/dL

 

We encourage you to come back and donate again. We will recheck your hemoglobin, and if it is high enough, you will be able to donate!

Tips and Foods To Increase Iron Levels

By eating iron rich and taking multivitamins with irons, you can increase your iron and maintain healthy levels. We recommend always consulting your health care provider.

Eat Iron-Rich Foods

Eat Iron-Rich Foods

Take Multivitamins With Iron

Take Multivitamins With Iron

Iron-Rich Foods

Grains

FoodAmountAvg MG Iron
Wheat Germ1/2 cup4
English Muffin11.5 - 1.9
Bran Muffin11.5
Tortillas11
Cooked Cereal1/2 cup0.7
Bread (White or Whole Wheat)1 slice0.5
Dry Cereal3/4 cupRead label

 

Meat

FoodAmountAvg MG Iron
Liver3 oz.8 - 9
Organ Meats3 oz.7
Liver Sausage3 oz.4 - 6
Shellfish3 oz.4 - 5
Red Meats3 oz.4
Fish and Poultry3 oz.2 - 3

Meat Substitutes

FoodAmountAvg MG Iron
Pumpkin Seeds1 oz.3.2
Tofu4 oz.2.3

Cooked Dry Peas

(Beans, Lentils, Lima Beans)

1/2 cup2 - 3
Sunflower Seeds1 oz.2
Nuts1/3 cup0.5 - 2.0
Eggs11
Peanut Butter1 tablespoon0.3

Fruit & Juices

FoodAmountAvg MG Iron
Prune Juice3/4 cup7.4
Raisins, Dates, Prunes1/2 cup3 - 4
Figs, Apricots1/2 cup3 - 4
Watermelon6" x 1/2" slice3
Tomato Juice3/4 cup1.6
Strawberries1 cup1.5
Apple Juice3/4 cup
1.1
Banana1 cup1

Vegetables

FoodAmountAvg MG Iron
Cooked Dark Leafy Greens
(Spinach, Collards, Kale)
1/2 cup3
Raw Dark Leafy Greens
(Spinach, Collards, Kale)
1/2 cup2
Jicama1/2 cup0.8

Fast Food

FoodAmountAvg MG Iron
Pizza (Cheese or Pepperoni)1/2 of 10"4.5 - 5.4
Beef Burrito14.6
Beef Taco12.9
Bean Burrito12.8
Hamburger1 regular2.5
Cheeseburger1 regular2.5

Common Questions About Iron and Blood Donation

What Is Hemoglobin?

Hemoglobin is a protein in the body that contains iron and gives blood its red color. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to nourish all of the tissues in the body.

hemoglobin

What Is Iron?

Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron helps the body make new red blood cells and can help replace those lost after blood donations.

Red blood cells flowing through artery over grey background. 3D illustration.

What if I Have Been Deferred?

If your iron count is too low, you would be temporarily deferred until you are able to get your iron levels into the necessary range by eating iron-rich foods.

iron

Find More Information on Our OneBlood Blog