Hemoglobin is the active component of red blood cells -- the cells tasked with carrying oxygen around the body to your tissues. Generally, women should have hemoglobin levels of 12.1 to 15.1 grams per decilitre in blood tests, and lower levels interfere with your body's ability to transport oxygen. Consuming foods rich in iron, vitamin B-12 and folate will help increase your hemoglobin levels.
The best sources of iron are from animal sources, such as meat, poultry, liver and fish. For example, chicken liver offers 70 percent of the daily allowance in a 3.5-ounce. serving. Iron is also found in lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans, soybeans and white beans. To maximize iron absorption, eat foods containing vitamin C with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, strawberries, pineapple, tomatoes and peppers.
The natural form of B-12 is in animal sources, such as poultry, meat, liver and seafood. Clams, oysters, salmon and herring are examples of seafood rich in B-12. Clams provide a staggering 570 percent of the daily allowance in 3-ounce serving. For a healthier option, steam or grill fish instead of frying. Milk, cheese and yogurt are good dairy sources of B-12. Choose low-fat or nonfat varieties.
Folate, or folic acid, comes mainly from plant sources. Eat green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce and turnip greens to help raise your hemoglobin levels. Folate is also found in peas and beans, including mung beans, green peas, cow peas, lima and Great Northern beans. Snack on folate-rich fruits and nuts, such as bananas, oranges, cantaloupes, strawberries, peanuts, chestnuts and hazelnuts.
While many foods don't naturally contain iron, vitamin B-12 or folate, they can still support hemoglobin because food manufacturers might add these during processing. Many refined grain products -- including white pasta, bread and rice -- contain hemoglobin-friendly nutrients because of fortification, and some breakfast cereals can fulfill your daily requirement of these nutrients in one serving. Folate is added to white rice, fruit juices, egg noodles, bread and pita bread. For example, cooked rice provides 15 percent of the daily value in half-cup. Meat substitutes and nondairy milk are often fortified with B-12. Iron is added to white grits, tofu, blackstrap molasses, wheat flour and malted drinks.
- Fresh liver image by Ramon Grosso from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.