In this article, we will discuss the foods that you should consider eating before donating blood to avoid feeling weak, dizzy, or faint after donating. Donating blood is an act of kindness that can save lives. However, many people feel weak and dizzy after donating blood, which can be attributed to the lack of proper nutrition prior to your donation appointment. The food we eat before donating blood can have a significant impact on how we feel afterward, which is why you should prioritize what you eat before donating.
Increase Your Body’s Iron and Hydration Before Donating Blood
Before donating, you want to prioritize eating foods naturally high in iron and decrease the consumption of foods that block the absorption of iron in your body. There are two different types of iron found in foods: heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by your digestive system, which means you will be able to extract more iron from foods rich in this compound. Non-heme iron is mostly found in plants and is harder for your body to extract. Your body absorbs up to 30 percent of heme iron (animal foods) and only 2 to 10 percent of nonheme iron (plant foods). We will cover the exact foods to eat, and avoid, before donating down below.
Foods to Eat Before Donating Blood
Here are some of the foods that one should eat before donating blood:
1. Iron-Rich Animal Foods (Heme Iron Foods)
Iron is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells. Eating iron-rich foods before donating blood can help increase the number of red blood cells in the body, which can make the donation process more comfortable and decrease your chances of being deferred for having low iron.
Animal foods rich in iron include:
2. Iron Rich Plant Foods (Non-Heme Iron Foods)
The iron found predominantly in plants is called non-heme iron, which isn’t absorbed as well as the heme iron found in animal foods. But not to worry if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can still eat these plant-based foods to get as much iron as you need before donating blood. Here is a list of plant-based foods that you should consider eating before donating blood
Iron Enriched Cereals
3. Foods Rich in Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from the food we eat, especially non-heme iron found in plant foods. Therefore, consuming foods rich in vitamin C with iron-rich foods before donating blood can help increase iron absorption and your chances of passing the screening process. Foods that are high in vitamin C include oranges, as well as orange juice, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, and tomatoes.
4. Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are slow-digesting, which means they release energy slowly and steadily. Consuming complex carbohydrates before donating blood can help maintain blood sugar levels, preventing a sudden drop in blood pressure. Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include whole grains, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and quinoa.
5. Foods Rich in Protein
Protein is essential for the production of red blood cells and for repairing tissue. Consuming protein-rich foods before and after donating blood can help increase the number of red blood cells in the body, making the donation process more comfortable. Foods rich in protein include eggs, chicken, fish, nuts, and seeds.
What to Drink Before Donating Blood
Hydration is the key to passing the screening process and having a successful blood donation. That is why we recommend drinking an additional 16oz (2 cups) of water before donating blood. This additional 16oz is on top of the daily recommended intake of water (72 to 104 ounces).
Foods to Avoid Before Donating Blood
While some foods can increase your chances of passing the screening process and on to a successful donation, some foods should be avoided or limited before donating blood. Here are some of the foods that you should avoid before donating blood:
1. Fatty Foods
Fatty foods can increase the level of fat in the blood, making it harder for the body to absorb iron. High-fatty foods can also interfere with the testing of your blood, and if we can not test your blood for infectious diseases, we won’t be able to send it to someone who needs it. Therefore, it is best to avoid fatty foods before donating blood. Some classic examples of these fatty foods are donuts and fried foods like chicken and French fries.
Alcohol can dehydrate the body, making it harder for the body to replace the lost fluids during blood donation. We recommend that you avoid drinking alcohol 24 hours prior to donating blood at a donor center or mobile blood drive.
3. Iron Blocking Foods & Drinks
There are a key group of foods that we recommend reducing or avoiding several hours before donating blood.
Coffee and tea
High-calcium foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt
Red wine (or alcohol in general)
Caffeine can constrict blood vessels, making it harder for the body to absorb iron (as recommended to avoid on the food list above). It can also cause an increase in urination, which can lead to dehydration if you do not also increase your intake of water. Consider limiting yourself to 1 cup of coffee a few hours before donating blood if you often donate in the morning. If you do have coffee or a caffeinated beverage, drink additional water to re-up your hydration levels.
If you’re donating blood platelets — a different process and component of blood — your body must be aspirin-free for 48 hours prior to donation. If you plan to donate platelets and are currently taking aspirin, please consult your doctor before you stop taking aspirin.
If you have more questions about donating blood, platelets or plasma, we highly recommend checking out our donor FAQ page here
Donating blood is a noble act that can save lives in our community. However, it is essential to eat the right foods before donating blood to avoid feeling weak, dizzy, or faint after donating. Consuming iron-rich foods, foods rich in vitamin C, complex carbohydrates, and adequate protein can aid in your after-donation experience being pleasant. If you would like to schedule your next donation appointment, please visit us at www.hcbb.com/schedule