If you’re a bit timid about needles or get woozy when you see blood, preparing for blood donation might take some mental preparation. However, the physical preparation is probably easier. Get a good night’s sleep, choose your favorite short-sleeved blouse and fill your belly with water and foods that are rich in iron and vitamin C.
Pump the Iron
Eat plenty of iron-rich foods during the two weeks before you donate blood. Iron helps make hemoglobin, which is the component of red blood cells that carries oxygen. If your hemoglobin level isn’t high enough, you’ll be deferred from donating -- and you’ll have to re-schedule your date with the blood bank. Foods rich in iron include meat, seafood, eggs, beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli, prunes and watermelon.
Add Vitamin C
Along with iron-rich foods, up your intake of vitamin C as well, which helps your body absorb the iron. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, bell peppers and tomatoes. Ideally, eat them together with your iron-rich dishes -- eat bell peppers on fish tacos, toss tomatoes into a spinach salad or make a fresh fruit parfait with watermelon and strawberries.
Along with upping the iron, increase your daily water intake as well. The American Red Cross website recommends drinking an extra 16 ounces of water before you arrive. Guzzling the good stuff is mostly for your benefit, though -- well-hydrated veins are easier to locate and puncturing them will be less painful.
What to Avoid
Along with eating the right foods, make sure you avoid the wrong ones. Avoid fried and fatty foods before blood donation. These types of foods leave a residual amount of fat in the blood for several hours after you eat them, which means that the large order of French fries you had for lunch stay with you for far longer than just the afternoon. Unfortunately, these residual fats can affect the tests for infection that are conducted on all donated blood.
Enjoy a small snack and beverage immediately after donating blood. Although cookies and juice are usually provided at the blood donation center, you might prefer a more nutritious snack. Yogurt, bananas and apples are all great options for providing a quick burst of energy by raising your blood sugar levels. Alternatively, give yourself an extra dose of iron by munching on prunes and watermelon.
Krista Sheehan is a registered nurse and professional writer. She works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and her previous nursing experience includes geriatrics, pulmonary disorders and home health care. Her professional writing works focus mainly on the subjects of physical health, fitness, nutrition and positive lifestyle changes.