Donate Blood: Facts and Nutritional Tips

By Jamie Vallone, RD, CDN

Every January, the American Red Cross and other community blood banks celebrate National Blood Donor Month. Blood donors are important to the community as blood is vital for life and always needed. Blood donations are used for transfusions following trauma and surgery, treatment of anemia, and platelet transfusions for those with diseases like leukemia.

Here are some facts regarding blood donations:
• Blood is needed every two seconds.
• One in seven patients hospitalized will need blood.
• Less than 10 percent of the population eligible to donate blood is currently donating.
• Type O negative is often in high demand due to its ability to be transfused to all blood types and its use in emergency situations when blood type is unknown.
• The average blood donor gives 1 pint of blood. A car accident victim can need up to 100 pints of blood.

Diet is an important part of donating blood. Prior to donating, consume foods that are high in iron such as poultry, fish, beef, eggs, beans, peas, spinach, dried fruit and strawberries. (Consult with your doctor first if you have any dietary restrictions.) The American Red Cross tests for deficiencies in hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein found in red blood cells and you want to make sure your blood donation will be usable. Foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and juices, help your body to better absorb plant-based sources of iron.

On the day you are donating, the American Red Cross suggests eating a healthy, low-fat meal such as oatmeal with raisins or a sandwich with fruit and drinking 16 oz. of non-alcoholic and non-carbonated fluids such as water or orange juice. It is recommended to avoid high fat foods such as fried foods for 24 hours prior to donating as this can affect screening results. Having a snack or drink right after donating is suggested to decrease your chance of feeling sick. Plan to drink extra fluids and avoid alcohol for 24 hours after donating.

You can find more information on donating and local donation options at:
• American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/give-blood
• Roswell Park: https://www.roswellpark.org/donor-center
• UNYTS: http://www.unyts.org/services/community-blood-donation/where-do-i-donate-blood