What You Should Eat Before Donating Blood

According to the American Red Cross, roughly 36,000 units of red blood cells are used daily in the US, along with about 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma. If you are one of the nearly 38% of the population eligible to give blood, there are foods you should eat — and not eat — when preparing for your donation.

Mayo Clinic states that you are eligible to donate blood if you are in good health, are over 16 or 17 years old (depending on state laws), weigh 110 pounds or more, and can pass physical and health history assessments.

Before donating blood, be sure to eat a healthy meal. Avoid foods that contain unhealthy fats such as hamburgers, French fries, and ice cream. Also, drink plenty of water, and make sure you haven't taken any medications that would prevent you from donating. For instance, if you are donating platelets, you cannot have taken any aspirin within two days of your donation appointment. Mayo Clinic also recommends that you get quality sleep the night before donating.

Other ways to prepare before donating blood

According to Orlando Health, eating foods that are rich in iron before you donate blood will help set you up for a successful experience. This is because you lose iron during the donation process, so taking some in before (and following) your donation is vital to avoid anemia (per Stanford Blood Center), especially if you are someone who donates frequently. Plant-based sources of iron include spinach, white beans, and lentils. Orlando Health also recommends iron-fortified breakfast cereals, as well as meat sources, eggs, and seafood. In addition to iron, try to boost your intake of vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron. Fruits and leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C.

If you have safety concerns about donating blood due to the pandemic, the National Institutes of Health recently reported that a new study determined that there is no reason to alter current blood screening practices. "It appears safe to receive blood as a transfusion recipient and to keep donating blood, without fear of transmitting COVID-19 as long as current screenings are used," said researcher Sonia Bakkour, a scientist at the Vitalant Research Institute. However, the Mayo Clinic notes that while there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmissible through blood transfusions, they recommend you postpone donating for at least 14 days after a positive test result without symptoms, or for at least 14 days after symptoms of COVID-19 have fully subsided.