Blood is essential to life. It carries oxygen and essential nutrients to all the organs of the body. Maintaining good blood health can ensure our organs and body tissues function effectively. It can also prevent anaemia and improve your general health. Hence, it is necessary to ensure that your body receives the necessary nutrients required for healthy blood.
5 Important Functions of Your Blood
- Carries Oxygen
Blood carries oxygen and nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to all our organs to support their functions.
- Controls bleeding
Blood contains platelets and clotting factors which help the blood to clot if there is bleeding.
- Fights infections
Our immune system uses our blood to carry immune cells and antibodies to the site of infection. Improving blood health will enhance your body’s ability to fight and clear infections rapidly.
- Cleanses the body
Blood helps to carry waste products from our organs to our kidneys and liver. The blood is filtered in the liver and kidneys, allowing the toxic metabolites and other waste products to be expelled from the body.
- Regulates body temperature
Blood can also help to maintain our body temperature by absorbing and distributing heat throughout our body.
What are the key nutrients needed for maintaining blood health?
The blood is a very active organ with many cells that turn over rapidly. If you do not provide your body with the right nutrients, your blood production can deteriorate, and you increase the risk of anaemia, bleeding or bruising..
While your blood needs several vitamins and minerals to function effectively, there are three key nutrients which promote the production of red blood cells:
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin B12
Iron is vital for haemoglobin production. Nearly 70% of the body’s iron is present as haemoglobin in the red blood cells and as myoglobin in the muscle cells..
Haemoglobin helps to transfer oxygen from the lungs to all our organs and body tissues. When our haemoglobin level is low, we experience symptoms of anaemia which include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath and chest pain..
The risk of iron deficiency is greater in women of childbearing age, pregnant women, people with poor diets, infants and children (especially those born prematurely or experiencing a growth spurt) and vegetarians who do not replace meat with other iron-rich food..
The Health Promotion Board recommends 6mg of iron for adult males aged 18 and above. Women aged between 18 and 59 require 19mg of iron, while women aged 60 years and above require 6mg of iron a day..
Iron in food comes from two sources- animals and plants. Iron from animal sources includes red meats, poultry and fish. Good plant sources of iron include fortified cereals, beans, lentils, tofu, spinach, dried fruits (apricots, prunes, raisins), prune juice, enriched bread, and nuts.
2. Folic Acid
Folic acid supports the formation of red blood cells. A deficiency of folic acid can increase the risk of anaemia..
Folic acid is also essential for the repair and synthesis of genetic material, including DNA. It helps in regulating the division of cells and cell growth. This is especially important for pregnant women to promote foetal development. Deficiency in pregnant women can increase the risk of birth defects affecting the brain and spinal cord. It is recommended that folic acid is taken before and during pregnancy to help prevent this..
The recommended daily amount of folic acid for adults is 400 micrograms (mcg). An adult woman who is pregnant or is planning a pregnancy is advised to increase their intake to 800 mcg of folic acid a day..
Food rich in folic acid includes dark green leafy vegetables, beans, peas and nuts. Fruits rich in folate include oranges, lemons, bananas, melons and strawberries.
Vitamin B12 is another important nutrient that helps to create and regulate the functions of DNA. It is also required for red blood cell production and hence a deficiency in vitamin B12 may cause anaemia..
One of the severe side effects of long term vitamin B12 deficiency is nerve damage as it is crucial for myelin which is a fatty substance that protects your nerves. Vitamin B12 deficiency may also affect your mood, and low levels have been linked to depression..
The recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms. Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and in most dairy products. Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods, but fortified breakfast cereals are a readily available source of vitamin B12..
Eating a balanced diet consisting of all the essential nutrients is the simplest and fundamental way to maintain your blood health, in turn contributing to your overall health.
The information on the Centre For Clinical Haematology website is intended for educational use. It should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a qualified health professional