Ways to increase hemoglobin levels can include consuming more iron or folate and getting regular physical activity. However, other factors, such as what other foods you include in your diet, may also have an effect.

An underlying condition, such as anemia, may cause low hemoglobin levels.

If your doctor has recommended increasing your hemoglobin levels, both medical treatments and lifestyle practices may help.

Read on to learn more about how to increase hemoglobin, including lifestyle and dietary approaches.

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Low hemoglobin can occur due to anemia, which is often

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caused by an iron deficiency. Iron is vital to hemoglobin production, so getting more iron

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through your diet may increase hemoglobin levels.

Read more about iron deficiency anemia.

The following steps may help increase your iron intake:

  • Include iron-rich foods: Aim to include foods rich in iron in your diet. These may include lean meats like beef, poultry, and fish. Plant-based sources include beans, lentils, tofu, spinach, broccoli, and fortified cereals.
  • Consider including heme iron sources: Your body can absorb heme iron, which is found in animal products, more easily

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    than non-heme iron, which is found in plant-based foods.

  • Ask your doctor about iron supplements: Ask a doctor or registered dietitian about iron supplements, such as those that contain

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    ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, or ferrous fumarate. Supplements may help if food sources alone cannot increase your iron levels. A doctor can help you determine the best dosage for you, as getting too much iron can have side effects. 

Always talk with a doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or trying new supplements.

Learn more about iron-rich foods and how much of them you should eat.

Some nutrients and ingredients may increase

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the amount of iron your body absorbs from food. To improve iron absorption, consider the following approaches:

  • Pair iron with vitamin C: Try and eat sources of vitamin C alongside iron, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, or strawberries.
  • Time supplements strategically: If you take iron supplements, try taking them at least 30 minutes before a meal and 2 hours before taking other medications or with vitamin C-rich foods, experts

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    recommend.

  • Cook with iron-boosting herbs: Certain herbs, such as cilantro and parsley, may enhance

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    iron absorption.

See more about vitamin C sources and how much vitamin C you should get.

Iron blockers, or iron absorption inhibitors, are substances that can reduce how much iron your body absorbs during digestion. 

Many iron blockers contain essential nutrients, though. Instead of cutting them from your diet completely, try to eat them with vitamin C and non-heme iron foods. Research from 2023

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suggests that consuming vitamin C and non-heme iron sources together may help overcome the effects of iron blockers.

You can also talk with a doctor or registered dietitian for tailored advice or a diet plan.

Examples of iron blockers include:

  • phytates, found in foods like whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • alcohol
  • calcium, found in dairy products
  • polyphenols, found

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    in foods like tea and coffee, red wine, some vegetables, and red fruits

  • fiber
  • tannins

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    , found in foods like legumes, tea and coffee, and leafy green vegetables

A deficiency in folate, or vitamin B9, can also lead to anemia and low hemoglobin levels. You can consume more folate through dietary adjustments and supplements. 

Foods rich in folate can include

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:

  • cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli or asparagus
  • avocados
  • dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach
  • legumes, such as beans and chickpeas
  • citrus fruits
  • whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat products
  • foods fortified

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    with folate, such as some cereals, breads, and grains

Steaming or microwaving vegetables instead of boiling them may help them retain more folate.

You can also discuss folate supplements with a doctor.

Learn more about low folate, folate consumption recommendations, and treatments.

Regular activity, such as jogging, may help improve hemoglobin levels. Research from 2020 suggests this may be because physical activity can increase the need for oxygen in the cells.

Exercise may also stimulate the production of red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin, so it can increase overall hemoglobin levels in your body. 

A 2019 study suggests that the body may absorb iron better after morning exercise.

Symptoms of low hemoglobin

Symptoms of low hemoglobin, or anemia, include:

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact a doctor for diagnosis.

Learn more about anemia, including its types, causes, and treatment options.

Sometimes, self-care methods, diet, and supplements might not be enough to treat low hemoglobin on their own. Also, some approaches can lead to side effects.

Always talk with a doctor before self-treating a condition and make sure to follow their recommended treatment advice.

For the best outcome, remember to attend any follow-up appointments and blood tests, and talk with a doctor if you notice any new or changing symptoms.

Ways to increase hemoglobin levels include increasing how much iron and folate you get through diet or supplements, as well as getting regular physical activity. These factors may help your body produce more hemoglobin.

Iron and folate-rich foods include meat, seafood, legumes, and leafy green vegetables. Vitamin C, which can be found in citrus fruits and bell peppers, may also help improve iron absorption.

However, always talk with a doctor before making significant changes to your diet or trying new supplements.

If you’re concerned about your hemoglobin levels or underlying health, also consider talking with a doctor for tailored advice.