(800) 973-1540

What foods can I eat to improve my red and white blood cell counts?

4 answers | Last updated: Apr 21, 2015
A fellow caregiver asked...

I just had a blood test which is in between my third and fourth chemo treatment and it is very low. What is the best food to eat before next Thursday when I have my next checmo session to get the red count up?


Caring.com User - Beth Reardon
Caring.com Expert
Send a Hug or Prayer
Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is Caring.com senior food and nutrition editor and the director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine. As...
53% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

When undergoing chemotherapy many patients experience a reduction in both their immune fighting white cells and their oxygen carrying red cells. This may leave a person at risk for infection See also:
Understanding Low Red Blood Counts
and feeling quite fatigued and short of breath. Eating a healthy diet overall, one high vegetables, fruits and lean protein can help your body heal and help your blood counts recover as quickly as possible during cancer treatment.

Low red counts (hemoglobin and hematocrit) can be helped along by consuming a diet that is high in iron containing foods. Foods rich in iron include whole grains, such as bran cereal and cream of wheat, meat, fish, poultry, dark green, leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds and many types of legumes or beans.

A diet high in vegetables and fruits is also rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients that will help to boost your immune system. Garlic and ginger add wonderful flavor to food and have been shown to increase white cell count which may reduce the risk of infections. Minerals like zinc and selenium are also fundamental to the proper functioning of the immune system. A good multivitamin would be very supportive.

Finally, exercise has been shown to be quite important in managing the side effects of chemotherapy and improving immune function. A slow gentle walk is enough to begin until your energy levels improve.

Best Wishes


More Answers
20% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

This article was very helpful to me, since my red blood cells are very low right now, and my white cells are very high. I have to go back to the doctor on the 21 of this month, and i have been trying to raise my red cells through diet.


33% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

Iron MAY help but one must be careful with Iron. If your doctor does not recommend it, then don't take it. I have pancytopenia(all three types of cells are low) but my Iron levels are right at the top of the scale of being normal. Too much iron is very bad for you, it can lead to a condition called Iron Overload and is very dangerous for both your liver and kidneys. Let your doctor determine what you may need for increasing red blood cell and hemoglobin counts. You are in Chemo,,this is all part of it. Just eat a healthy, normal diet and take any other supplements that your doctor may recommend.