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January is National Blood Donor Awareness Month!

“I celebrate myself;

And what I assume you shall assume;

For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.”

-Walt Whitman

Happy New Year!

With everything that’s going on (again) around the world right now I wanted to focus on something crucial, yet somewhat simple…..blood. We all have it flowing through our veins and we all need it to survive. It binds us together as family and can provide new life for a stranger. Scholars have studied poems about it and folklore has been passed down through generations. Healthy flowing blood is a vital component for our survival. I’m not suggesting everyone go out and donate blood this month (although that would be great). But I do think it is important to know a few facts about blood, its role in the body, and how to build our bodies up in the winter to stay strong as we eventually greet the spring.

Blood Types

You may have been asked before what blood type you have. Were you able to answer the question? Do you know all the types and where they stem from? Blood types are genetically based on the combination of your parent blood types. There are eight different blood types listed below. Whichever one you have will determine who you can donate blood to and receive blood from yourself.


This is a rare blood type. Only 6.3% of the US population are A-


This is one of the most common blood types. 35.7% of the US population are A+


This is a rare blood type. Only 1.5% of the US population are B-


This is a rare blood type. Only 8.5% of the US population are B+


This is the rarest blood type in the world. Only 0.6% of the US population are AB-


This is a rare blood type. Only 3.4% of the US population are AB+

This type of blood is a”Universal Recipient”. This means that anyone with AB+ blood can receive blood from any other blood type.


This is a rare blood type. Only 6.6% of the US population are O-

This blood type is also a “Universal Donor”. This means that any other blood type can receive O- blood.


This is one of the most common blood types. 37.4% of the US population are O+

This chart demonstrates what type of blood you can donate to and receive from each of the eight blood types. Blood types are set on whether certain antigens are present in the blood. This is why medical experts have to cross match blood, donor and recipient to the proper type. If the wrong blood type goes to a patient, the body may reject the blood and the immune system could attack itself. It’s pretty fascinating how all this plays out. How many matches for donor and recipient do you have? If you're unsure which blood type you are, ask your doctor the next time you go for a physical or routine blood work.

Role of Blood

Ever hear the expression “Blood is thicker than water”? Although this phrase pertains more to relationships, it is still physiologically true. Blood can feel a bit sticky and has an internal temperature of approximately 98.6 degrees. Blood is vital to sustain life and has three main jobs to perform in the body.


The blood transports oxygen from the lungs to the cells of the body, where it is needed for metabolism. The carbon dioxide produced during metabolism is carried back to the lungs by the blood, where it is then exhaled (breathed out). Blood also provides the cells with nutrients, transports hormones and removes waste products, which organs such as the liver, the kidneys or the intestine then get rid of (U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, August 29). What does blood do? ).


Blood helps to keep temperature and pH balanced. Blood vessels can expand to slow the flow of blood causing heat to be lost or if the external environment is cold, the vessels can contract to decrease the amount of heat lost.


If a blood vessel is damaged, the blood platelets (Thrombocytes) will stick together at the open wound site in order to prevent major blood loss. An injury can also signal white cells and the immune system to participate in the healing process.

Parts of Blood

Blood consists of about 55% blood plasma and about 45% different types of blood cells. Blood plasma is a light yellow, slightly cloudy liquid. Over 90% of blood plasma is water, while less than 10% consists of dissolved substances, mostly proteins. Blood plasma also contains electrolytes, vitamins and nutrients such as glucose and amino acids (proteins).

Over 99% of the solid particles in blood are cells known as red blood cells (erythrocytes) due to their red color. The rest are pale or colorless white blood cells (leukocytes) and platelets (thrombocytes).

Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Individual eating habits and patterns can play an important role regarding our blood and overall health. Iron for instance, is an important mineral that is found in many foods that we eat. Iron combines with proteins in the body to form hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is what gives our red blood cells their color and aids in oxygen transport throughout the body.

Have you ever been diagnosed with a form of iron-deficiency anemia? It is very common and refers to low levels of hemoglobin in your blood. There are many cause of iron-deficiency anemia and a few top reasons are mentioned below:

  • A diet low in iron-rich foods

  • Blood loss due to menstruation

  • Increase in need due to pregnancy

  • Blood loss due to trauma, ulcers and cancers

Symptoms of anemia include:

  • Fatigue

  • Trouble breathing

  • Feeling light headed

  • Feeling cold all over or in extremities

  • Exhaustion

  • Pale skin

The good news is that there are many avenues you can pursue to increase your hemoglobin levels and you guessed it….nutrition and your diet can be key elements.

Blood Building Nutrition

When building up iron levels in the blood it’s helpful to remember that there are many sources out there for you to choose from. Many people will tell you to eat a hamburger but with many vegetarians and vegans out there, this advice may not be helpful or supportive of their lifestyle. Below are several food categories where you can decide which options are best for you and have some fun and mix n match for an iron-rich diet.

Meat and Eggs Beef Lamb Ham Turkey Chicken Pork Dried beef Liver Liverwurst Eggs (any style)

Seafood Shrimp Clams Scallops Oysters Tuna Sardines Haddock Mackerel

Vegetables Spinach Sweet potatoes Peas Broccoli String beans Beet greens Dandelion greens Collards Kale Chard

Bread and Cereals White bread (enriched) Whole wheat bread Enriched pasta Wheat products Bran cereals Corn meal Oat cereal Cream of Wheat Rye bread Enriched rice

Fruit Strawberries Watermelon Raisins Dates Figs Prunes Prune juice Dried apricots Dried peaches

Beans and Other Foods Tofu Beans (kidney, garbanzo, or white, canned) Tomato products (e.g., paste) Dried peas Dried beans Lentils Instant breakfast Corn syrup Maple syrup Molasses

(Blood types. Explained - A, B, AB and O | Red Cross Blood Services. n.d.).

A Few Honorable Mentions

  • Bone broth is also a good option for health and blood building nutrition. It is also a great source of hydration.

  • Acupuncture may be able to help decrease blood stagnation and help restore the body’s energy (Qi) balance. Community acupuncture may be available in your area. Do a search in your area or a surrounding town. Community acupuncture sessions are usually less expensive and more accessible than private sessions.

  • Get enough sleep. I know, this is more easily said than done but adding in more nutritious food to your diet can aid in more restful sleep. This will help your energy and cognitive functioning levels throughout the day.

  • Exercise is great. A moderate level walk will get the blood circulating and endorphins flowing.

  • Multivitamins (stage of life appropriate). Check with your doctor first before starting any new diet or vitamin regimen plan but this is a good way to ensure you are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals you need. (For more information, please refer to my December 2021 post section on vitamins.)

Additional Links Information

If you’d like to delve deeper into the world of blood types, the Red Cross has some great interactive guides that are as fun as they are interesting.

If you have some nutrition goals for yourself this year, small changes are best so you don’t overwhelm yourself and keep you on track. If something doesn’t work for you, don’t get discouraged. Try another angle. Perhaps overnight oatmeal is easier for you than making the perfect smoothie in the morning. Maybe you hate oatmeal and making homemade egg cups over the weekend works best for your protein push in the morning. You’ll find your way. And Remember….Health starts from the inside out….but also from the ground up!

To discuss more detailed information regarding the topics within this blog, or to inquire about customized nutrition plans, please reach out to Cathleen Winter at

A Little About Me:

My name is Mary DeBlasio, and I live in Silver Spring, MD. I am currently a student studying Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of the District of Columbia. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s of Science in May of 2021. I am very interested in mindful eating, and foods that correlate with the seasons. My goal after graduation is to pursue a dietetic internship with a focus on clinical dietetics. I would like to concentrate on patients suffering from gastrointestinal issues. All my information is backed by credible sources cited within the blog.


Administrator, N. B. T. S. W. (n.d.). About blood. NamBTS.

Blood types. Explained - A, B, AB and O | Red Cross Blood Services. (n.d.).

Blood types. Stanford Blood Center. (n.d.).

Heart & Blood Vessels: Blood Flow. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.).

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, September 8). Anemia. Mayo Clinic.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, August 29). What does blood do? [Internet].

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