How to Bring up Your Numbers for a Plasma Donation

Updated on June 29, 2018
camarochix72 profile image

I’ve been a regular plasma donor for more than five years. Here are some helpful hints I've learned over that time.

Eating to bring up your hematocrit and protein numbers.
Eating to bring up your hematocrit and protein numbers. | Source

Bring Up The Numbers

If you’re considering donating plasma, or if you are a current donor and have been “deferred” due to low hematocrit (Ht or HCT) or protein levels, here are some helpful hints that I’ve learned during my 5 years as a plasma donor.

First off, we’ll look at your low hematocrit level. What is hematocrit? Simply put, it’s the volume of red blood cells within your blood. The total volume of your hematocrit will depend on the number of red blood cells and the size of those red blood cells.

If you’ve had a low hematocrit level, this is due to a low red blood cell volume.The best way to increase this, is to increase your iron intake.Something as simple as taking an iron supplement may be enough to boost your levels enough to qualify for your next donation, however, if you’re like me, I needed to alter my diet to bring my levels up enough.Here are a few neat facts I’ve learned over the years about increasing hematocrit levels:

  • Your body needs vitamin C to absorb iron
  • Exposure to sunlight may give your body the vitamin D it needs, but it also depletes your vitamin C levels, therefore, reducing your body’s ability to absorb iron

What are good sources of iron? Here are the top 10 iron-rich foods:

  • Red meat (wild game such as elk and deer has a higher level of iron than beef, but emu is even higher than elk or deer)
  • Egg yolks
  • Dark, leafy greens such as spinach (remember Popeye) and collards
  • Dried fruit like prunes and raisins
  • Iron-enriched cereals and grains, be sure to check the label
  • Mollusks; oysters, clams and scallops
  • Turkey or chicken giblets
  • Beans, lentils, chick peas and soybeans
  • Liver
  • Artichokes

I’ve found that some protein bars are also high in iron.This is great if you also have a low protein count. Check the labels; you may be surprised.You’ll want to combine one or more of the iron-rich foods above with a good vitamin C source as well.

Here are some foods high in vitamin C:

  • Bell peppers (yellow, green, and red)
  • Papaya
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Strawberries
  • Kiwi
  • Oranges and orange juice (juice has higher levels)
  • Pomelo
  • Grapefruit and grapefruit juice (pink or white, again juice has higher levels)
  • Lemons

Keep in mind, these are just the top sources, you can take a supplement of either, but I’ve found that consuming them in food form produces better results. Also, check out the labels of some fruit and vegetable juices for their vitamin C content. One of my favorites is the V-8 Splash. It offers a good amount of vitamin C, and I don’t have to choke down brussels sprouts.

If you have a low protein level you’ll want to start incorporating some of these high protein foods into your diet:

  • Cheese (in moderation the day of your donation as it will make your plasma cloudy and thicker
  • Beans (soybeans, lentils, kidney), the larger and more mature, the higher the protein levels
  • Lean veal and beef (once again, wild game has higher levels of protein, and emu offering even more than the others)
  • Roasted pumpkin, squash and watermelon seeds
  • Lean meats (chicken, lamb, pork, turkey)
  • Fish (tuna, anchovies, salmon)
  • Fish eggs (roe and caviar)
  • Yeast extract spread (marmite)
  • Lobster and crab
  • Lentils, pulses and peanuts

It’s been my personal experience, that consuming these high-iron and high-protein diets the day before my plasma donation gave me the best results, the morning of or too far ahead of time will not be as effective.

I hope these little tips for low hematocrit and protein levels helps get your levels within the acceptable range, and your donation process goes smoothly.

Happy donating!

Questions & Answers

  • I have a low white blood cell count. I’ve been tested for bone cancer, but everything’s normal. Is there anything I can do to improve my white blood cells?

    Other than medication prescribed by your doctor, I don't believe so. This is something best discussed with them.


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    • camarochix72 profile imageAUTHOR


      2 months ago from USA

      Your numbers must be within the "normal" range for each:

      Iron - Men 13.5 to 17.5g/dL

      Women 12.0 to 15.5g/dL

      Protein - Between 6 and 8.3

      I honestly don't remember if the protein range varies from male/female and by age. But this is the general range that is acceptable.

    • profile image


      2 months ago

      What are the required levels for iron and protein to donate plasma?

    • camarochix72 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 months ago from USA

      Good luck, Barbara! I hope it works for you.

    • profile image


      10 months ago

      just wanted to thank you an, the pepole who wrote comments it was very helpful also, helpful to know im not the only one who couldnt donate because of low iron. will try your tips an let ya know how it goes. Good luck to all

    • profile image


      10 months ago

      Thanks for the Recipes

    • camarochix72 profile imageAUTHOR


      12 months ago from USA


      If I understand the Atkins diet correctly, it's more about limiting the carb intake than anything. Eating eggs is good! Unless you're vegetarian, you may need to add in more meats (totally acceptable within the Atkins program) to increase your protein levels such as: chicken, turkey, pork and beef are good sources of protein. You can also use seafood meats like salmon, tuna, prawns and crab. Just keep in mind that your body can only absorb about 1 to 10 grams of protein per hour, so spreading them out during the day (like you're doing now) is best. Also, not sure if this applies to your situation, but drinking alcohol can prevent your body from absorbing the protein like it should.

    • profile image

      Jeanine Smith 

      12 months ago

      My problem has been my protein levels are just making it or too low to donate, I'm on the atkins diet I eat 2 eggs every day eat peanuts throughout the day and drink protein shakes. What else can I do? Very frustrated

    • camarochix72 profile imageAUTHOR


      13 months ago from USA

      Thank you Nina! I really appreciate your kind words.

    • profile image 

      13 months ago

      Wow thank you. No wonder my gums have been sore, I walk outside with my shot off all day. Vitamin D has depleted my vitamin C. Makes sense now.

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      thank u for the helpful advice i donated once now my iron is low again very frustrating i keep tryin

    • camarochix72 profile imageAUTHOR


      16 months ago from USA


      Don't get too discouraged, I had the exact same issue. When you eat your iron rich foods, try adding a drink that's high in vitamin C to it. The vitamin C helps your body absorb the iron in the foods you eat. The ones that worked best for me were the ones that had at least 100% of the daily vitamin C (check the label). Ocean Spray Cran-Apple was one I drank frequently.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      I have been donating for over a year niw. I am getting tired of being told my hematocrit is low one day. Then two days later it went from 36 to 42. That doesnt make sense to me. I eat raisin, peanut butter, everyday.

    • camarochix72 profile imageAUTHOR


      22 months ago from USA


      The center I donated in never had a test for "water volume". I don't know if that's something new, but if that's their way of testing how hydrated you are, then drinking plenty of water throughout the day, every day, not just the days of your donation should bring that up.

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      I went to donate tonight and they said my water volume was 35 and that it has to be between 38 and 53. Any tips to make that higher?

    • profile image

      Lab tech 30 years 

      23 months ago

      "If you have a low protein level you’ll want to start incorporating some of these high protein foods into your diet:



      Watch out for this, especially in the hours immediately before donation. Cheese is also a source of fat which can cause your plasma to be lipemic or "visibly fatty". Lipemia can be a cause for rejection because it clogs the filters on the pheresis machine and can slow the donation to a standstill. If they can't get your red cells back into your vein, you can get deferred or 6 weeks! So no cheese, cheeseburgers, fried foods, greasy potatoes, milkshakes, etc.

      Also, drinking plenty of water is great but maybe not immediately before your donation. It can dilute your Hematocrit and Total Protein levels.

    • camarochix72 profile imageAUTHOR


      24 months ago from USA

      If your user name is part of a question... Then any juice that has at least 100% vitamin C helped me. I am naturally borderline anemic (very low iron) and the juice I drank with my Snickers Protein Bar always had at least 100% vitamin C to help with the high iron that's offered in that particular protein bar. Just read the nutrition label and find a juice flavor that's to your liking.

      Your breakfast of oatmeal and toast with peanut butter is awesome!

    • profile image

      What I lack is a list of juices U can drink to enhance my Donation 

      24 months ago

      This so very True, I eat Oatmeal with Honey & raisins & 2 slices of wheat bread with peanut butter.

    • camarochix72 profile imageAUTHOR


      24 months ago from USA

      Adding a vitamin C rich drink will help your body absorb the iron in the foods you eat and the supplements you take. I always liked cranapple Ocean Spray. It's high in vitamin C (I always looked for over 100% vitamin C on the label) and helped with my iron numbers tremendously. Also, try to limit the amount of time you're in the sun the day before your donation, although the sun gives you the much needed vitamin D, it also depletes your body's vitamin C levels, and that makes it harder for your body to absorb the iron.

    • profile image


      24 months ago

      I've been trying to donate plasma for the past 5 weeks. I've only been able to donate twice. My iron levels are to low. I'm at 36 when it needs to be at 38 or higher. I do take an iron supplement and I eat iron rich foods but that just doesn't seem to be enough. What else can I do?

    • camarochix72 profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from USA


      Not sure why they would suddenly need to do a blood test, unless the random testing that's done to the plasma (at least at the center where I donated they did this), showed something a little "off" with your donation.

      The reason you can't donate for an extended period of time is because, first, they have to wait for the results of whatever tests they are running to come back, and depending on the amount of blood they took for the test, they typically treat it like a blood donation and you have to wait the full 8 weeks before being able to donate again (to give your body the time it needs to recover from blood donation). They would do the same thing if you were in the middle of a donation and had to stop before your red blood cells were returned to you.

    • profile image

      Tony hernandez 

      2 years ago

      I was donating on a regular basis and all of a sudden They told Me they needed a tube if blood and I couldn't donate til July 16 so I go back when told and now they still won't let me donate why is that

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      .........Good luck having too low of a hematocrit. It's actually defined as "the ratio of the volume of red blood cells to the total volume of blood." It's basically you're hydration levels, am I right? It's a plasma to blood ratio(and whatever else exists in there IDK)...

      I'm trying to figure it out myself, for my own niche blog ;) No really though, I donate plasma and I'd love to be able to lower my hematocrit. My understanding is that your red blood cell count is measured by a test called an RCB Count, or Red Blood Cell Count.

      Here's a good way to donate faster... Hydrate like a good human every day. Eat carb heavy 3 hours before and hydrate good. Go for low sodium of course.... Exercise before donating, so you can just jog-walk around for 15 minutes, just keep the heart rate high. And go for coconut and olive oil, I have no idea if that actually works, I'll try it next time!

      Can't wait to learn how to write articles!

    • profile image

      Angela Hernandez 

      2 years ago

      Thank you so much for this informatiom. Last week I tried donating plasma but was denied because my levels were too low. I came onine to figure out what that means and your article has helped answer all my questions:)


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