How to Bring Up Your Hematocrit and Protein Numbers for Plasma Donation


Bring Up The Numbers

If you’re considering donating plasma, or, 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)
  • Pummelo
  • 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
  • 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!

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Comments 11 comments

Angela Hernandez 5 months 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:)

shpongles 3 months 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!

Tony hernandez 2 months 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

camarochix72 profile image

camarochix72 2 months ago from USA Author


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.

Jan 2 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?

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camarochix72 2 months ago from USA Author

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.

What I lack is a list of juices U can drink to enhance my Donation 8 weeks ago

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

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camarochix72 8 weeks ago from USA Author

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!

Lab tech 30 years 4 weeks 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.

Jennifer 3 weeks 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?

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camarochix72 2 weeks ago from USA Author


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.

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