As an able-bodied, healthy person, I believe it’s my duty to give back to those in need. Donating blood is a great way to do that. I’ve donated eight units of blood and have planned two blood drives in my hometown with the American Red Cross. I'm proud to be a regular blood donor.

I’ve learned that it’s important to nourish my body between each donation. Here are six different foods you can eat to boost your health as a blood donor.

1. Sports Drinks 

A photo posted by Gatorade (@gatorade) on

At a blood drive last year, something weird happened to me. The nurse stuck the needle into my arm just perfectly, and nothing happened. My vein had collapsed, blocking the blood flow. Because of that, I wasn't able to donate that day.

She suggested that I start drinking Powerade or Gatorade at least 48 hours before donating blood, as the salt in those drinks can help expand small veins like mine. One thing to avoid before donating: caffeine. It has the opposite effect on your veins, making them smaller.

2. Beef

asparagus, meat, vegetable
Joyce Zhan

It's so important that donors are aware of their iron intake before donating blood since it is the key component in hemoglobin. Your blood's hemoglobin level is tested before every donation. If it's too low, you won't be able to donate that day.

Most sources of protein, especially meats, contain an ample amount of iron. One 3 oz. serving of beef contains 2.1 milligrams of heme iron, which is very easy for the body to absorb.

3. Chickpeas

vegetable, cereal, legume, meat, pea, chickpeas, garbanzo, corn
Christin Urso

Chickpeas are a great plant-based source of iron. Not only are they rich in iron, but they're also a great source of fiber and other minerals. Chickpeas are often enjoyed as the main ingredient in hummus. Lots of tasty varieties can be found in stores, or you can make your own!.

4. Bell Peppers

pepper, vegetable, chili, sweet pepper
Torey Walsh

Here's another reason to eat the rainbow: vitamin C is important for non-heme (plant-based) iron absorption. Eating bell peppers can help you reach your daily vitamin C value. They're great on their own, but you can also combine them with beef for a delicious, blood-benefiting meal.

5. Oreos

chocolate, candy, sweet, goody, cake, cookie, coffee, cream
Torey Walsh

You’re probably thinking, “Cookies aren’t healthy. What are you talking about?” Oreos happen to have a surprising amount of iron. Four cookies contain 10% of the suggested daily value (please don't eat forty Oreos a day though). 

Treat yourself to a fun Oreo shake after your donation because, you know, you helped saved lives. You're a hero. 

6. Multivitamins

Okay, so this isn’t technically a food, but a good multivitamin can round out your diet. In fact, the American Red Cross says that all frequent blood donors should take a daily multivitamin to help replenish the nutrients they lose while donating blood.

There are plenty of options out there, so you can choose to take solid pills or gummies. However, a daily vitamin won't replace a healthy diet.

In order to help others in medical need, it's important that us donors mind what we eat (for our benefit too). Hopefully these tips will help you stay on top of your donor game because, as I've said, you save lives. You rock.

Make sure you schedule your next blood donation to continue helping others, and remember to take your vitamins (I forget sometimes too).

Graphic by Spoon University