Q. You recently answered a question from a vegetarian blood donor who has trouble with low hemoglobin. He was concerned about caffeinated beverages.
I too am a vegetarian and donate blood every 56 days. I do not consume caffeine at all, but my iron level has been, at times, too low to donate.
I was told that tea (even herbal and decaf) robs your body of iron, so a week before I donate blood, I stop drinking any tea. Since I started doing that, I have not had a problem with my iron level.
For a hot drink before donating, your reader could try a tablespoonful of blackstrap molasses in hot water. It doesn’t taste good, but it'll warm him up and provide iron.
A. Thanks for the recommendation on blackstrap molasses. This does make an iron-rich hot beverage.
Caffeine doesn’t matter when it comes to iron, but many kinds of hot drinks have tannins and polyphenols that can interfere with iron absorption. Tea is rich in these compounds, but coffee and cocoa can also hinder iron absorption. So can herbal teas made from peppermint or chamomile (British Journal of Nutrition, April, 1999).