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You are what you eat....blood 'deficiency'

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

bag of fresh vegetables
You are what you eat

Blood means nourishment. It is what keeps our muscles, organs, eyes, hair and skin healthy, it is the medium for the transport of nutrients, antibodies, oxygen etc and providing a physical 'home' for our minds or nourishing our minds.

Blood deficiency is a diagnostic term or concept in Chinese medicine. If your blood becomes ‘deficient’, it may present as a number of physical and emotional symptoms, including:

  • Dull, pale skin

  • Pale lips and tongue

  • Dry skin, hair and nails

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Numbness or tingling

  • Poor memory

  • Insomnia

  • Anxiety

  • Palpitations

Blood 'deficiency' can happen for a number of reasons including blood loss ( heavy menstruation, child birth, loss of blood), excess worry, overwork , however, the most common cause of blood 'deficiency' is a diet lacking in the right nutrition. This might relate to B12 anaemia or folate deficiency anaemia.

What can I do to help myself?

You are what you eat so the simplest thing you can do is modify your eating habits and simply include more 'blood nourishing' foods in your diet. This and getting a good balance between exercise and rest and managing your stress levels are all beneficial.

So what are blood nourishing foods you ask....

Starting with dark green, leafy vegetables which are rich in chlorophyll. The pigment that gives plants their green colour and helps them to make energy from the sun also has a number of benefits for the human body including improving skin health, aiding wound healing and removing bad breath and body odour.

In Chinese medicine, green foods are thought to particularly benefit the Liver which plays a key role in keeping the blood healthy. You can read more detail here.

It is vital to get enough protein in order to have healthy blood. For the omnivores reading this, other foods such as red meat and liver are rich in nutrients like iron, and high in protein.

There are also plenty of good plant sources of protein including beans and lentils, soy products, nuts and certain grains.

The most important thing to remember is to eat a wide variety of these foods each day to ensure that you are getting all the nutrition you need.

Some of the best foods for nourishing the blood are listed here:


  • Spinach

  • Beets

  • Kale

  • Watercress


  • Apricots

  • Cherries

  • Dates

  • Figs

  • Goji berries

  • Grapes


  • Barley*

  • Corn

  • Oats*

  • Rice

  • Wheat*

  • Bran*. * not for the coeliacs or gluten intolerant readers

Beans and Pulses

  • Adzuki beans

  • Black soy beans

  • Kidney beans

  • Tempeh

Animal Products

  • Beef

  • Bone broth

  • Bone marrow

  • Hen???s eggs

  • Liver

  • Oxtail


  • Cuttlefish

  • Mussels

  • Octopus

  • Oysters

  • Sardines

  • Squid

  • Tuna

Herbs and Spices

  • Parsley

  • Nettle


  • Microalgae (chlorella, spirulina etc.)

  • Stout

What can I do to help myself...Part 2

Smelling and tasting

Easy to overlook in our hectic daily lives and easy to do is sitting down to enjoy your meal. Sound simplistic? Remember smelling and tasting your food properly is an important part of the digestive process. It gets 'the juices' flowing, your mouth watering ....


Eat in a comfortable place, away from distractions and not when stressed. Pay attention to each mouthful. In essence , don't rush is to be savoured.


Cooking methods are also important. Cook vegetables quickly and lightly ( retain more of their vitamins), meat slowly, (making it softer and easier to digest).

Soups and stews are a great choice for both meat and vegetables as they make it easier for your body to extract their nutrients.

Work Life balance

A balance between work and rest is necessary for your body to work properly and optimally and make Qi and blood as well as having an outlet for strong emotions such as exercise, martial arts, or a hobby.

See your practitioner.

By paying a little more attention to what and how you eat, you can help your body to build plentiful and healthy blood, and avoid these symptoms of deficiency. Ask your practitioner for more advice on which foods you should be eating for your body type.


Maciocia, G. (2004). Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine, A Comprehensive Guide. New York, NY: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone Pitchford, P. (2002). Healing with Whole Foods, Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, (3rd ed.). Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books Clinical Manual of Oriental Medicine (3rd ed.). (2016) City of Industry, CA: Lotus Institute of Integrative Medicine

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