Mitochondria, located inside our cells, are where the cell's energy is produced (cells “energy factory”). The more active the body cell, like heart, liver, and brain cells – the more mitochondria are needed and produced to support the energy need of that cell.
Our mitochondria process oxygen and convert substances (nutrients) from the food we eat into the energy that our bodies need to function – about 90% of our cellular energy (ATP) is produced in the mitochondria (1).
When our mitochondria are not functioning properly we can feel fatigued, experience muscle aches and pains, have digestive or respiratory problems, and be at increased risk for disease.
Proper nutrient levels are essential for mitochondrial function, and many specific micronutrients play crucial roles in cellular energy production and metabolism (2).
B vitamins, like niacin (B3) and riboflavin (B2), are essential to energy production in the Krebs cycle and oxidative phosphorylation, acting as electron-acceptor and donors at various stages (3). Food sources of B3 include chicken breast, tuna, cooked mushrooms, and eggs (6). Consuming foods like beef, liver, yogurt, clams, egg, broccoli, and spinach will help to provide vitamin B2.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an essential component of the mitochondria that plays a critical role in the production of cell energy (ATP) – which drives all body processes (4). Some of the best food sources of CoQ10 are pasture-raised meat, wild-caught fish, egg yolks, avocados, pistachios, walnuts, and broccoli (5).
Carnitine, an amino acid, plays an important role in energy production and detoxification. The best food sources of carnitine include meat, fish, raw cheese, and avocado.
These are just a few nutrients that the body needs to support mitochondrial health – others include vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, biotin, folate (B9), and B12 to name a few more.
Consuming a nutrient-dense whole food diet can lead to improved mitochondrial function, reduced inflammation, and reduce the risk of health problems.