Before we begin, you may be wondering, “What are mitochondria, exactly?” Why are they important? If so, read on! (And, if you know what they are but want to receive tips on how to protect them, read on.)
Some people refer to mitochondria as the “powerhouses” of our cells, responsible for producing the energy that our bodies need to function. Did you know, though, that each of our cells has 1,000-2,500 mitochondria (in some cases up to 25 percent of the cell volume). Plus, the cells in the brain, heart, nerves, and muscles all have higher concentrations of mitochondria.
When mitochondria are healthy, our cells are able to produce energy efficiently. More specifically, healthy mitochondria are able to constantly recycle one of the most important molecules in our body, adenosine diphosphate (ADP), into the energy-producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) through a process known as the Krebs cycle.
Very little ATP is actually stored—only enough for about three seconds’ worth of activity in the muscles. That’s why it is so important that mitochondria are healthy and functioning optimally to keep up with the constant demands of the body.
When mitochondria become damaged, the recycling process can become less efficient, which can lead to a number of health related conditions such as:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Brain fog
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Early aging
- Huntington’s disease
- Migraine headache
- Parkinson’s disease
There are a number of factors that can damage mitochondria, including:
- Oxidative stress (more free radicals than antioxidants in the body)
- Exposure to toxins (such as alcohol, heavy metals, and pesticides)
- Chronic inflammation
- Nutrient deficiencies (including CoQ10, iron, magnesium, Vitamins B1-3, carnitine, and cysteine)
However, there are also a number of ways to protect our mitochondria and improve their health.
Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and nutrients has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to protect mitochondria.
Vegetables are a great source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that can help to protect and optimize the function of mitochondria.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Tea to Include for Mitochondrial Health:
- Bell Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
- Dark Leafy Greens, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens
- Green Tea
- Mushrooms (lion’s mane, shiitake, etc.)
In addition to adding a wide variety of low glycemic fruits, colorful seasonal vegetables, fresh and dried herbs and spices, and teas to your diet, consume adequate protein and high-quality fats (avoid seed oils; choose oil appropriate to cooking temperature; and consider DHA from low mercury, wild caught fish or algae source). These can help to maintain stable blood sugar and may also prevent or reverse mitochondrial dysfunction.
Improved mitochondrial health may have benefits, including:
- Increased energy levels
- Improved muscle function
- Reduced risk of chronic disease
In addition to what you eat, consider lifestyle factors such as:
- Strength training
- Enjoyable movement
- Mental stimulation
- Intermittent fasting
- Sunlight exposure (hello gardening!)
Farmacy at The Chef’s Garden
Let The Chef’s Garden at Home be your Farmacy! Have you seen our newest Build Your Farmacy Box feature for Mitochondrial Support?
We offer colorful seasonal vegetables harvested at the peak of ripeness delivered right to your doorstep, so skip the stress of shopping and experience the joy of opening a box filled with beautiful, vibrant vegetables. The hardest decision will be what to try first!
If you haven’t already, join our Farmacy at the Chef’s Garden Facebook Group for monthly talks, recipe sharing, and more! I would love to see how you support your mitochondria, so please tag us @farmerjonesfarm and let us know!
Fontes A, Alemany-Pagès M, Oliveira PJ, Ramalho-Santos J, Zischka H, Azul AM. Antioxidant Versus Pro-Apoptotic Effects of Mushroom-Enriched Diets on Mitochondria in Liver Disease. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Aug 16;20(16):3987. doi: 10.3390/ijms20163987. PMID: 31426291; PMCID: PMC6720908.
Pizzorno J. Mitochondria-Fundamental to Life and Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Apr;13(2):8-15. PMID: 26770084; PMCID: PMC4684129.