|Heidi Moretti, MS, RD|
Functional Medicine Nutritionist
Herbal Medicine Expert
In this article, I will go over some of the best mitochondria supplements, foods, and steps you can take to optimize your mitochondrial function.
Related post: herbs for energy.
Mitochondria & Your Health
Also known as the cell powerhouse of energy or the cell battery, mitochondria play a key role in energy production, keeping us energetic, focused, and youthful.
But there’s more.
More and more studies show that the mitochondria are involved in almost every cellular level in the body. And because of that, they may hold the key to better overall health and longevity.
In fact, many researchers believe that poor mitochondria health may lead to chronic disease and on the flip side, can protect and extend our life when properly function.
Best Mitochondria Supplements
The mitochondria are very metabolically active and as such, they are susceptible to damage from toxins, inflammation, free radicals and oxidative stress.
Luckily, certain antioxidants and nutrients found in both food and supplements can help the mitochondria work optimally.
CoQ10 Supplements To Protect Mitochondria
A true staple in any mitochondria supplements stack, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) truly stands out when it comes to the level of evidence.
The research on CoQ10 effect on mitochondria health is very extensive and quite promising. According to the data, CoQ10 can protect the mitochondria from oxidative stress and even from mitochondrial tissue death.[1,2]
CoQ10 plays such a key role in energy, that you can find it everywhere in our body. In fact, our body can actually make CoQ10. Why then, so many researchers recommend to take CoQ10 supplements?
It turned out that CoQ10 levels decline as we age. Other factors such as toxins exposure and certain medication (statins) can also reduce CoQ10 levels.
By now, we have a lot of research to support CoQ10 supplement use and it has a long track record of safety as well. With this amount of evidence, I feel compelled to recommend it for my friends, family, and patients as a natural way to support their mitochondrial health.
Best CoQ10 mitochondria supplements
CoQ10 supplements are very popular, but not all forms of CoQ10 are created equal. This means both effectiveness and purity. For best results, make sure to use the forms of CoQ10 that are supported by clinical studies such as the patented Kaneka Q10 Ubiquinone.
Dr. Group’s COQ10 & PQQ is a good example of Kaneka Q10 Ubiquinone supplement that also combines BioPQQ, another potent mitochondria booster. As all Dr. Group line of supplements, there are no artificial fillers or binders which so many supplements still have these days.
To improve absorption, take CoQ10 with a meal that includes healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, or a few nuts. If you take omega 3 supplements or other oil based supplements, it is best to take them together with CoQ10.
PQQ Supplements To Help Grow Mitochondria
A recent study found that PQQ can help the body grow new mitochondria in liver cells.
Interestingly enough, PQQ is also found in high levels in human breast milk where it functions as a powerful growth factor.
Another benefit of taking PQQ, is that it can increase Nrf1 & Nrf2 genes. These genes can help protect our body from oxidative stress and toxins and reduce inflammation. All key factors that can influence mitochondria health.[4,5].
PQQ is naturally found in small amounts in foods like natto, spinach, tofu, mustard greens, green tea, parsley, and green peppers. These are very small amounts however, which perhaps is one of the reasons PQQ is such a good option for mitochondria supplements. We just can’t get enough of it from our diets.
Best PQQ mitochondria supplements
Similarly to CoQ10, avoid cheap unknown sources of PQQ and look for forms of PQQ that are supported by clinical studies from a trusted source.
The patented BioPQQ is one of the best options for a natural PQQ that is heavily studied and have a FDA’s GRAS status (Generally Recognized as Safe).
To improve absorption, always take PQQ with a meal.
L-carnitine Supplements To Energize Mitochondria
L-carnitine is an amino acid that helps transport fatty acids into the mitochondria so they can be used as fuel.
Foods rich in carnitine include animal sources like grass fed beef, bison, chicken, eggs, and fish. Genetics, medications, diet, and other lifestyle factors can lead to low levels of carnitine that may affect mitochondria health.
Based on my experience, I find that for many people, L-carnitine supplements might be the “missing link” to their mitochondria health. When my clients suffer from chronic fatigue, or have to take certain medication that deplete L-carnitine, I often consider the use of l-carnitine in their mitochondria supplements plan.
Magnesium to Support Mitochondria Function
Among its many functions, Magnesium is required to support a healthy mitochondrial function. The body needs to have enough magnesium in order to make key enzymes in the process of producing ATP in the mitochondria.
Foods are the best way to get magnesium, although many people still struggle to get enough through their diet. In fact, according to research, around 50% of Americans don’t get enough magnesium from their diets.
Foods rich in magnesium include leafy greens like spinach, dark chocolate, asparagus, pumpkin seeds, and legumes. Making a green smoothie with spinach or other greens with some raw cacao is a great way to naturally increase your magnesium levels.
In my experience, many people feel a lot better when they get enough magnesium through foods and supplements. Sleep quality and better bowel function are two things they often notice fairly quickly.
Supplemental magnesium powders or liquids are my favorite way to add extra magnesium. Make sure to avoid magnesium oxide, as it is poorly absorbed. Try to find natural magnesium glycinate or chelated magnesium forms.
B vitamins to Spark Mitochondria Function
I like to think of B vitamins as the sparks that power our mitochondria. Each and every B vitamin is required to keep the mitochondria functioning well. The most well-researched of these are niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin.[8,9,10]
People who eat a lot of processed foods, drink alcohol, or are on very restrictive or low-calorie diet are at risk for having low B vitamin levels. Vegans and vegetarian diets, are another risk factor as they do not supply vitamin B12.
So it is best to take a vitamin B complex as a part of your natural mitochondria supplements plan. Due to genetics, some people do not metabolize synthetic types of B vitamins well. For these cases, it may be better to get B vitamins supplements in their methylated form.
I know this first hand. I do have gene variants in MTHFR and I speculate that is why I always had a hard time taking synthetic vitamins. They made me feel jittery and nauseated. I started to feel much better when I took methylated forms, as do many of my clients.
Creatine Supplements To Energize Mitochondria
When people think of creatine, they often think of bodybuilding and athletes. It is however, a valid option to consider for your natural mitochondria supplements.
So while creatine can help to promote muscle gains for athletes, I believe the bigger story is that creatine can help to increase energy production in your mitochondria.
Food sources of creatine are red meats and fish. The body can make creatine, but often not enough to optimize creatine levels. Hence, the effectiveness of creatine supplements to improve exercise performance.
Powdered creatine monohydrate supplements are generally safe for healthy people. Just make sure to choose pure creatine monohydrate, such as the patented Creapure. Also, many creatine supplements contain sugars, synthetic additives and chemicals. So always read the label.
Alpha Lipoic Acid Supplements: Brain Mitochondria Support
Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that serves as an enzymatic cofactor that can help improve and preserve mitochondrial function.
According to research, alpha lipoic acid may offer an effective natural way to support age-associated decline of memory, improve mitochondrial structure and function, and reduce oxidative damage.
If brain aging is a concern for you, one study suggested to combine acetyl-L-carnitine, CoQ10 and alpha lipoic acid. According to the study, these may work in synergy that can help for cognitive issues and oxidative mitochondrial dysfunction.[13,14]
Beyond Mitochondria Supplements: Lifestyle
Mitochondria supplements can help support our mitochondria health. With that said, as the name suggests they should always supplement a healthy diet and lifestyle.
I am talking about inflammation, oxidative stress and toxins. All well known to negatively affect our mitochondria health. All things we can control.
Lifestyle wise, make sure you get enough sleep, and try to keep your stress levels in check. Meditation, yoga, and other mind-body practices can all help to balance your stress levels.
Exercise regularly, (but don’t overtrain) to stimulate a healthy stress response that can challenge and improve your mitochondria function.
This is really important: based on so many studies, sleep, exercise & stress are the top lifestyle factors you can control. All can improve your mitochondria and overall health. Ignore these, on the other hand, and you increase your risk for chronic disease. The choice is yours.
Speaking of inflammation, oxidative stress and toxins, the foods we eat can increase or decrease these as well.
So while it is always best to work with a qualified healthcare professional to tailor the diet to your body (including testing for food sensitivities), there are still many powerful steps you can take today! Especially:
- Avoid excess calories, carbs and processed foods. You don’t need to starve yourself or go keto though. The idea is to make sure you don’t overdo. Most people in the western world do overeat or consume too many carbs.
- Eat from the rainbow. Especially colorful whole fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants.
- Balance omega 3-6 balance to help control inflammation.
- Eat more healthy fats. Avocados, fresh flaxseed and chia seeds, and wild caught salmon are great options.
- Intermittent fasting may also help decrease aging processes in the mitochondria.
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