Got loads of energy or always coming up short? Bounding out of bed in the morning or dragging yourself through the day? Where you’re landing on the energy-o-meter has a lot to do with your mitochondria and how well you are – or aren’t – nourishing them.
If you’re not too familiar with your mitochondria, it’s time to get to know them – and treat them – better. They are the power plants tucked inside your cells that turns your food and oxygen into energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which powers the biochemical reactions in your cells.
Keep ATP flowing with a steady stream of nutrient-rich foods, and you’ll give the mitochondria the essentials they need to power you through your day with energy to spare. Feed them poorly, and you’ll be dragging through your day, if not your life! In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction is thought to be one of the primary causes of age-related decline, playing a significant role in neurological, muscular, cardiac and metabolic disorders. And like a factory that slows down production when raw materials run low or conditions on the floor are poor, mitochondria produce less energy when they don’t get what they need, which also accelerates aging, making you old before your time (no, thanks!)
With mitochondrial deterioration at the root of the fatigue we associate with getting older, and possibly a key factor in the development of problems like heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes, it’s easy to see why turning the tide is so important to your quality of life in both the short and long-term. The more you boost your mitochondrial quality and quantity, the better you will feel and the more gracefully you will age. Think of it as your anti-aging, pro-energy, slide-slowing protocol. Start on these essential eating habits now to stoke your energy factory and keep it running optimally for decades:
Quit eating sugar and grains.
We all know sugar is crap. Eat too much and your mitochondria can’t burn it fast enough for energy, so it winds up getting stored as fat and creating damaging free radicals. The less sugar you eat, the better. One way many folks unknowingly overdo it on sugar is with those so-called “healthy” grains that rapidly turn to sugar in bloodstream.
Ditch the dirty stuff.
And by that we mean foods grown and produced with pesticides and toxins which, not surprisingly, cause a lot of mitochondrial damage. Buy organic, local produce to reduce exposure; look for pasture-raised animal products; and avoid all processed and/or factory farmed foods.
Eat the rainbow.
The more color on your plate, the more phytonutrients there are available to nourish and protect your body’s tiny, but profuse, cellular power plants. Load up in particular on leafy greens and sulfur-rich veggies, like cauliflower and cabbage, which will also help your body produce glutathione which many call the ‘mother of all antioxidants’ due to its essential role in cellular health.
Dig into healthy fats.
While the mitochondria can use either fatty acids or carbohydrates to create the ATP needed to produce energy, doing so with fat is loads more efficient and creates fewer free radical byproducts.
Have a cup of bone broth.
Bone broth is warm and comforting, and regular servings can contribute to mitochondrial health indirectly by protecting the gut lining and delivering doses of certain types of amino acids that your cells thrive on.
Up your Omega 3’s.
Eating more omega 3’s will help build up the mitochondria’s protective membranes, resulting in more energy for you. Get yours by eating low mercury wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, nuts (especially walnuts), seeds and egg yolks.
Try intermittent fasting.
Caloric restriction is a great way to improve mitochondrial function and increase longevity. It’s believed that by cutting your eating window down from a typical 12 -14 hour one down to roughly an 8-hour one, you reduce mitochondrial free radical production. And you don’t have to go to extremes to get the job done: A few days a week, simply avoid eating several hours before going to sleep and have your first meal the next day a little later in the morning. This will give your body a few extra non-eating hours.
Tune in next week for part 2, where I will share other ways to boost your mitochondria.