Processed foods are defined by The International Food Information Council Foundation as “Any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat”, and are usually found in a bag, box or can. When you eat these foods, they sabotage the powerhouses inside your cells called mitochondria. I call them powerhouses because mitochondria take the fats, carbs and protein that you eat and combusts them for cellular energy, much like the engine in your car burns gasoline. They keep our bodies running, and are the prime driver of metabolism, which we all need to maintain low levels of body fat and to keep a healthy weight. When they die, the cell dies, too. Because your magical mitochondria take a BIG hit when exposed to processed food, you can be left feeling sick and tired.
There are over 50 food based nutrients that are needed for proper mitochondrial function – no easy task to consume daily. But, with some concerted effort on incorporating foods that boost mitochondrial function you can reach your goals regularly.
Foods to Eat for Healthy Mitochondrial Function:
Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, you have heard this before –but it is critical. Be sure to include red, blue, purple, yellow and green fruits and vegetables, the deeper, darker colored foods are the best. Gradually increase the number of servings that you have a day to reach 9 cups a day. Find your farmer’s market and get to work. You can do it! Be sure to add some seaweed into the mix for iodine.
Eat more omega-3 rich foods. We do not make omega-3 fatty acids in the body so they must come from the diet daily. Include wild fish, grass-fed meats and omega-3 rich eggs. Boost this brain food — the brain has lots of mitochondria — by adding one to two tablespoons of flax or hemp oil, or seeds, to your vegetables.
Build your meal from the foundation of vegetables up, then add your omega-3 rich protein, some legumes, like your favorite beans, for fiber, toss in some dulse or seaweed, sprinkle with nuts and seeds, douse with a healthy oil for dressing and you are good to go – literally go, because eating this way you will give you more energy to go!
Two Other Factors that Boost your Mitochondrial Function:
Intermittent fasting and calorie restriction increase your ability to generate energy while increasing the number of mitochondria in the cells. A simple way to practice intermittent fasting is to eat no food (you are allowed to have herbal tea or broth) for 12-14 hours overnight, from dinner to breakfast. Calorie restriction can be done by eating only vegetables for 600 – 800 Calories in one day, perhaps one day each week.
Reduce your intake of carbohydrates. This shift causes your body to switch to using ketones (produced by burning fats) instead of glucose as its primary source of fuel. Ketones are efficiently used for the generation of energy in the mitochondria while increasing the number of new mitochondria.
Need Help Making These Changes?
For personalized support I am available in person or by Skype/Phone. I will help you create a personalized nutrition plan based on your needs and goals. To learn more, or to set up an appointment, call 914-652-7800.
If you live near Blum Center, consider joining one of my group programs. The next one is our popular 10-Day Easy Summer Detox, which will include discussion of mitochondria and weight loss.. The group kicks off July 10th at either 10:00am or 6:00pm.
About Mary: Mary Gocke, Director of Nutrition at Blum Center for Health, has been successfully using food and nutrition science to treat and heal people with chronic illnesses and acute conditions for over 25 years. When Mary’s not helping people feel better through nutrition, this mother of two grown children can be found practicing yoga, which she has taught for years, or in her kitchen cooking something colorful.