Mitochondria are often referred to as the nuclear plant inside our bodies. It is the one responsible for providing our daily energy. However, there is more to the mitochondria than just providing power. It also helps maintain an adequate calcium balance, regulates immunity, supports proper glucose metabolism, and maintains healthy muscle mass.
Keeping the mitochondria healthy is an important task. This article will discuss the importance of mitochondria in our bodies and keep them in optimal health.
What are mitochondria?
Within our cells, we find different structures that help support our body's functions. One of those organelles is called the mitochondria. They play a significant role in converting the body's food into usable energy, hence the name powerhouse.
Why are they important?
While the primary purpose of mitochondria is to serve as an energy source in our body, there are other essential roles it carries out in our bodies.
ATP is the unit of currency in the body for metabolic processes. Most of the ATP is produced in the mitochondria.
Think of it as money. If you go to another country, you need to convert your money (carbs, proteins, and fats) into a currency that you can use in that country (ATP). The mitochondria are the exchange banks that make it possible.
There are some organs that need more energy production. This means that there are more mitochondria in organs such as the heart, brain, and muscles.
Keeping calcium balance
Calcium has several roles in the body. It serves as a neurotransmitter (sending signals across neurons), muscle function, blood clotting, and bone health.
Since calcium plays an essential role in the body, the mitochondria play a crucial role in regulating. It absorbs the calcium and holds it until it is needed.
The innate system is our in-born immune system. It is the one that recognizes and responds to any outside pathogens. The mitochondria can create signals in case of any viral infections to protect the body.
Supporting glucose metabolism
Mitochondria are responsible for glucose metabolism. This means that it converts the glucose you eat (potatoes, fruits, granola) into usable energy by the body. Research shows that mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to insulin resistance, increasing the chances of diabetes.
Maintaining healthy muscle mass
Skeletal muscle is responsible for giving us the ability to move around. Mitochondria regulate the metabolism in the muscles. They can adapt to the muscles' volume, structure, and function.
The more mitochondria that grow in your muscles, the more capacity to convert energy efficiently. This gives you more power at the time of your training session.
It seems that biking and walking in high-intensity interval training helps increase protein production, which leads to excellent mitochondrial health.
The risk of poor mitochondria health
The foods that we choose impact every part of our body. That means that for our mitochondria too. Poor mitochondria health could lead to several illnesses.
- Fatigue. Poor nutrition, along with other conditions (like medication), could be affecting your energy production. The mitochondria might not be as efficient in carrying this process, which means you feel energy deprived.
- Heart disease. When the mitochondria don't receive enough oxygen, it can lead to heart failure. A good antioxidant intake could reduce the symptoms.
- Cancer. The health of the mitochondria plays a vital role in preventing cancer. It helps prevent DNA damage which often leads to cellular mutation.
Nutrition for healthy mitochondria
Eat enough protein
Proteins are made up of amino acids. Several amino acids (glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid) make up glutathione. Research shows that it helps keep the mitochondria healthy.
Increasing your protein intake throughout the day can help keep your mitochondria in optimal health. Add sources like chicken, fish, seafood, eggs, and Greek yogurt to add lean protein sources.
It's said that over 50% of the population has a magnesium deficit. It is an important mineral that is essential in energy production. Adding leafy veggies, nuts, and seeds can help increase your magnesium content. This helps keep your mitochondria healthy and running the energy production smoothly.
If adding foods is not enough, you can always supplement with a magnesium tablet.
Healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil help fuel the mitochondria. Additionally, those high in omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body, which leads to better health for every part of the body (including the mitochondria).
Avoid high fructose consumption
Fructose impairs the production of energy in the mitochondria. Now, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't consume fruits. You need to be careful with high fructose foods like agave, fruit juices, and high fructose corn syrup (ultra-processed foods).
Stress can harm the body. Mitochondria can sense and react to high levels of stress. Find ways of coping with stress that doesn't rely on food. Meditation, breathing techniques, yoga, or light walking are some great ways to help reduce the stress in your body.
Antioxidants play an essential role in the health of mitochondria. They help reduce free radicals. When free radicals are found in excess, they lead to oxidative damage, which can lead to premature aging or affect the health of the cells.
Also, high levels of oxidative stress can lead to some problems in producing energy in the body.
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that gives color to salmon and other orange/red foods. It helps reduce oxidative stress, and its potency increases when combined with omega-3 fatty acids.
This powerful antioxidant can be a potent antioxidant for the mitochondria providing extra support and fighting capacity again damaging molecules.
While you can get it through a diet like salmon, shrimp, krill, or trout, you can always supplement with an astaxanthin supplement to ensure that you are getting enough.
Another potent mitochondrial antioxidant is CoQ10. Research shows that when people are given this supplement and are put under stress, the production of ATP is not affected.
Taking a CoQ10 supplement can help decrease the damage done by free radicals and prevent your mitochondria from premature aging.