Using Therapeutic Foods to Improve Mitochondrial Function. Part I.
Improving mitochondrial function can be done through different mechanisms. Indeed, the use of supplements, cold showers, exercise, and even when we ingest our meals directly affects our mitochondrial health. Nevertheless, when it comes to sustainable measures to increase this organelle function, we need to think about food and its therapeutic application.
Mito food plan’s therapeutic foods:
The main features of this therapeutic food plan are crucial to sustaining mitochondrial function whiles providing food as medicine, connection, information, and energy. To achieve this improvement, the mito food plan integrates the following features:
- Use therapeutic foods to provide energy.
- The mito food plan promotes the use of protective antioxidants.
- Increase the amount of anti-inflammatory nutrients.
- Improve the use of high-quality dietary fats.
- This dietary approach has a low glycemic impact.
- Low-grain and gluten-free.
- Intermittent fasting and calorie restriction.
- Offer the option to follow a ketogenic option, and it is considered a low-carbohydrate diet.
The mito food plan’s main objective is to maintain proper blood sugar levels while promoting inflammatory balance. Indeed, this objective can only be achieved with the appropriate use of therapeutic foods. In turn, these foods are meant to provide satiety, variety (in terms of micronutrient composition), and energy to our patients.
Mito food plan shopping list:
Protein is crucial to maintaining proper glucose levels, reducing cravings, promoting satiety signals, and improving brain health.
Some of the therapeutic foods listed in the protein section are Wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines, cod, elk, venison and grass-fed lamb, beef, and buffalo. In addition, poultry, turkey, eggs, and cheese are also encouraged to be used according to the patients’ preferences.
However, several vegetarian options such as Spirulina, Tempeh, tofu, and powdered vegan protein can be included too.
This food group is an essential complement for protein intake, especially if our patient is vegan or vegetarian. Indeed, legumes have a high protein and vitamin B content and are a source of complex carbohydrates and fiber.
Foods like beans, hummus, edamame, lentils, and cooked green peas are included in the mito food plan. Nevertheless, it is essential to know that the recommended legume servings should be one per day to maintain this diet’s low-carbohydrate and low-glycemic-index qualities.
Dairy and alternatives:
Dairy products such as cow’s milk are commonly avoided due to their high inflammatory impact and high carbohydrate content. Furthermore, lactose intolerant patients may choose to discard this food group to avoid gastrointestinal issues.
Furthermore, we can recommend specific alternatives such as almond, hemp, oat, coconut, and soy milk to include in this dietary plan. In addition, the ingestion of kefir and yogurt can provide gastrointestinal benefits to those patients who can tolerate them. These products can also be derived from alternative sources such as soy, almond, and coconut.
Nuts and seeds:
This food group is crucial for providing high-quality fats, as they provide MTC and omega-3 fatty acids.
Therapeutic foods included in this category are almonds, walnuts, coconut, flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds. In addition, nut butter is easily introduced in this dietary approach as part of a snack.
The seeds found in this group, such as flax and chia seeds, provide fiber and antioxidants, both essential features of the mito food plan.
Fats and oils:
As stated before, the mito food plan can be set to follow a ketogenic diet approach. To do this, the introduction of good quality fats is vital to promote balanced inflammatory processes.
The use of avocado, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), flaxseed oil, coconut butter, ghee, coconut milk, and butter of grass-fed cows has the double purpose of providing phytonutrient dense foods and supplying energy.
Furthermore, the use of these foods improves the taste and variety of our foods and recipes.
To be continued…
Supporting mitochondrial health can be done through several lifestyle modifications. Nevertheless, improving our dietary intake and incorporating therapeutic foods is a sustainable way to guarantee mitochondrial function. Furthermore, the medicinal attributes of these foods are key players to maintain brain health, support pain reduction as they protect against aging and sarcopenia.- Ana Paola Rodríguez Arciniega, MS
The Institute of Functional Medicine (2020). “Mito Food Plan Comprehensive Guide.”
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