The mitochondrion is a (THE) vital cellular organelle that orchestrates multiple metabolical pathways. Therefore, while we eat to produce energy, create connections, and receive information, the mitochondria enable these actions. Consequently, we create a therapeutic environment where foods can be our medicine when we have a food plan that encourages anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods to ingest. In addition, the combination with other dietary habits, such as intermittent fasting and low-glycemic food ingestion, promote a better mitochondrial function, ultimately resulting in better metabolic health, more energy, and less pain.

What is a personalized mito food plan?

Mitochondrial health depends directly on the quality and quantity of food we ingest from our diet. Evidence supports that a personalized dietary approach that reduces oxidative stress, counteracts toxin exposure, and reduces insulin resistance may support mitochondrial function. Furthermore, this can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, a more ketogenic diet can ease symptoms like fatigue and pain, commonly associated with cognitive disorders.

Indeed, cardiac, neural, muscular, and connective tissue cells have high mitochondrial concentrations, making them susceptible to premature decline. Supporting mitochondrial health through diet is critical to improving cellular energy production and a healthy aging process. 

A crucial benefit of encouraging our patients to follow a diet with a low-glycemic impact, a healthy dietary fat composition, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant foods is the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). 

BDNF: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor acts as a growth hormone for neurons. The proper function and synthesis of BDNF contribute to higher levels of brain function due to its effects as a neuronal protector and promotor. 

How does the mito food plan improve BDNF?

The mito food plan is a dietary approach to improve mitochondrial function by introducing and combining therapeutic foods and dietary patterns. Consequently, the benefits reflect a higher BDNF function, a better blood-barrier permeability, and a delay in aging. 

  • Healing foods for energy: Mitochondrial needs macronutrients as fuel to create energy, and it also needs cofactors for enzymatic function. Indeed, these cofactors are micronutrients like vitamin B complex, Coenzyme Q 10, and antioxidants supplied by our diet. Therefore, the introduction of phytonutrients and the adequate consumption of healthy dietary fats are needed to counteract oxidative stress and improve the quality of the inner mitochondrial membrane. Consequently, the combination of these mechanisms improves ATP production by increasing mitochondrial performance.
  •  Protective antioxidants:  The metabolic processes to produce ATP need oxygen, creating byproducts called reactive oxygen species (ROS). Consequently, a higher concentration of ROS causes oxidative stress, resulting in DNA damage that contributes to more significant tissue dysfunction, pain, fatigue, neurologic and chronic diseases. Increasing nutrient-dense foods improve antioxidant supply. This, in turn, promotes the synthesis of glutathione, which is essential for detoxification and neutralize oxidative stress.
  • Anti-inflammatory nutrients:  The mito food plan focuses on increasing the number of fruits and vegetables (8 to 12 servings per day) to increase dietary fiber, phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins. Furthermore, increasing cruciferous vegetables, blueberries, strawberries, and walnuts positively influence cognitive function and are potent anti-inflammatory foods. In addition, the use of spices like curry and turmeric has a positive effect on cognitive function, as turmeric is a promoter of anti-inflammatory cascades. 
  • High-quality fats: The interaction between following a low-glycemic diet and high-quality fats has positive effects in reducing neuroinflammation and promoting neuronal communication. Furthermore, the dietary players of these mechanisms are DHA found in egg yolks, seaweed, and fish such as mackerel, cod, sardines, and salmon. In addition, foods like avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, and coconut oil promote mitochondrial fat metabolism and are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that promote detoxification.
  • Low-glycemic impact/low-grain and gluten-free: The mito food plan introduces vegetables as the primary source of dietary fiber and carbohydrates. Furthermore, it encourages patients to consume fewer grains and gluten-containing foods, reducing insulin resistance, blood glucose, and inflammation. Also, as this diet is low in carbohydrates, it improves fat utilization instead of glucose, leading to ketosis. 

Improving and maintaining mitochondrial health is the cornerstone to increase energy production, lessen pain, and improve brain function. The combination of these foods, dietary patterns, micronutrient ingestion, and macronutrient modifications are intended to enhance BDNF. – Ana Paola Rodríguez Arciniega, MS


The Institute of Functional Medicine (2020). “Mito Food Plan Comprehensive Guide.”

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