Coenzyme Q10 is a substance that is made in the human body and functions like an antioxidant. It’s important because it helps give energy, boost the immune system, and scavenges for free radicals. Our bodies create the coenzyme, and cells use it to produce energy we need for cell growth and maintenance.

The highest concentrations of CoQ10 are found in the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Levels of CoQ10 decrease as we age and may be low in people with cancer, genetic disorders, diabetes, heart problems, and Parkinson’s disease. For these reasons, some people rely on CoQ10 supplements. Symptoms of CoQ10 deficiency include heart failure, high blood pressure, and chest pain.

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CoQ10 is naturally found in high levels in organ meats such as liver, kidney, and heart, as well as in beef, sardines, and mackerel. Vegetarians or vegans who are used to eating these foods should find a suitable alternative. Luckily, vegetable sources of CoQ10 include spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. Legumes such as peanuts and soybeans are the best non-animal sources of the substance.

Though CoQ10 is a nutrient for vegans to be aware of in their diet, the good news is that deficiencies have not been noted in the general population. Most people have enough of it naturally. Eating a diverse, plant-based diet that includes legumes and the vegetables noted above will ensure that your body has enough CoQ10 to function properly, even if you’re not eating organ meats.

If you want a meal packed with CoQ10, try making some lentil and mushroom shepherd’s pie, which contains both lentils and spinach. For side dish ideas, try spicy curry (cauliflower) rice with kale or sautéed broccoli rabe with red chili flakes.

In his book, “The Most Natural Cures on Earth,” Dr. Jonny Bowden says that anyone over the age of 40 should take at least 60 to 100 mg of CoQ10 every day, regardless of whether or not you have a family history of heart disease. For those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, who are at risk for heart disease, Bowden recommends taking 100 to 300 mg of CoQ10 each day.

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At the 2009 UCLA Research Conference on Aging, Professors Frautschy and Zhaoping Li agreed that eating a variety of vegetables and fruit is the best way to ensure that your body maintains proper levels of coenzyme Q10 and other essential nutrients.

If you feel that your CoQ10 levels are low, particularly if you’re worried about aging healthily or if you have low energy levels, obtain a blood test as soon as you can. Discuss supplementation possibilities with your doctor. Vegan formulas of CoQ10 are available in pill form.

Image source: Nillerdk / Wikimedia

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