closeup of baby reindeer nose

CoQ10 Foods: The 50 Highest Natural Dietary Sources

[toc]Most supplements are basically a scam.

There, we said it.

As far as the essential vitamins and minerals, if you are able and truly committed to eating a diverse array of more plant-based whole foods daily, then you probably are getting better quality than what the bottled versions provide.

As far as the thousands of different non-essential phytonutrients and herbal remedies being peddled, the truth is the large majority have very weak scientific data to back their associated claims. Sometimes, there is literally zero research, as is the case with the current trend of pregnant women using coconut oil for stretch marks. That is just one of many we have recently debunked.

Then sometimes, there are a few double-blind and placebo-controlled human clinical trials and their results indeed do suggest there’s a reasonable chance the benefit is for real. But if that compound costs you $100 or $200 per month for an adequate dosage, the price you pay is just too steep for only preliminary findings.

Though out of the many thousands of supplements being marketed, there are a few gems that really do have the wow factor, in terms of the vast amounts of research suggesting their benefits and they carry a reasonable price tag to boot. Among these select few, we can’t think of a better example than CoQ10.

Why CoQ10?

You have around 35 to 40 trillion living cells in your body and practically all of them have coenzyme Q10 inside.

CoQ10 chemcial structure
The Q in the name refers to the quinone group, while the 10 is the number of subunits (isoprenyl) in its tail.

This chemical is naturally produced by the body, as it is found inside the lipid membrane layer of each cell’s mitochondria. There it plays a central role in the electron transport chain (ETC), a process which is how animal and plant cells produce the bulk of their energy.

The highest concentrations of CoQ10 are found in our vital organs which are the brain, heart, kidneys, liver and lungs. That makes complete sense given the large amount of cellular energy they need relative to the much less active parts of your body, such as your bones and outside of vigorous exercise, most of your muscles.

So if it is such an important compound which is used throughout our entire body, why isn’t CoQ10 considered a vitamin or “essential” nutrient?

natural rates of CoQ10 decline from agingVitamin C is essential and that’s because we need it to survive and must obtain it from diet. Unlike most animals, humans don’t have the ability to create vitamin C internally.

Unlike vitamin C, our bodies do make CoQ10. Not only does your body synthesize CoQ10, but it is also rather efficient at recycling it. Since we can produce CoQ10 on our own, it’s not considered essential.

But even though all humans alive today are internally creating this coenzyme, it doesn’t mean they’re producing the same amounts. How much CoQ10 your body makes correlates greatly with age.

Production has been said to peak around our late teen years or early 20’s. After that, less and less is found in our cells.

Those who are against supplementing with it say that while it’s true we are producing less, it’s just part of the natural aging process.

There’s no undeniable proof that restoring CoQ10 levels with supplements will restore lost function. Nor is there proof that supplements or foods high in CoQ10 will be able raise the level of it inside the mitochondria. Because to do so, it will first have to cross through the cell membrane – which is not proven. On top of that, it has poor bioabsorption in the digestive tract.

All of these doubts by the “against” crowd are true and valid points to consider. However at the same time, there is such a vast amount of research which spans decades, strongly suggesting that something is happening which causes benefits, especially for the cardiovascular system.

athlete holding supplementsIt is true that once inside a living human body, we don’t know what happens to the CoQ10 after it reaches a cell membrane. Though what we can confirm are the effects CoQ10 supplements have on blood plasma levels they raise them.

It is true that ubiquinone has poor bioavailability, but ubiquinol supplements have demonstrated significantly better absorption, especially when taken with fatty foods or before a meal. That has been confirmed by testing blood levels before and after the supplements are taken.

The US National Library of Medicine, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, maintains the PubMed database. It’s a digital archive of literature from biomedical and life science journals. This include reports of clinical trials as well a many other types of published scientific literature, such as review articles, case reports, and laboratory research.

The PubMed database yields 4,460 results for CoQ10, as of the date publishing. That’s 25% more research than just 2 years ago.

If you filter those results to just articles about clinical trials, you will get 477 results and many of those were solely focused on researching CoQ10 in some regard.

To cover each clinical trial and study here would require writing a book.

Unlike a flavor-of-the-week diet pill that’s here today and gone tomorrow, the large amount of research done on CoQ10 since being discovered in 1957 is the reason why so many doctors today recommend it to their patients.

That’s especially the case with those on statins (cholesterol lowering drugs) which have actually been found to deplete your body’s natural CoQ10 levels.

Do any foods contain CoQ10?

With most dietary supplements, it’s preferred to get the phytonutrient from the food you eat rather than popping a pill.

As it turns out, the best food sources of CoQ10 can provide you with some. Can they compete with how much a supplement provides? Unfortunately not. Even if you were only eating the richest natural sources, the total amount obtained over a 24 hour period may be 20 to 30 mg.

Most supplements are 50 to 200 mg per capsule and their labels recommend taking them 2 to 4 times daily. So from food sources alone, you might be able to achieve up to 30% of the typical supplemental dosage that’s used for younger and healthy adults.

Though as you will see in the list of CoQ10 foods below, eating large quantities of the richest sources would be a bad idea.

That’s because they are the vital organs of animals, such as their livers and hearts. Even if you enjoy eating those, you must eat them carefully since they contain exponentially higher amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat, relative to more common meats.

Are there vegetable sources of CoQ10? Yes. A matter of fact, many of the vegan CoQ10 sources like nuts and seeds often times exceed the content found in common meats like chicken. Vegetarian CoQ10 sources coming from animals – dairy and eggs – actually provide very little.

The top 50 foods with CoQ10

Rather than list the absolute highest 50, which would primarily consist of the livers, hearts, and brains of various animals, we have compiled the top 10 for both meat and vegetables, and the top 5 for each other category. We believe this is more useful, given that there are many categories of food which people may entirely avoid in a specialized diet; vegans, vegetarians, dairy free, nut free, no red meat, gluten free, and so forth.

Not all, but many of studies we looked at reported the amounts of CoQ10 per kilogram of food. That’s about 2.2 lbs worth and you’re not likely to eat that much of anything in one day, regardless of what it is.

To make them more applicable to standard serving sizes as well as to have all foods use the same increment we chose to convert all sources to 100 gram amounts, which represents about a 3.5 ounce serving. That’s also the same portion size used in the ORAC values database.

While not all of these things will be consumed in 100 gram increments either, at least by having them all reported using the same weight allows you to compare their CoQ10 concentrations on an apples to apples basis.

For the foods which had more than one source available, we opted for using the lowest reported source.

Highest Meat Sources
Type mg of CoQ10 per 100 g
1. reindeer meat, unspecified parts 15.8
2. pork, heart 11.8
3. chicken, liver 11.6
4. beef, heart 11.3
5. chicken, heart 9.2
6. pork, shoulder 4.5
7. beef, shoulder 4.0
8. beef, liver 3.9
9. beef, sirloin 3.1
10. beef, thigh 3.0

With the exception of the shoulder, sirloin steak, and thigh of a cow, as you see the others on the list are rarely consumed. While not making the top 10, to give you some perspective of more common meats, the following all contained less than 2 mg; chicken breasts, chicken wings, pork sirloin, and unspecified beef.

Highest Vegetable Sources
Type mg of CoQ10 per 100 g
1. soybeans, raw 1.87
2. soybeans, boiled 1.21
3. parsley 0.75
4. soybeans, dry 0.68
5. broomrape (flower cluster) 0.67
6. broccoli 0.59
7. natto (fermented soybeans) 0.56
8. sorrel herb (spinach dock, narrow-leaved dock) 0.36
9. Japanese radish leaves 0.33
10. sweet potato 0.33

It’s worth mentioning that there are many vegetables which have not been tested. It is no coincidence that many are found in Japanese cuisine, as they have always been at the forefront of CoQ10 research and hence, are probably most interested in testing what they eat versus the foods of other cultures.

There are dozens of vegetables which are consumed daily in the American diet that have been tested and the results are disappointing. For example, lettuce, pumpkin, okra, and mushrooms don’t have enough CoQ10 to be detectable. Fresh spinach leaves, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts all have less than 0.1 mg per 100 grams.

Garlic, peas, cauliflower, asparagus, carrots, and mustard spinach do contain it, but the amount isn’t enough to crack the top 10. Even at the top of that list, the raw soy is only providing around 2 mg. Yes, that is better than most parts of the chicken and unspecified beef parts, but whether you’re getting 1 or 2 mg, it’s a small amount regardless.

Highest Dairy and Egg Sources
Type mg of CoQ10 per 100 g
1. butter 0.71
2. egg yolk 0.52
3. unpasteurized fresh whole milk (3.6% fat) 0.19
4. pasteurized whole milk (3.5% fat) 0.17
5. Swiss cheese (emmental) 0.13

One would guess that at least eggs would have CoQ10 in decent amounts, but whole eggs don’t even qualify for the top 5. The yolk does, but that has a lower amount than the top 7 vegetables.

The richest source of CoQ10, the butter, might as well be ignored altogether since you would have to eat a whopping 3.5 ounces just to get that measly 0.71 mg. A tablespoon or two will yield a small fraction of that.

Highest Fruits and Berries
Type mg of CoQ10 per 100 g
1. avocado 0.95
2. black currants 0.34
3. strawberries 0.14
4. grape fruit 0.13
5. apples 0.11

Others tested which did make the top spots are oranges (as well as orange juice), lingonberries, clementines, bananas, persimmon, and kiwi. With the exception of perhaps avocado, fruit is a poor natural source for CoQ10.

Highest Fish and Seafood Sources
Type mg of CoQ10 per 100 g
1. herring, heart 12.0
2. mackerel, heart 10.5
3. mackerel, red flesh 6.8
4. herring, flesh 1.5
5. tuna, canned 1.5

No surprise here in that the hearts of the fish have the highest concentrations. As far as the flesh that people eat, the amounts are much lower and comparable to other typical forms of meat.

There are many other fish and types of seafood which have been tested, but they contain even lower amounts than above. Those include salmon, eel, sardines, pollack, rainbow trout, common mussel, cuttlefish, scallops, pike, octopus, oysters, squid, cod, shrimp, sea bass, and a few others.

Highest Cooking Oils
Type mg of CoQ10 per 100 g
1. extra virgin olive oil 11.4
2. peanut oil 7.7
3. rapeseed oil 6.4
4. soybean oil 5.4
5. sesame oil 3.2

With other foods, when there was more than one source which had measured the CoQ10 content, the differences in reported values didn’t raise eyebrows. However with most of the oils, we have to point out the there were two primary sources; groups of researchers from Japan and Italy.

Between the Italians and the Japanese, when they reported values for olive oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and their variations (i.e. refined, extra virgin) the difference between the reported values were dramatic. The Italian source had numbers which were a multiple higher than the Japanese. As such, the true values for these oils remains a question mark, to say the least.

While not making the top 5 but still being a source of CoQ10 were sunflower, cottonseed, and safflower oil. Rice bran and coconut oils had none detectable.

Seeds and Nuts Richest In CoQ10
Type mg of CoQ10 per 100 g
1. peanuts, roasted 2.67
2. pistachios, roasted 2.00
3. walnuts, raw 1.90
4. sesame seeds, roasted 1.76
5. hazelnuts, roasted 1.67

We’re not surprised to see peanuts, as they are one of the most underrated nuts for nutritional value. In addition to this phytonutrient, they are one of the most potent natural sources of resveratrol.

While none of these amounts are impressive, nuts are more potent than many common forms of meat like chicken breasts and average beef (unspecified parts). So yes, there are good CoQ10 vegan sources from diet, at least relative to the regularly consumed animal food sources.

Type mg of CoQ10 per 100 g
1. corn germ 0.70
2. rice bran 0.49
3. wheat germ 0.35
4. Japan barnyard millet, whole grain 0.14
5. buckwheat, whole grain 0.11

The findings suggest that most of the CoQ10 in these plants is found in their germ. When the grains are milled, the germ is removed. As a result, the whole grain corn, wheat, and rice had none detectable.

Barley and oats with germ intact were not tested, but the whole grain versions for them had none.

Are dietary sources sufficient?

CoQ10 capsulesEven if your goal is a low dose of CoQ10, say 50 mg twice per day, it’s still almost impossible to get that from your diet alone.

You would have to eat 22 ounces (about 1.4 lbs) of reindeer meat per day in order to get 100 mg. Since that is nature’s richest source, it means you would have to eat more often exponentially more of the other CoQ10 foods in order to achieve the same.

And that’s not even the most common dosage.

You often read about recommendations for taking a 100 mg capsule 2 to 4 times per day for typical middle-aged adults. Then there are many who recommend even higher amounts than that for heart disease.

Of course, this is not say it’s bad to get some from diet. Just don’t count on them as a major source, if you’re seeking supplemental sources. This is why we here at Superfoodly use dietary supplement in the the ubiquinol form.

We buy Jarrow Formulas QH-Absorb (100 mg softgels) or Jarrow Formulas ubiquinol + PQQ, but there are plenty of other great brands on the market which also use the ubiquinol form (it has superior bioavailability versus ubiquinone).

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Food Measurement Sources:

  1. (Cabrini et al., 2001); total CoQ10 after determination of the oxidized and reduced form; recalculated to mg/kg with an approximation of oil density: 0.92 g/cm3
  2. (Pregnolato et al., 1994); total CoQ10 after determination of the oxidized and reduced form; recalculated to mg/kg with an approximation of oil density: 0.92 g/cm3)
  3. (Weber et al., 1997); determination of the oxidized form
  4. (Mattila et al., 2000); determination of the oxidized form with an electrochemical detector
  5. (Mattila and Kumpulainen, 2001); determination of the oxidized form
  6. (Kettawan et al., 2007); total CoQ10 after determination of the oxidized and reduced form
  7. (Souchet and Laplante, 2007); determination of the oxidized form
  8. (Strazisar et al., 2005); determination of the oxidized form
  9. (Kraszner-Berndorfer and Kovats,, 1972); determination of the oxidized form
  10. (Kamei et al., 1986); determination of the oxidized form
  11. (Prosek et al., 2007); determination of the oxidized form
  12. (Kubo et al., 2008); total CoQ10 after determination of the oxidized and reduced form
  13. (Passi et al., 2002); total CoQ10 after determination of the oxidized and reduced form