Eating a diet focused on healthy, real food is almost always the best way to fuel your body with essential nutrients. It’s what nature intended, and most experts agree that we should depend on food to fulfill as many of our nutritional needs as possible, relying on supplements only for filling in gaps.1 But with modern diets, that may seem like a difficult feat even for getting enough of the more common nutrients in real foods. It becomes especially difficult when you try to get enough of certain nutrients that don’t appear as frequently, or in large quantities, in natural food sources.
Coenzyme Q10 is one of those nutrients. Our bodies need it for virtually every biological process, but concentrations of CoQ10 in foods just aren’t that high. Even foods that are considered to be high in CoQ10 have fairly small amounts of it compared to concentrations of many other essential nutrients found in natural foods. The simple answer for most people trying to boost their levels of CoQ10 is to opt for highly-absorbable forms of CoQ10 supplements, like ubiquinol. For the sake of comparison, let’s explore the foods highest in Coenzyme Q10, along with the amounts of each you would need to consume to match the lower end of a typical daily intake, which is between 100 mg - 200 mg daily.2
Foods High in CoQ10
The highest concentrations of CoQ10 in our own bodies are found in the liver, kidneys and heart,3 so it makes sense that the highest concentrations of CoQ10 from food sources would exist within organ meats. For many people, just the mention of that may sound cringe-worthy, but if that’s you, don’t fret! There are other options, including some vegetarian and vegan sources of CoQ10 as well. We’ll explore them below to help you find the best CoQ10 food sources to suit your dietary needs and palate.
CoQ10 in Beef
A 100 grams (3.53 ounces) portion of beef sirloin provides 3.06 mg of CoQ10.4 You would need to eat just over 7 pounds of beef to get the equivalent of a 100 mg supplement of CoQ10.
Beef Liver CoQ10
Beef liver provides a slightly higher amount of CoQ10 than beef steaks, at 3.9 mg for every 100 grams.4 That means it would take about 5.5 pounds of beef liver to reach 100 mg of CoQ10.
Beef Heart CoQ10
Levels of CoQ10 found in beef hearts are substantially higher than in beef steaks and liver. A 100 grams serving of beef heart would provide around 11.3 mg of CoQ10.4 But a person would need to eat 2 pounds of beef heart to get 100 mg of CoQ10.
CoQ10 in Chicken
Chicken provides a little under half the amount of CoQ10 in beef sirloin. A 100 grams serving of chicken gives you around 1.4 mg of CoQ10.4 To get 100 mg of CoQ10 from chicken you would need to eat 15.74 pounds of it.
CoQ10 in Chicken Liver
Chicken liver provides 11.62 mg of CoQ10 in every 100 grams, making it one of the highest food sources of CoQ10.4 It would take about 1.89 pounds of chicken liver to provide 100 mg of CoQ10.
Pork and Pork Liver CoQ10
Pork contains about 2.43 mg of CoQ10 per 100 grams.4 Similarly, pork liver provides about 2.27 mg per 100 grams,4 so you would need to eat about 9 pounds of pork or 9.7 pounds of pork liver to get 100 mg of CoQ10.
CoQ10 in Mackerel
The red flesh of mackerel contains a lot more CoQ10 than the white flesh portions. Red mackerel flesh provides 6.75 mg per 100 grams,4 and the white flesh portions provide about 1 mg per 100 grams,4 so that would mean eating just over 3 pounds of red, or almost 21 pounds of white mackerel flesh.
Rainbow Trout CoQ10
Rainbow Trout provides 0.85 mg of CoQ10 per 100 grams.4 To get 100 mg of CoQ10 from trout, you’d need to eat a whopping 25 pounds of it.
CoQ10 in Sardines
Sardines contain about 0.5 mg of CoQ10 per pound,4 so that would mean eating about 43 pounds to reach 100 mg of CoQ10.
For every 100 grams of salmon, you get about 0.4 mg of CoQ10,4 which is even less than trout. You would need to eat 51 pounds to get 100 mg.
CoQ10 in Boiled Soybeans
A 100 grams serving of soybeans provides about 1.21 mg of CoQ10.4 That means you’d need to eat just over 18 pounds to reach 100 mg.
CoQ10 in Oranges
It would take around 220 pounds of oranges to get 100 mg of CoQ10.4 That’s a lot of oranges!
Broccoli contains 0.59 mg of CoQ10 in 100 grams,4 so to get 100 mg you would need to eat 37 pounds of broccoli.
CoQ10 in Avocado
Avocado provides about 0.95 mg CoQ10 per 100 grams,4 which equates to 23 pounds to reach 100 mg of CoQ10.
As you can see, getting enough CoQ10 from food alone would be quite a feat! The number of calories you would consume trying to meet that quota could get out of hand quickly, not to mention the unhealthy levels of cholesterol or bad fats you may consume if you attempted to meet your requirements with some of the animal-based sources of CoQ10. So, how do you get enough CoQ10?
Nutrients from Foods vs Supplements
Are supplements better than food sources of nutrients? That’s a really great question, and the answer may vary from nutrient to nutrient. It can also depend on the quality of the foods you consume versus the quality of the supplements you take. If you would need to consume unhealthy amounts of calories, saturated fat, cholesterol and/or sugars to meet your daily requirements of a particular nutrient from foods, supplements might be a better choice for getting that particular nutrient. On the other hand, if you can easily meet your recommended daily intake of a nutrient through the foods you eat, that is optimal.
Supplements are not a replacement for eating healthy foods, but they are a good option for filling in nutritional gaps. In the case of CoQ10, your body does produce some of this nutrient on its own, but getting the rest of it is up to you, especially considering how much food you would need to eat to match what you can easily get from supplements, it is probably a better idea to opt for supplements in this case.
Why Our Bodies Need CoQ10
Coenzyme Q10 helps keep your cells energized. It’s a key component in converting the nutrients you eat into energy your body can use,5 and it isn’t just humans that need it. Plants, animals and bacteria need it too. It is truly ubiquitous and one of the most basic nutrients required for life.
CoQ10 contributes to our energy levels and supports cardiovascular health, as well as the health of our muscles, nerves, kidneys, brain and skin. But as we age, our natural levels of CoQ10 decrease,6 leaving us more susceptible to CoQ10 deficiencies and related health issues. There are also certain medications that reduce the body’s production of CoQ10, like statins,7 which are frequently used for helping with cholesterol concerns. In those cases, supplementation of CoQ10 may help.7
CoQ10 also works as an antioxidant that helps protect our cells from free radicals and oxidative stress. It is even used in some anti-aging and skin care products for its antioxidant effects. Since free radicals and oxidative stress are major contributors to some signs of aging, CoQ10 may be considered as a longevity-enhancing nutrient.
To learn more about why your body needs CoQ10, read CoQ10 Benefits: What You Need to Know.
How Do You Get Enough CoQ10?
There is no official, established daily recommended intake for CoQ10, and your body does make some of it naturally, though that amount varies per person and decreases with age.6 The amount your body makes also may decrease significantly if you are taking statins.7 It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before supplementing your diet with CoQ10. Though some studies have provided doses between 50 mg and 1,200 mg per day in adults,2 a typical daily adult dose is between 100 mg - 200 mg per day.2
It’s unlikely that you can get an equivalent amount from foods high in CoQ10 on a daily basis, so supplements are a great option. When choosing a CoQ10 supplement, remember that not all supplements are created equally. Some formulations of CoQ10 are more easily absorbed than others, and the quality and sourcing of ingredients may also vary.
When you take CoQ10 supplements, your body reduces the nutrient into ubiquinol,8 which is its active form. You can also take ubiquinol supplements, which your body may absorb more readily than other forms of CoQ10. If you aren’t sure about the best form of CoQ10 to take for your needs, or how much you should take, consult your doctor.
Natural Sources of CoQ10
While it certainly is possible to obtain some CoQ10 from natural food sources, getting adequate amounts from supplements is a much more viable option. That doesn’t mean you should stop eating foods rich in CoQ10 altogether, though, because many of them are high in other nutrients as well. It’s a great idea to try and meet as many of your nutritional needs as possible from natural food sources before relying on supplements to fill in the gaps.
If you are a vegetarian, then spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and supplements are a great ways to fill this nutrient gap. You can learn more about common nutritional deficiencies in vegetarians, and how to fill them, in the article Common Nutritional Deficiencies in Vegetarians.
Learn more about the benefits of taking CoQ10 supplements.
1 Harvard post.https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-get-your-nutrients-from-food-or-from-supplements (Accessed 1/28/2018)
2 Coenzyme Q10: CoQ1. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/supplement-guide-coenzymeq10-coq10#1(Accessed 1/28/2018)
3 Coenzyme Q10: The essential nutrient. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3178961/ (Accessed 1/28/2018)
4 Coenzyme Q10 Contents in Foods and Fortification Strategies. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. (Published 03/17/2010, Accessed 01/29/2018)
5 Coenzyme Q10 Therapy. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4112525/ (Accessed 1/29/2018)
6 Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/supplements/coq10 (Accessed 01/29/2018)
7 CoQ10 and Statins: What You Need to Know. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/coq10-and-statins (Accessed 01/28/2018)
8 Coenzyme Q10. Oregon State University. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/coenzyme-Q10 (Accessed 01/29/2018)
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.