Coenzyme Q10 -- also known as CoQ10 -- is a vital substance found in your body that helps convert foods into energy and acts as an antioxidant. Your body can produce CoQ10, or you can obtain the compound from your diet. You need to consume about 30 to 100 milligrams of CoQ10 in the foods you eat each day, but most people get only 3 to 6 milligrams. Boiling foods containing CoQ10 is fine, but frying causes up to one-third of the compound to be lost.
Meat, poultry and fish are the richest sources of CoQ10. Beef, pork and chicken hearts and livers contain the highest levels. Chicken liver has 116 milligrams per kilogram, or 3.3 milligrams per ounce. Fish such as mackerel, sardine, herring, salmon, rainbow trout and tuna are also good sources. Eggs, particularly the yolk, and butter are modest sources. Dairy foods have some CoQ10 -- particularly products that are less processed and high in fat.
The best plant sources for CoQ10 are oils. Soybean oil has 92 milligrams per kilogram, or 2.6 milligrams per ounce. Corn, olive and rapeseed oils also have high levels, followed by sesame, cottonseed and sunflower oils. Some nuts and seeds are packed with CoQ10. Peanuts, sesame seeds and pistachio nuts are among the richest sources. Walnuts and hazelnuts are also relatively high in CoQ10, whereas almonds contain less. Most cereals such as rice, wheat, oats and barley are poor sources of CoQ10. Soybeans contain relatively high amounts of CoQ10, but processed soy foods such as tofu, soy milk and yogurt have reduced levels. Parsley is a good source, whereas perilla and spinach contain less. Other vegetables such as broccoli, rape and cauliflower have modest amounts. Most fruits and berries have low levels of CoQ10, except avocados and black currant.
CoQ10 may help prevent, treat or improve some medical conditions, including lowering your chance of having another heart attack and decreasing chest pain if you’ve experienced a recent heart attack. CoQ10 may help treat heart failure if you take it with your prescribed medicines. It may also help lower your blood pressure. CoQ10 can also improve your heart health and blood sugar if you have diabetes. It may help slow the worsening of Parkinson’s disease. Further research is needed on CoQ10's potential health benefits.
You may need to increase your intake of CoQ10 especially if you have poor nutrition or are a smoker. Both of these health risk factors are associated with CoQ10 deficiency. To increase your intake, you could eat foods that provide the richest sources of CoQ10. The problem is that you would have to devour more than 18 ounces -- or 0.5 kilograms -- of these foods to take in 30 milligrams. An easy solution is to take food supplements. However, high CoQ10 levels in your body may interact with some of your medications. Talk to your doctor first to see if CoQ10 supplements are appropriate and safe for you to take.
Simon Lam has been a writer since 2005, specializing in health and biomedical topics. His work has appeared in various peer-reviewed life science journals, including the "American Journal of Physiology." Lam received the Canada Graduate Scholarships Doctoral Award in 2008. He holds a Master of Science in physiology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.