That’s where NAD+ comes in. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, is a coenzyme found in every single one of the 37 trillion (give or take) cells in your body. It also plays a critical role in hundreds of metabolic processes that occur behind the scenes every second of the day. NAD+ is essential for producing cellular energy, mitochondrial function, and cellular respiration just to name a few of the more important ways NAD+ rolls up its sleeves to help keep us alive and functioning at peak performance everyday.
Unfortunately, however, the levels of NAD+ that are so essential to running the body decline as we age. That’s why maintaining those levels through converting food in your diet and other ways is so important.
NAD+ and your diet: feeding your body.
When we structure our diets with a balanced approach where whole, natural foods take center stage, we’re giving our cells everything they need to thrive and work together, just like they’re supposed to. We also give ourselves an energy source that burns evenly over time.
When we take the opposite approach and fill our diets with foods low in nutritional value, we create an inefficient atmosphere for our cells to work in. Higher levels of NAD+ are important to maintain a healthy immune response.
That’s because, just like a factory, our bodies are made with separate but critically interconnected parts that work together to keep the whole show humming. From the factory floor, these parts are impossible to spot and distinguish. But a closer look reveals all the hoses, cogs, electrical wiring, and belts. Each one plays its own role until you end up with a fully functioning factory that produces a car, or an engine, or maybe studded cat collars. The point is that each part goes through several steps that leads to something greater.
This is a lot like how our body makes and maintains NAD+. Your cells take the raw materials they need – food in this case – that contain the right set of molecules. These molecules then go through a series of complex transformations and turns them into NAD+. There are a lot of different ways your body can make NAD+. Each uses its own pathways (some of which are more efficient than others). The big takeaway here is chemicals coming together to convert raw materials into NAD+.
Eating the right foods is a great way to help your body both produce and maintain the proper levels of NAD+ as you age. But where food falls short, supplements can also help.
Finding the right ingredients.
So what foods increase NAD+? Discovering them and subsequently putting them into your diet starts with identifying the right precursors – the ingredients necessary to spark the pathways we discussed above. The three predominant NAD+ precursors are nicotinic acid, (also known as niacin and NA for short), nicotinamide (Nam), and nicotinamide riboside (NR).
NA, Nam, and NR are more than alphabet soup. They’re variations of vitamin B3, an organic compound that you can find across a range of whole foods, fortified processed foods, or within supplements.
All of these B3 precursors will end up turning into NAD+, they’re not all equal when it comes to the pathways they take to get there. NR, for example, is much more efficient. It uses the least amount of energy to produce the most amount of NAD+. On the other end of the spectrum, Tryptophan (another NAD+ precursor also known for its ability to induce post Thanksgiving turkey naps) takes the least efficient pathway to making NAD+. It’s also known as the only precursor not in the Vitamin B3 family.
Put some NAD+ in your diet.
Our diets have a profound impact on our cellular health – especially when we eat too much or too little. When what we eat falls to the wayside, so does our cellular health, and subsequently our NAD+ production.
Just like our bodies are a complex factory, our cells are equally as complex, and they’re finely tuned to process nutrition from nature. The food we feed them serves as the fuel to create energy and repair themselves so they can regenerate the body from within. Our cells are also picky eaters. Feed them poorly and they’ll perform poorly. Feed them whole, natural foods and they’ll return the favor by working more efficiently.
To keep this complex process running like it should and to boost your NAD+ production, consider adding some of these foods to your diet:
- Avocados and Nut Butters
- Whole Grain Breads and Cereals
- Eggs and Fortified Milk
- Crimini Mushrooms
- Green Vegetables
- Fermented Foods
We’re not born with good or poor cellular health. It is something we can support by how we live and the foods we eat. Choosing whole foods – and the right foods – gives us more energy, helps us maintain healthy weight levels, and other tangible daily benefits. Plus, we just feel better when we eat right. It’s important to remember that those benefits are happening at the cellular level. Feed the factory and it will produce more health and happiness.
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