Dr Terry Wahls on Eating for Cellular Health

Diet is where it all begins. It is the one most influential elements about your environment that you can control and it is therefore your most powerful tool in preventing or healing chronic disease.

You are made of cells. A cell is the unit that makes up a living organism. Some organisms consist of only one cell, like an amoeba. Some, like human bodies, consist of trillions of cells. Cells come in different sizes and shapes, and they all do different things, but they are, essentially, the building blocks that make up our bodies.

Cells, however, don’t work under just any conditions. They need certain nutrients in order to do the work of keeping you alive and healthy. What your cells use to fuel the chemistry of life comes directly from what you feed yourself. Without those nutrients, the cells begin to malfunction, even die. Your genetics may determine what goes wrong, but when the cells aren’t getting what they need, the body doesn’t work right, and something (usually many somethings) will go wrong somewhere.

So, what does eating for cellular health look like?

It all starts with your mitochondria.

If you want to be healthy, strong and sharp, then your cells have to be healthy, and your cells won’t be healthy unless their (that is, your) mitochondria are healthy.

Most cells in your body contain mitochondria – the ‘engines’ that power the cell. Some cells contain many more mitochondria than others. The more energy that a particular cell needs, the more mitochondria it requires to churn out that energy. For example, your brain, retina, heart and liver cells contain a lot more mitochondria than most other cells in other parts of your body because thinking, seeing, pumping blood, and processing toxins are all high-energy activities.

How do mitochondria work?

Mitochondria produce a compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which stores energy in the bonds between its molecules. It is the fuel used to power the chemistry that is used by our cells for all that they do.

What does your mitochondria need to produce ATP?

To produce ATP efficiently, the mitochondria need particular things: glucose or ketone bodies from fat and oxygen are primary. Your mitochondria can limp along, producing a few ATP on only those things, but to really do the job right, your mitochondria need:

  • Thiamine (vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Niacinamide (vitamin B3)
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin b5)
  • Minerals (especially sulphur, zinc, magnesium, iron and manganese)
  • Antioxidants

And ideally, they also need plenty of L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, creatine and coenzyme Q10. They also need to be protected from toxins like lead, mercury and arsenic or solvents, plastics and other organic pollutants.

So, how do you eat to support your cells?

More green leaves, for sure, for their B vitamins and magnesium. More sulphur-rich vegetables from the cabbage family, onion family and mushroom family. To make sure that our cells get the antioxidants that they need, eat deeply coloured vegetables and berries. And, as a general rule, where there is pigment, there is most likely a lot of antioxidants as well.


Dr Terry Wahls is speaking live at two events in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia:

  • Saturday, April 21 – Melbourne Plenary, Melbourne Convention Center
  • Saturday, May 5 – Sydney, Cockle Bay Room, ICC Sydney

Can’t travel? You can still attend!

Her talk will also be available to purchase via live stream if you’re not able to make it in person.

For full event details, head to the Dr. Terry Wahls Live website.

How to add more veggies to your day

Often, we focus on getting in enough protein. We track our intake of fat. Some closely monitor their sugar intake… but is anyone counting their vegetables?! 5 servings a day is a minimum requirement, but frankly, I rarely see clients who meet this conservative amount. We know that the consumption of fruit and vegetables is linked to a reduced likelihood of chronic disease. Fibre, antioxidants, bioflavonoids, water, vitamins and minerals, and even nutrients like omega 3 and protein, yes protein! are in our beloved vegetables. Therefore, for optimum health and in line with using food as preventative medicine, the amount we strive for should be much, much higher. I believe eight servings a day is a better recommendation, with no end in sight! My advice: Eat as many as you can fit in! The below ideas are ways to creatively include veg into your meals, for you or perhaps for fussy kids, to boost the nutrient content, colours, flavours and even texture, and far exceed 5 servings a day…

Smoothies – 1,2,3 even 4 handfuls of greens! When you blend them, they break down and you won’t even notice, especially spinach or cos lettuce.

Aim for 3+ cups with main meals such as salads and stir-fries – leafy greens, a variety of chopped raw salad veggies, and roast veg. Include a combination of all three.

Soups – you can make soups 100% vegetables, from using veggie stock (loaded with nutrients), to chopping veg in or pureeing it. Sometimes I even puree it e.g. cauliflower soup, and then top it with mushrooms, broccoli or sliced zucchini for texture. A cup of veg soup makes a great afternoon snack or dinner starter.

Snack on carrots, capsicums, cucumber, celery – crunchy foods are often more satisfying, aren’t they? Keeping sliced veg sticks handy are a quick go-to snack to enjoy, whilst upping your veggie intake. Pair with dip such as hummus or nut butter for satiation.

Blend them into a dressing – sometimes I throw in capsicum, zucchini, cucumber, beetroot or carrot in a salad dressing with things like tahini or miso. Makes for a beautiful colour and tasty flavours!

Veggie Juice – juice more veg to fruit for a healthy juice combo that is sure to give you an energy boost! Even better – use things you would usually throw out, like celery or beet leaves, where there is actually a substantial amount of nutrition. Throw in lots of lemon and/or some green apple, and you will mask any bitterness.

Grate carrot or zucchini – in your oats +/bircher, blend tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots, zucchini, broccoli in your dips like hummus, try beetroot muffins… easy, delicious and great for variety!