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Intro to Methylation

Our bodies are complex machines. When functioning properly, chemicals in the body bond with proteins, DNA, or other molecules. One of these bondings is a biochemical process called methylation where four atoms are transferred – one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms (CH3) – from one substance to another. Our bodies get CH3 from methyl donors, which are nutrients that donate a methyl group to another substance. In short, methylation is a process by which nutrients are exchanged to “turn on” or “turn off” different processes in the body.
This is happening in every cell of the body 24/7. Many systems in the body (neurological, reproductive, detoxification, cardiovascular) are influenced by methylation. If the methylation process is not functioning efficiently, it can severely impact how well your body functions.

You might be thinking, ‘Okay so how do I know my methylation is working effectively?’

  1. You can get a genetic test. This genetic test would look at specific enzymes that are affected by your genetic makeup – including the enzyme MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase), which may slow down the methylation cycle and accelerate aging.
  2. In addition, you can add these eight methyl donor “super foods” for nutritional support.

Tumeric

Why add turmeric into your diet?

Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory herb with powerful health benefits. From the ginger family, turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which can adjust genetic expression by its effect on DNA methylation. 

How should I use turmeric?

Fresh or powdered I love adding turmeric to eggs, salad dressings, and stir fries.

Blueberries

Why add blueberries into your diet?

Whether fresh or frozen, blueberries are phytonutrient-packed fruits with many health benefits! Blueberries are good sources of DNA methylation cofactors (including anthocyanins, quercetin, and chlorogenic acid, vitamins, and minerals) to help keep your heart healthy and boost brain functions.

How should I use blueberries?

You get the most benefits from fresh, uncooked organic blueberries. I love  adding them on top of my Banana Oatmeal Pancakes, and in my Yogurt Parfaits for a sweet, colorful, and nutritious treat! Frozen can be added to smoothies. 

Rosemarry

Why add Rosemary into your diet?

Whether you drink, eat, or inhale the aroma, rosemary is an amazing methylation adaptogen. Full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, rosemary can help boost your immune system and improve blood circulation.

How should I use Rosemary?

I love adding rosemary into my soups, stews, and meat dishes. Or I grind it up to brew a tea. 

Cruciferous Veggies

Why add Cruciferous Veggies into your diet?

Cruciferous Veggies pack a powerful nutritional punch. Rich in fiber and low in calories, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower) are rich in vitamins and minerals like folate and vitamin K. The darker green veggies of this family contain vitamin A and C. They contain a compound called glucosinolates, and in particular suloraphane, which have been shown to have both anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. 

How should I use Cruciferous Veggies?

I love Cruciferous Veggies, and there are so many ways to add them into your diet. One of my favorites is baked kale chips!

 What are some other ways to use cruciferous veggies?

  • Roast, steam, and  toss them in a variety of salads.
  • Mash cauliflower into a pizza crust.
  • Toss Brussels sprouts with savory olives, parmesan cheese.

Salmon

Why add Salmon into your diet?

Salmon is a a great source of the methyl donor B12, choline, zinc, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acid is known to decrease inflammation and help activate immune cells. 

How should I use Salmon?

I recommend going simple. Just sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper, drizzle olive oil and sauté or grill.

Eggs

Why add Eggs into your diet?

Eggs are the definition of a super food with protein, 13 essential vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. B vitamins (B6, B12, and folate) are found in eggs, which contribute to your memory, mood, energy, and focus. Eggs are the best source of choline, which is a superstar methyl donor.

How should I use Eggs?

I add eggs on top of my avocado toast and into my  veggie frittata muffins for an extra source of protein. 

Sunflower Seeds

Why add Sunflower Seeds into your diet?

Raw or roasted, sunflower seeds are superstars of the methylation cycle and are loaded with zinc, methionine, B vitamins and magnesium. The healthy fats, minerals, and antioxidant compounds found in sunflower seeds help support your immune system by increasing your ability to fight off viruses. 

How should I use Sunflower Seeds?

Sunflower seeds can be incorporated into your diet in so many ways!

  • Add raw or roasted sunflower seeds on top of salads.
  • Mix them in with other nuts (almonds, chasers, pecans, walnuts) and dried fruits for a delicious trail mix. 
  • Blend the seeds into a peanut-butter alternative.
  • Or just eat a handful of raw sunflower seeds!

Shiitake Mushrooms

Why add Shiitake Mushrooms into your diet?

Shiitake mushrooms regulate the activity of enzymes involved in methylation and are great sources of methyl donors folate and choline. These mushrooms a have a long history of use, in Chinese medicine, shiitake are thought to improve circulation and boost health and longevity.

How should I use Shiitake Mushrooms?

I love adding shiitake mushrooms into stir-fries, soups, and stews!

If you’ve been experiencing brain fog, low energy, stress, or sleep problems, sub-optimal methylation might be the culprit. Incorporating turmeric, blueberries, rosemary, cruciferous veggies, salmon, eggs, sunflower seeds, and shiitake mushrooms is a good starting place. But, if you’re still experiencing these symptoms, I would be happy to help you get genetic testing and give you a personalized interpretation of your results.

Note: If you’re on medication, consult your healthcare provider before adding to your diet.

Robyn C. Del Negro, MD
-Board-certified PM & R and Integrative Medicine physician since 1993
-Fellowship at Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine
-Specialized training with Institute of Functional Medicine