Amanda Lovett-Jones – RH (AHG)
What is nitric oxide?
Nitric oxide is a chemical compound that’s made by the body. It’s the end result of a conversion process that takes dietary nitrates and then converts them into Nitrite (NO2). following which nitrite is converted to nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is considered an essential molecule, necessary for various health processes and overall health, in particular heart circulation and health.
What does nitric oxide do?
Biologically, nitric oxide behaves by messaging blood vessels to relax and authorizing them to expand. What this does is, to allow blood, nutrients, and oxygen to flow more readily throughout the body. Nitric oxide can be taken directly as a daily supplement. However, can readily source nitrates from our foods. Evidence has shown that nitrates and nitrites serve as a reservoir and perform similar nitric oxide activity-like functions. Therefore getting nitrates from dietary sources plays an important role in various physiological activities, and can ensure optimal nitric oxide levels in the body. Research suggests that getting nitrates from vegetables is a particularly effective method of improving your heart health.(1)
How is nitric oxide made?
The Dietary Nitrate-nitrite-NO Pathway and Its Physiological Aspect –
Nitric oxide synthesis occurs through 2 recognized pathways. The first nitric oxide pathway- catalyzes the formation of nitric oxide from a conversion of the amino acid L-arginine and oxygen. The second, takes circulating nitrate (from foods) and creates generation of nitric oxide through nitrite synethesis. While they have similar outcomes in the generation of nitric oxide, there are differences in how these pathways are activated. For example, the second pathway, conversion from dietary nitrates, is dependent upon the action of healthy bacteria in the mouth (which aids conversion to nitrite) and again in the gut (involved in the conversion to nitric oxide). There are several factors that can negatively impact this conversion – the use of antibiotics, and, antiseptic mouthwash. (2). Supplementing with a probiotic after antibiotics can ensure adequate conversion of dietary nitrates.
Protective Effects of Dietary Nitrates on Lifestyle-Related Diseases
Research has hailed many health benefits of increasing dietary intake of nitrates, in particular how it may help improve oxygen and nutrient circulation. This would benefit people with low cardiac output, or those who experience poor exercise capacity post cardiac injury. Research suggests the second pathway, which relates to nitrate dietary intake, and modulation of the inorganic nitrate/nitrite pathway represents a novel avenue to help improve exercise capacity in people who have experienced heart failure or cardiovascular injury. (3)
Why do we need more nitric oxide?
As we age, our own nitric oxide production capabilities decrease, which may contribute to the aging process. Therefore our need as we age increases.(4). While nitric oxide has whole-body health benefits, there are 3 main areas of targetted effects.
- Immune system: Nitric oxide helps immune cells communicate and respond promptly to invaders.
- Circulatory system : Nitric oxide appears to help boost healthy blood flow and tissue oxygenation, allowing nutrients and oxygen to circulate and nourish.
- Exercise and muscle performance : Nitric oxide may be correlated to a slight improvement in physical performance. Athletes who received nitrate supplements appear to tire slightly more slowly than those who don’t receive the supplement. Adding nitrate rich foods to your diet may help naturally boost your nitric oxide measurements and help exercise performance.
Healthy Foods to Boost Nitric Oxide
Recent reports show that vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale contain high nitrate levels(5), which contributes nearly 80%-90% of the total dietary nitrate. (6). Other sources of nitrate are drinking water (15%-20%) and other foods, to a lesser degree including animal-based products (10%-15%). (7). Nitrate-rich vegetables account for 60%–80% of the daily nitrate intake in a Western diet, and substantial elevations in the plasma nitrite levels can occur through increasing the dietary nitrate intake. (8). And, we get substantially more of our dietary nitrates from eating leafy greens than we do from bacon and hot dogs – 80% versus 5%.+
9 Nitric Oxide Foods –
Look to implement these Foods to Boost Nitric Oxide Levels
1) BEETS –
These antioxidant rich root vegetables are a wealth of dietary nitrates, which your body can convert directly into nitric oxide. According to one study in 38 adults, consuming a beetroot juice supplement increased nitric oxide levels by 21% after just 45 minutes. (SNAP)
2) Green leafy vegetables –
Spinach, kohlrabi, swiss chard, cabbage, alfalfa, kale, and the algae spirulina, have high concentrations of nitrates, which are converted directly into nitric oxide in the body. Daily servings of green leafy vegetables, or supplementation can help boost levels of nitric oxide.
3) Nuts and seed –
Nuts and seeds contain rich levels of arginine, a type of amino acid that is involved in the production of nitric oxide. Having a healthy diet of mixed raw, or roasted and unsalted nuts and seeds can help maintain healthy nitric oxide levels.
4) Garlic –
Garlic naturally boosts the enzyme nitric oxide synthase, which aids in the conversion of nitric oxide from the amino acid L-arginine. Both human and animal studies indicate many benefits of eating garlic regularly and is associated with naturally helping to boost nitric oxide levels. (9)
5) Dark Chocolate-
Dark chocolate is a pleasurable source of healthy nitrates. One study showed consuming 30 grams of 70-80 percent dark chocolate per day was enough to significantly increase nitric oxide levels. (10)
6) Citrus –
Citrus fruits are a rich source of nitrates, and a wealth of antioxidant vitamins, in particular vitamin C which help to relieve oxidative stress in the body. Vitamin C can impact the body’s stores aiding the bioavailability of nitric oxide and optimizing its absorption in the body. (11).
7) L-Arginine and L-Citrulline –
These are both are naturally occurring amino acids found in foods. In nitric oxide synthesis pathway 1, L-arginine is converted to nitric oxide. As a consequence L-citrulline is produced as a byproduct. L-citrulline can then be recycled back to L-arginine and used to increase your body’s natural production of nitric oxide. Supplementing, and eating foods rich in both of these amino acids, can have nitric oxide boosting impact by supporting this NO synthesis pathway and adequate conversion. Dietary sources of these include dairy products, turkey, watermelon, lentils and soybeans.
8) Red wine –
Numerous studies have shown the multiple health benefits of regulated intake of red wine. Its anti-inflammatory antioxidant capabilities are synonymous with the health touting benefits of the Mediterranean diet. In vitro findings are now indicating that red wine increases the expression of human endothelial nitric oxide synthases, the family of enzymes involved in nitric oxide production from L-Arginine. Regular responsible consumption of red wine may help boost nitric oxide levels. (12)
9) Berries and fresh herbs-
Berries like pomegranate, blueberries and blackberries, as well as some herbal medicines, are a rich source of polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants and can help improve conversion of dietary nitrates to nitric oxide in the gut. (13)
DO THIS to boost nitric oxide
- Taking a broad dietary approach can be beneficial when looking to boost nitric oxide levels. There are some plant forward diets that target a high intake of dietary levels of nitrate rich foods. For example, the dietary provisions of nitrates and nitrites from vegetables and fruit may contribute to the blood pressure–lowering effects of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. DASH is a Meditteranean leaning diet that looks to impact heart disease and healthy heart function. (14).
- Additionally, whole fresh foods with minimum processing matters!
Historically, dietary nitrates (especially those coming from processes meats) were considered bad for your health. However, recent evidence shows that it’s the cooking and processing methods that are the reason for concern. To simplify, synthetic nitrates – added to keep meats and deli meats shelf stable and keep their natural color, are different than nitrates that occur naturally in fresh vegetables. Synthetic nitrates are chemicals that create free radical damage. In contrast, the natural nitrates from fresh produce are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that protect against free radical damage and further enhance the health benefits of dietary nitrates. So eating a whole food normal diet focuses on the right dietary nitrates and helps protect against cardiovascular disease and helps boost nitric oxide levels.
- Regular exercise and physical activity can help maintain a steady conversion of nitric oxide from dietary nitrates. Studies show exercise stimulates nitric oxide (NO) release from endothelial cells, regular exercise can help boost nitric oxide levels naturally. (15).
Quick Recap: Why is Nitric Oxide Good for Me?
Nitric oxide works hard to authorize blood vessels to relax and expand, supports an increase in blood flow and tissue oxygenation and helps muscles to recover from exercise. Nitric oxide levels naturally decrease as we age. Supplementing with nitric oxide boosters, along with ramping up daily intake of nitrate-rich foods can have an increase in nitric oxide production levels to support healthy heart, immune, circulatory systems and exercise performance.*
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any statements or products mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.