Healthy Foods to Boost Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide is a compound that’s made by your body. It’s the end result of a conversion process that takes dietary nitrates and turns them into a useful chemical. While you can find nitric oxide as a supplement, it’s simplest to get the nitric oxide you need by consuming the building blocks as a part of your normal diet. Research suggests that getting nitrates from vegetables is a particularly effective method of improving your heart health.

Why You Need Nitric Oxide

Your body uses nitric oxide to help regulate a number of functions, even though it is technically a free radical. Your body needs to make nitric oxide out of component parts, which include vitamin C and nitrates. Without enough of these component parts, you will not be able to produce enough nitric oxide. This impacts a number of body systems, including:

Immune system : Your immune system is a large system full of many different varieties of cells. Nitric oxide helps these cells communicate and react more quickly to invaders.

Circulatory system : Nitric oxide appears to help your body dilate and constrict your blood vessels. This can improve your blood pressure and therefore your heart health.

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 more nitrate to your diet may help boost your nitric oxide levels and improve your exercise performance.

Foods to Boost Nitric Oxide

Since nitrates can be converted into healthy nitric oxide, eating foods high in natural nitrates can help you improve your nitric oxide levels simply and easily. These ten foods are rich in natural nitrates. 

1. Spinach 

Out of any plant that’s commonly eaten, spinach has the most impressive nitrate content. A single hundred-gram serving of spinach can contain anywhere from 24 to 387 milligrams of nitrate. Depending on the growing conditions plants face before harvest, the amount of nitrates present can vary significantly. 

2. Bok Choy

Like spinach, bok choy is a leafy green that’s impressively rich in nitrates. Depending on its growing conditions, a head of bok choy can contain anywhere from 103 to 309 milligrams of nitrates per hundred grams of vegetable matter. 

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3. Carrots

If you prefer your vegetables in root form, then carrots can give you the nitrates you need. A hundred-gram serving of carrots can contain between 92 to 195 milligrams of nitrates. 

4. Mustard Greens

Another great, leafy source of nitrates is mustard greens. These flavorful greens have between 70 and 95 milligrams of nitrate per hundred-gram serving, making them one of the most consistent vegetable sources of nitrates.

5. Coleslaw

Cabbage and carrots are excellent sources of nitrates. As a result, coleslaw is a great way to get your vegetable nitrates outside of salad. Coleslaw contains an average of about 55 milligrams of nitrates per hundred-gram serving. 

6. Broccoli

Broccoli comes in a little lower than leafier vegetables, but it still holds its own when it comes to nitrate content. A hundred gram serving of broccoli contains about 39.5 milligrams of nitrates that can be converted into nitric oxide. 

7. Eggplant

If you want to get your nitrates as a main dish instead of as a side, eggplant is a respectable source of nitrates. It can provide between 25 and 42 milligrams of nitrates per hundred-gram serving. 

8. Wax Gourd

There’s nothing quite like a baked squash to fill you with warmth. If you want a warmer, more filling option for plant-based nitrates, a hundred-gram serving of wax gourd can offer between 36 and 68 milligrams of nitrates to boost your nitric oxide levels. 

9. Garlic

If you’re getting enough nitrates in your diet, you can boost nitric oxide in other ways, as well. For example, garlic seems to be a potent method for improving your body’s manufacturing process for nitric oxide, helping your body more effectively use the nitrate it has.

10. Citrus Fruit

Similarly to garlic, citrus fruits seem to help your body make the most of the nitric oxide it can already produce. Consuming citrus fruits boosts the amount of vitamin C in your body, which in turn improves your ability to absorb and react to nitric oxide.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 07, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits.”

British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology: “Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate‐nitrite‐nitric oxide pathway.”

Circulation Research: “Long-Term Vitamin C Treatment Increases Vascular Tetrahydrobiopterin Levels and Nitric Oxide Synthase Activity.”

Current Medical Research Opinion: “Potent activation of nitric oxide synthase by garlic: a basis for its therapeutic applications.”

Hypertension: “Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients: a randomized, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.”

International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: “The effect of nitrate supplementation on exercise performance in healthy individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”

Nature Immunology: “Nitric oxide and the immune response.”

Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry: “Does vitamin C enhance nitric oxide bioavailability in a tetrahydrobiopterin-dependent manner? In vitro, in vivo and clinical studies.”

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