Healthy Foods to Boost Nitric Oxide

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on June 26, 2024
3 min read

Nitric oxide is a gas that's found outside and inside your body. In the environment, nitric oxide can be toxic at high levels. But at the low levels inside your body it acts as a chemical messenger, sending signals that are important for many bodily functions. 

Your body makes the nitric oxide it needs from compounds in the foods you eat. There are also supplements you can buy that claim to boost nitric oxide levels, but the research on these is mixed. 

Nitric oxide has wide-ranging effects on your health, impacting many of your body's systems, including your:

Immune system. Nitric oxide provides a defense against invaders that can make you sick. It also controls many types of immune cells and helps these cells communicate and react more quickly to invaders.

Circulatory system. Nitric oxide helps your blood vessels relax and widen. This improves blood flow and lowers your blood pressure. 

Nervous system. As a neurotransmitter, nitric oxide helps send messages throughout your body. It also increases blood flow to the brain and aids erectile function. 

Respiratory system. Nitric oxide helps relax the airways and prevents them from becoming very restricted. It can be helpful in diseases affecting breathing such as asthma.

Digestive system. It controls the smooth muscles in your gastrointestinal tract and helps the movement of poop out of your body.

Renal system. Nitric oxide increases blood flow to your kidneys and helps in making pee. 

Nitric oxide has many other benefits, such as:

  • Lowering cholesterol
  • Reducing swelling and pain in arthritis
  • Lowering your risk of diabetes and diabetes-related complications like kidney disease and blindness
  • Preventing blood clots from forming
  • Protecting your skin from sun damage
  • Reducing your risk of dementia

Your body makes nitric oxide from compounds in the food you eat called nitrates and nitrites. Foods rich in these substances include: 

  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Chicory
  • Wild radish
  • Bok choy
  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Mustard greens
  • Raw cauliflower
  • Parsley
  • Kohlrabi
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli

These foods are average sources:

  • Coleslaw 
  • Asparagus 
  • Celery 
  • Watercress 
  • Artichokes 
  • Eggplant
  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes 
  • Garlic 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Melon 

Eating a healthy diet rich in foods containing natural nitrites and nitrates is the best way to get what your body needs to make nitric oxide. If you're not able to get enough from your diet, you can talk with your health care provider about taking a supplement. These supplements contain synthetic versions of the compounds your body uses to make nitric oxide. The dosages will vary depending on what supplement you take. 

Supplements aren't regulated by the FDA the way drugs are. That means you can't know for sure about the quality. When choosing your supplement, stick to well-known and well-respected brands. Always check with your doctor before taking supplements as they might affect a medical condition you have or interact with a medication you take. 

Nitric oxide plays a role in many areas of your health, from keeping your blood pressure steady to improving your brain health. It's important to get enough of the compounds your body uses to make nitric oxide. If you can't get enough from your diet, you can talk with your doctor about whether you should take a nitric oxide supplement.