Outside oxygen and water, nitric oxide may be the most important molecule in our body. Would it not be great if there were nitric oxide foods to help maintain optimum levels of nitric oxide?
In our previous post, What is Nitric Oxide we looked at the importance of nitric oxide on health. Nitric oxide benefits all our organ systems, but levels of nitric oxide decrease with age and with disease states. The good news is there are ways to maintain healthy nitric oxide levels through wise lifestyle choices. One of those is the choice of foods that we eat. Are there nitric oxide foods, and if so, what are they?
Yes, there are nitric oxide foods and they are readily available. Many of these foods are frequently consumed or are included in diets recognized as being heart healthy, brain healthy, and associated with lower rates of diabetes and obesity like the Mediterranean and Japanese diets and DASH diet. It may be the ability of these foods to produce nitric oxide that is at the heart of their overall health benefits.
Nitric oxide foods are also rich in antioxidants (which explains some of their healthy attributes). The antioxidants vitamins C and E also help to maintain healthy nitric oxide levels.
Nitric oxide is synthesized from arginine, an amino acid, but can also be produced directly from nitrate and nitrite. Conversion of nitrate/nitrite to nitric oxide can occur in the tissues or in the gastrointestinal tract, either in the saliva or in the gut. So foods high in arginine and nitrate/nitrites are going to boost nitric oxide production. Below are foods containing nitrites and nitrates that boost nitric oxide production.
Nitric Oxide Foods
- Green leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, arugula, swiss chard, cabbage, and lettuce are all great choices.
- Root vegetables: beets, wild radish, parsley.
- Protein sources like nuts, eggs, fish, and poultry.
- Apples, pomegranate, watermelon, red wine, dark chocolate, green and black tea.
What About Nitric Oxide Supplements?
The best known supplement to boost nitric oxide levels and frequently discussed in bodybuilding and strength training venues is L-arginine. However the body’s ability to use supplemental arginine for the purposes of boosting nitric oxide levels goes down with age especially after age 40, or in individuals with existing heart disease whose ability to produced nitric oxide is hampered by their existing endothelial dysfunction (see “What is Nitric Oxide”). Studies looking at the use of supplemental L-arginine and heart disease and peripheral vascular disease have not shown any benefit. In these individuals finding a method to produce nitric oxide from nitrate/nitrite makes more sense.
HumanN (formerly Neogenis) has produced a lozenge based product that does just that called NEO40. NEO40 contains L-citrulline, an amino acid that gets converted to arginine (research shows that arginine produced from L-citrulline is more likely to get converted to nitric oxide than it is from supplemental L-arginine), beet root, hawthorne, and vitamin C. NEO40 takes advantage of the body’s ability to produce nitric oxide from nitrates/nitrites in the saliva. In a one month study NEO40 was shown to double blood nitrite levels, decrease triglycerides (risk factor for heart disease) 10% to 55%, reduced C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker for heart disease) 6% to 37%, and increased energy and reduce anxiety in half the individuals taking NEO40.
Include nitric boosting foods to your diet and consider nitric oxide boosting supplements if you are over age 40 or already suffer from cardiovascular disease. Don’t forget to exercise, which also elevates levels of that all important molecule called nitric oxide.
For recent reviews of research studies on nitric oxide visit Nitric Oxide Society
Other Reference: The Nitric Oxide Solution by Nathan Bryan, Ph.D and Janet Zand, OMD. Scroll to the very bottom to order The Nitric Oxide Solution through Amazon.
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