One of the most important molecules for blood vessel health is nitric oxide (NO). It is a major vasodilator, as it keeps blood vessels open. Doctors have prescribed nitroglycerin to patients for many years for patients with chronic chest pain (angina pectoris). Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson lived on the stuff. Nitroglycerin gets converted to nitric oxide.
Our Body Makes NO- if we give it the tools it needs.
There are two cellular pathways in the body that generate nitric oxide. Dietary sources of nitrates and nitrites enter the body through the gastrointestinal tract and are subsequently converted into nitric oxide. In a second pathway, an enzyme known as nitric oxide synthase (NOS) synthesizes nitric oxide from the amino acid L-arginine and oxygen. Nitric oxide can then impact vasodilation, blood pressure regulation, inhibition of endothelial inflammatory cell recruitment, and platelet aggregation.
The 3rd way to boost nitric oxide…GET SUNSHINE.
In short, nitric oxide can reduce blood pressure, prevent heart artery blockage, and prevent stroke. So let’s talk about 10 food items that can boost your nitric oxide levels AND improve your health.
- Dark Chocolate
Guess what, chocolate is healthy. Well, that is only partially true, but at least we got your attention. The raw cacao bean increases nitric oxide and is loaded with antioxidants. Cacao can lower blood pressure and markers of inflammation. Unfortunately, chocolate is loaded with sugar. Save it for special occasions and skip the milk chocolate. Only go for the dairy-free dark variety. I like to add raw cacao to my breakfast “cereal” of nuts and seeds along with coconut flakes and homemade nut milk.
Oranges, lemons, and grapefruit contain high amounts of vitamin C, which has been shown to protect your precious nitric oxide molecules from free radicals. Vitamin C from any source raises levels of nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme that converts L-arginine into nitric oxide. Vitamin C is also a co-factor in reducing dietary nitrite to nitric oxide.
This delicious fruit boosts nitric oxide and is a tremendous anti-inflammatory. It also reduces oxidative stress, a leading factor in the production of coronary artery disease. Polyphenols in the pomegranate assist in converting dietary nitrite to nitric oxide. These same polyphenols block nitric oxide from converting back to nitrite.
Pomegranate inhibits the formation of monocyte chemoattractant protein, a molecule that recruits inflammatory cells to the blood vessel lining. This is a major factor in coronary artery disease. Cranberries and other berries would have similar benefits. Pomegranate juice powder is found in our Vessel Support.
Most people know that walnuts are high in heart healthy vitamin E. But because of their high amount of L-arginine, walnuts keep the blood vessels running freely. Interestingly, walnuts look a lot like the human brain, so eat them for brain health as well. Most other nuts are a good source of arginine. Soak your nuts for six hours prior to using.
Also known, as rocket lettuce, arugula is the highest source of nitrates known. This bitter green is perfect in salads or sautéed with other veggies. We mix with grilled onions and use on top of our grass-fed burgers. I usually eat it straight out of the bag in handfuls.
Want to be strong like Popeye? Eat your spinach (but fresh, not out of the can). This leafy green is packed with nutrients, and of course, nitrates. Add to salads, soups, sautéed or just straight out of the garden.
Watermelon is loaded with the amino acid, L-citrulline, which gets converted into L-arginine and ultimately nitric oxide. So many people reach for L-arginine supplements, but the body does not absorb it well. L-citrulline is easy absorbed.
Beetroot is loaded with nitrates. There are plenty of studies that confirm this food as a vasodilator which lowers blood pressure. Also, beets are an excellent source of anti-oxidants and contain betalains, which are anti-inflammatory. Check out our organic beetroot powder here.
- Meat and Seafood
Grass-fed meat and wild seafood are a wonderful source of CoQ10. This nutrient is a necessary co-factor to raise nitric oxide. Liver and other organs contain the highest amount of CoQ10. Statin drugs lower CoQ10 by 40%!
Garlic does not contain much in the way of nitrates, however it jump-starts their production by boosting the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (NOS). NOS converts L-arginine into nitric oxide in the presence of other cofactors such as vitamin B2 and B3. Studies also confirm that garlic supplements lower blood pressure and have many more benefits.