Why is nitric oxide important in the body? Nitric oxide is a nutrient we constantly produce. But certain deficiencies are said to be associated with low levels of nitric oxide. Accumulated research suggests that the supplementing of nitric oxide in the body may diminish pain and boost the immune system, which can lead to improved healing. What is more, research suggests that giving post-surgical patients this type of drug may be able to shorten the hospital stay. Researchers are also looking at how nitric oxide cuts down on damage to body cells during surgery.
According to an October 2015 study published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, nitric oxide affects a variety of cellular processes. It is a free radical that is a potent vasodilator. The Mayo Clinic says vasodilators are medications that open (dilate) the blood vessels by affecting the muscles in vein and artery walls. Nitric oxide in the body ensures blood can flow more easily through your vessels, keeping the heart from working too hard and bringing down the blood pressure.
Nitric oxide is produced by nearly every type of cell in the human body and one of the most important molecules for blood vessel health. It’s a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes the inner muscles of your blood vessels, causing the vessels to widen. Nitric oxide increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure.
Supplements that increase nitric oxide in the body make up one of the most popular supplement categories today. These supplements don’t contain nitric oxide itself. However, they contain compounds that your body can use to make nitric oxide and have been shown to provide many benefits for health and performance.
The body produces nitric oxide to help regulate blood pressure and to ease muscular and joint pain, but when your body produces too little, it can cause problems. The less blood flow through the vessels and the fewer impediments to blood flow are common reasons for the low production of nitric oxide. Here are some suggestions for boosting your supply of nitric oxide, either by dietary means or supplement formulations.
Foods that can Boost Nitric Oxide
There are a wide variety of nitric oxide foods that can be included as part of a healthy and balanced diet that ensures you get enough nitrates in your body to produce nitric oxide.
Beets are a great source of dietary nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide. A December 2015 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition showed that the amount of nitric oxide in the body increased after drinking 100 milliliters (3.4 ounces) of beet juice.
Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavonoids, which the body can convert to nitric oxide. An April 2018 study in Sports Medicine showed that supplementing with cocoa flavanols may improve vascular function, alter fat and carbohydrate burning during exercise and reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress without affecting exercise performance.
Citrus Fruits can help! When it comes to oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes, the first thing most of us think about is the vitamin C content. Also known as ascorbate, vitamin C boosts nitric oxide production by enhancing levels of nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme the body needs to make it, as shown in a May 2012 study in Free Radical Biology & Medicine.
Leafy greens are full of nitrate, which the body needs to create nitric oxide. According to a March 2017 study published in the African Journal of Traditional Complementary and Alternative Medicines, greens such as spinach, kale, and arugula contain a significant amount of nitrates.
Watermelon is a rich source of citrulline, an amino acid the body converts to arginine before converting to nitric oxide. In a January 2017 study in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, watermelon supplementation was shown to reduce resting blood pressure and improve exercise performance.
Nuts and seeds have a high concentration of the amino acid arginine. A May 2016 study published in Nutrients found that there is a strong association between dietary intake of L-arginine and serum levels of nitric oxide because l-arginine promotes nitric oxide production.
Nitrates to Include In Your Diet
Nitrates tend to be most concentrated in plant foods that are closest to the source; the roots. As such, fruits tend to contain significantly fewer nitrates than, say, root vegetables or leafy greens. Nevertheless, a few fruits provide dietary nitrate. Apples are among these.
Although they do not contribute to nitrates directly, research shows that the unique, potent natural antioxidants in pomegranate and pomegranate juice help to enhance the biological functions of nitric oxide. They accomplish this by preventing the oxidative loss of NO.
Like other fruits, bananas cannot come close to vegetable sources of nitrates, such as beetroot, or even spinach. But as a fruit, they have relatively higher amounts of nitrate.
Supplements That Can Help
Another amino acid called citrulline also impacts nitric oxide because it is used to produce arginine. Citrulline may increase the amount of arginine in your blood plasma better than taking arginine supplements, reports Huntington College of Health Sciences.
Your body produces a sufficient supply of citrulline, which is good because it is not found in many foods. Watermelon is an excellent source, as well as one of the few foods containing citrulline. You’ll also get a small amount from walnuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and the milk protein casein.
Not too many people know about nitric oxide and how it promotes cardiovascular health. But our body’s production of nitric oxide actually plays a crucial role in keeping our blood vessels flexible to increase blood flow.
While it is best to eat foods that support nitric oxide production supplements can help. The supplement we have seen the best results from is Cardio Cocktail. It is in a liquid form which makes for optimal absorption and the taste is actually quite good. This is unusual for a nitric oxide supplement. Most are produced as a powder and have been unable to produce a great tasting supplement in liquid form.