The 10 Best Foods to Boost Nitric Oxide Levels
Switching up your diet is one of the best and most effective ways to naturally boost levels of this important molecule.
Here are the 10 best foods to boost your nitric oxide levels.
Beets are rich in dietary nitrates, which your body can convert to nitric oxide. According to one study in 38 adults, consuming a beetroot juice supplement increased nitric oxide levels by 21% after just 45 minutes.
Similarly, another study showed that drinking 3.4 ounces (100 ml) of beetroot juice significantly increased nitric oxide levels in both men and women.
Thanks to their rich content of dietary nitrates, beets have been linked to a number of health benefits, including improved cognitive function, enhanced athletic performance and lower blood pressure levels.
Garlic can boost nitric oxide levels by activating nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme that aids in the conversion of nitric oxide from the amino acid L-arginine.
One animal study showed that aged garlic extract temporarily increased blood nitric oxide levels by up to 40% within an hour of consumption.
Another test-tube study found that aged garlic extract also helped maximise the amount of nitric oxide that can be absorbed by the body.
Both human and animal studies indicate that garlic’s ability to increase nitric oxide levels may have a beneficial effect on health and can help lower blood pressure and improve exercise tolerance.
Meat, poultry and seafood are all excellent sources of coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10 — an important compound believed to help preserve nitric oxide in the body.
In fact, it’s estimated that the average diet contains between 3–6 mg of CoQ10, with meat and poultry supplying about 64% of the total intake.
Organ meats, fatty fish and muscle meats like beef, chicken and pork contain the highest concentration of CoQ10.
Studies show that getting enough CoQ10 in your diet not only preserves nitric oxide but can also help improve athletic performance, prevent migraines and promote heart health.
- Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is loaded with flavanols — naturally occurring compounds that boast an extensive list of powerful health benefits.
In particular, research shows that the flavanols found in cocoa can help establish optimal levels of nitric oxide in your body to promote heart health and protect cells against oxidative damage.
One 15-day study in 16 people showed that consuming 30 grams of dark chocolate daily led to significant increases in nitric oxide levels in the blood.
What’s more, participants experienced decreases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels — the top and bottom number of the blood pressure reading.
Because of its rich content of nitric-oxide-boosting flavanols, dark chocolate has been associated with improved blood flow, enhanced brain function and a lower risk of heart disease, too.
- Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, arugula, kale and cabbage are packed with nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in your body.
According to one review, regular consumption of nitrate-rich foods like green leafy vegetables can help maintain sufficient levels of nitric oxide in the blood and tissues.
One study even showed that eating a nitrate-rich meal containing spinach increased salivary nitrate levels eightfold and significantly decreased systolic blood pressure (the top number).
Other research has found that consuming high-nitrate leafy greens may also be associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and cognitive decline
- Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit are all excellent sources of vitamin C, an important water-soluble vitamin that plays a central role in health.
Vitamin C can enhance levels of nitric oxide by increasing its bioavailability and maximising its absorption in the body.
Research shows that it may also bump up levels of nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme needed for the production of nitric oxide.
Studies indicate that citrus fruit consumption may be linked to decreased blood pressure, improved brain function and a lower risk of heart disease — all of which may be due in part to their ability to boost nitric oxide levels.
Pomegranate is loaded with potent antioxidants that can protect your cells against damage and preserve nitric oxide.
One test-tube study showed that pomegranate juice was effective in protecting nitric oxide from oxidative damage while also increasing its activity.
Another animal study found that both pomegranate juice and pomegranate fruit extract were able to increase levels of nitric oxide synthase and boost the concentration of nitrates in the blood.
Human and animal studies have found that antioxidant-rich pomegranate can improve blood flow, which may be especially beneficial in treating conditions like high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction.
- Nuts + Seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in arginine, a type of amino acid that is involved in the production of nitric oxide.
Some research suggests that including arginine from foods like nuts and seeds in your diet can help increase nitric oxide levels in your body.
For example, one study in 2,771 people showed that a higher intake of arginine-rich foods was associated with higher levels of nitric oxide in the blood.
Another small study found that supplementing with arginine increased levels of nitric oxide after just two weeks.
Thanks to their arginine content and stellar nutrient profile, regularly eating nuts and seeds has been associated with lower blood pressure, improved cognition and increased endurance.
Watermelon is one of the best sources of citrulline, an amino acid that’s converted to arginine and, ultimately, nitric oxide in your body.
One small study found that citrulline supplements helped stimulate nitric oxide synthesis after just a few hours but noted that it may take longer to see positive effects on health.
Meanwhile, another study in eight men showed that drinking 10 ounces (300 ml) of watermelon juice for two weeks led to significant improvements in nitric oxide bioavailability.
Recent research suggests that upping your intake of watermelon not only enhances nitric oxide levels but can also improve exercise performance, decrease blood pressure and boost blood flow.
- Red Wine
Red wine contains many powerful antioxidants and has been tied to a multitude of health benefits.
Interestingly, some studies have found that drinking red wine could also increase levels of nitric oxide.
One test-tube study showed that treating cells with red wine increased levels of nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme involved in the production of nitric oxide.
Another test-tube study had similar findings, reporting that certain compounds found in red wine enhanced nitric oxide synthase and increased the release of nitric oxide from the cells that line the blood vessels.
For this reason, it’s not surprising that moderate consumption of red wine has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve heart health.
5 Ways to Increase Nitric Oxide Naturally
1.Eat Vegetables High in Nitrates
Nitrate, a compound found in certain vegetables, is one of the many reasons vegetables are healthy for you.
Vegetables high in nitrate include:
When these foods are consumed, nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, which confers a wide range of health benefits related to heart health and exercise performance.
In fact, several analyses have shown that eating nitrate-rich vegetables can lower blood pressure as much as some blood pressure medications.
Strong evidence favours nitrates, especially from beetroot, for improving exercise performance in athletes.
Despite the effects that nitrates have on nitric oxide production in your body, some people avoid them for fear they are harmful and contribute to cancer.
This is likely because sodium nitrates are commonly used as a preservative and colour fixative in bacon, cold cuts and hot dogs.
Eating these foods is linked to bowel cancer, and nitrates are thought to be the culprit.
Nitrates can form N-nitroso compounds, such as nitrosamine, which are capable of causing cancer.
However, vegetables, which account for more than 80 percent of nitrate intake, contain antioxidants like vitamin C, which help prevent the formation of N-nitroso compounds.
Therefore, nitrates from vegetables are harmless, whereas nitrates in processed meats can be troublesome to health, particularly when consumed in excess over long periods.
- Increase Your Intake of Antioxidants
Nitric oxide is an unstable molecule that degrades quickly in the bloodstream, so it must be constantly replenished.
One way to increase its stability and limit its breakdown is by consuming antioxidants.
Antioxidants are molecules that neutralise free radicals, which contribute to the short life of nitric oxide.
These antioxidants are found in all foods but primarily those of plant origin, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains.
A few important antioxidants include:
- Vitamin C: This antioxidant helps your body form connective tissues, including skin, bones, tendons and cartilage. It also produces brain chemicals that help nerve cells communicate. • Vitamin E: This antioxidant protects cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, which are thought to contribute to ageing and disease. It also plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong.
- Polyphenols: This category of antioxidants is associated with several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- Glutathione: Coined “the mother of all antioxidants,” glutathione is the master antioxidant and detoxifier of every cell in your body.
Several studies have found that ingesting nitric oxide precursors, such as nitrate or citrulline, with antioxidants maintains greater levels of nitric oxide in your body by helping reduce its breakdown.
Vegetables that are high in nitrate are also inherently high in antioxidants, which is likely why vegetables are so effective at increasing and maintaining optimal levels of nitric oxide.
- Use Nitric-Oxide-Boosting Supplements
Several dietary supplements are marketed as “nitric oxide boosters.”
These supplements don’t contain nitric oxide itself, but they include ingredients that help form nitric oxide in your body.
Two of the most commonly used ingredients are L-arginine and L-citrulline. L-Arginine
L-arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning it only has to be consumed in the diet under certain conditions, while healthy adults can make all they need.
It directly produces nitric oxide through a process called the L-arginine-NO pathway. Several studies support the use of L-arginine for increasing blood flow, but only in certain populations.
In those with high blood pressure, including pregnant women, L-arginine is effective at lowering blood pressure.
However, evidence on the ability of L-arginine to improve blood flow or exercise performance in healthy individuals remains mixed.
L-arginine is generally recognized as safe when taking 20 grams per day, but it may cause digestive symptoms at dosages as low as 10 grams.
L-citrulline is a dispensable amino acid, meaning your body can make all it needs.
When L-arginine is converted to nitric oxide, L-citrulline is produced as a byproduct. L-citrulline can then be recycled back to L-arginine and used to increase your body’s natural production of nitric oxide.
In fact, L-citrulline increases levels of L-arginine in your body more than supplementing with L arginine itself does. This is because a large percentage of L-arginine is broken down before reaching your bloodstream.
Studies have found L-citrulline to increase blood flow, improve exercise performance and lower blood pressure.
L-citrulline is considered relatively safe, and there is a low risk of side effects, even with high doses.
- Limit Your Use of Mouthwash
Mouthwash destroys bacteria in your mouth that can contribute to the growth of cavities and other dental diseases.
Unfortunately, mouthwash kills all types of bacteria, including the beneficial ones that help produce nitric oxide.
Special bacteria in the mouth convert nitrate to nitric oxide. In fact, humans cannot produce nitric oxide from nitrate without these bacteria.
Research has shown that mouthwash kills the oral bacteria needed to produce nitric oxide for up to 12 hours.
This leads to a decrease in nitric oxide production and, in some instances, an increase in blood pressure.
The detrimental effects of mouthwash on nitric oxide production may even contribute to the development of diabetes, which is characterised by malfunctions in insulin production or action.
This is because nitric oxide also regulates insulin, which helps cells utilise the energy obtained from food after it’s digested. Without nitric oxide, insulin cannot work properly.
One study found that people who used mouthwash at least twice daily were 65% more likely to develop diabetes than those who never used mouthwash.
Therefore, to maintain adequate nitric oxide production, it’s best to use mouthwash sparingly.
5. Get Your Blood Flowing With Exercise
Exercise really does get your blood pumping, largely because it improves endothelial function.
Endothelium refers to the thin layer of cells that line the blood vessels. These cells produce nitric oxide, which keeps blood vessels healthy.
Insufficient nitric oxide production results in endothelium dysfunction, which can contribute to atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease.
Exercise keeps your endothelial cells and blood vessels healthy by increasing your body’s natural ability to produce nitric oxide.
Several studies have shown that regular physical activity increases endothelial vasodilation in people who have high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as in healthy individuals.
Studies have also shown that exercise increases antioxidant activity, which helps inhibit the breakdown of nitric oxide caused by free radicals.
The benefits of exercise on endothelial health and nitric oxide production can be seen in as little as 10 weeks when exercising for 30 minutes at least three times a week.
For optimal results, combine aerobic training, such as walking or jogging, with anaerobic training, such as resistance training. The types of exercise you choose should be things you enjoy and can do long term.
The Bottom Line
Nitric oxide is a crucial compound involved in many aspects of health, including improving fertility, blood pressure regulation, athletic performance and brain function.
Making a few simple swaps in your diet can be an easy and effective way to increase your levels of nitric oxide naturally.
Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy protein foods can optimise nitric oxide levels while also promoting better overall health in the process.
Studies have shown that there is an increase in nitric oxide with patients who are diagnosed with endometriosis. Although the studies are limited and require further investigation into their validity, preliminary indications suggest that for this reason if you are suffering from endometriosis, we do not recommend a diet rich in nitric oxide.