nutrition

Medically Reviewed

Foods to Boost Nitric Oxide Levels: We Did the Research

a group of citrus fruits

Maintaining adequate nitric oxide levels is important for your health. These foods can help you do just that.

Nitric oxide is important for the health of your body for a variety of reasons. Eating certain foods can help you boost your nitric oxide intake and keep your body functioning at a high level.

What is nitric oxide?

Nitric oxide is a molecule with important physiological roles. Synthesized from the amino acid L-arginine, it helps regulate your body’s blood flow and blood pressure. It also helps dilate blood vessels.

Nitric oxide production in the body

Nitric oxide is produced by an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase. The enzyme converts the amino acid L-arginine. The amino acid citrulline also helps with nitric oxide production, since the body converts it into arginine.

Health benefits of nitric oxide

Nitric oxide boasts a range of important health benefits. First of all, it helps relax the blood vessels, which allows for better blood circulation. Improved circulation matters a great deal, because it means blood, nutrients, and oxygen can make their way through your body more efficiently. Nitric oxide can therefore be helpful for cardiovascular health, cognitive ability, exercise performance, blood pressure regulation, and more. It can also decrease the “cost” of the production of ATP, an important energy molecule. As a signaling molecule, nitric oxide plays a key role in a number of physiological processes, including skeletal muscle contraction, muscle repair, antioxidant defenses, and blood vessel function.

Signs of low nitric oxide levels

Nitric oxide plays a role in several areas of health. Some signs and symptoms may point to low nitric oxide levels, or they may also indicate the presence of other underlying issues. It’s important to talk to a medical professional as any symptoms arise. Some signs and symptoms that could be caused by low nitric oxide levels include:

  • Blood pressure issues
  • Challenges with regulating body temperature
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep issues (nitric oxide is required for recovery sleep)
  • Sexual issues

Foods that help boost nitric oxide levels

Leafy Greens

To boost nitric oxide levels in your body, it’s a good idea to eat foods that are packed with dietary nitrates. Your body then absorbs those nitrates and converts them into nitric oxide. As far as nitrate-rich foods are concerned, you can’t go wrong with working leafy greens into your diet, including spinach, kale, lettuce, rocket greens, radishes, and cabbage. One study showed that eating a meal rich in spinach (a nitrate-packing food) significantly increased the detectable nitrate levels in subjects’ saliva. Moreover, research has shown that foods high in nitrates, like leafy greens, can help boost cardiovascular health.

Meat, poultry, and seafood

Meat, poultry, and seafood can certainly be delicious. But they may also help preserve your body’s nitric oxide. Here’s why: These foods are great sources of a certain coenzyme – Q10, or CoQ10 – that’s associated with nitric oxide preservation in the body. Red meat is also high in arginine, which is an amino acid that can promote nitric oxide production. Turkey, beef, and chicken are also sources of the essential amino acids, including arginine.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which are naturally occurring compounds that support your health in myriad ways. Studies show that the flavonoids found in cocoa can boost your body’s nitric oxide levels, thereby promoting cardiovascular health and protecting cells against oxidative damage. One study looked at the effects of consuming 30 grams of dark chocolate every day over a span of 15 days. The findings were very clear: The 16 people who ate the dark chocolate saw significant boosts in nitric oxide levels compared to the control group; moreover, the dark chocolate group saw improvements in blood pressure.

Red wine

It may surprise you to find out that red wine boasts a wide array of health benefits – but that’s exactly what the research shows. The reason for this is likely that red wine contains antioxidants that help the body resist oxidative stress. Some studies have also suggested that red wine can boost your nitric oxide levels. One test-tube study showed that red wine increased the expression of nitric oxide synthase, which is an enzyme that helps your body with its production of nitric oxide. Another study yielded comparable results, finding that red wine boosted the amount of nitric oxide being released from cells that line the blood vessels. Red wine, when consumed moderately, can be good for blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health.

Garlic

Studies show that garlic can activate nitric oxide synthase, which is the enzyme that helps convert the amino acid arginine into nitric oxide. A study of mice found that the mice who received a garlic extract supplement experienced increases in blood nitric oxide levels. Moreover, a test-tube study showed that aged garlic extract can enhance the bioavailability of nitric oxide.

Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits are, among other things, great sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in your health. It can boost your nitric oxide levels by increasing its bioavailability and ensuring greater absorption of nitric oxide by your body. Some studies also suggest that vitamin C may stimulate nitric oxide synthase, thereby supporting the production of more nitric oxide. Some other health benefits of citrus fruits may include healthier blood pressure levels, better brain health, and stronger cardiovascular health. All of these benefits are likely connected to vitamin C’s support for nitric oxide levels.

Pomegranate

Pomegranate is a great source of flavonoids and antioxidants. It promotes cardiovascular health. Moreover, its antioxidant properties protect nitric oxide from oxidation, thus helping nitric oxide stay in the system longer. An animal study involving rats demonstrated that pomegranate juice and pomegranate fruit helped increase the concentration of nitrates in the rats’ blood. Furthermore, a test-tube study found that pomegranate juice supplementation was able to shield nitric oxide from oxidative damage.

Watermelon

Watermelon isn’t just delicious; it’s also good for your nitric oxide levels. Here’s how. Watermelon is a big source of the amino acid citrulline. Your body converts citrulline into the amino acid arginine, which, as mentioned above, is an amino acid that boosts nitric oxide production. Science backs this up. Consider the study that found that citrulline supplements helped animate nitric oxide synthesis after mere hours. Other studies have shown the health benefits of drinking watermelon juice, with one study showing that drinking 10 ounces of this juice for two weeks helped improve nitric oxide bioavailability. Consuming watermelon and watermelon juice can also enhance your blood flow while supporting better exercise performance.

Beets

Beets are another food that’s rich in dietary nitrates, which makes them an excellent food option if you’re looking to boost nitric oxide levels. One study examined the effects of a beetroot juice supplement in 38 adults and found that the supplement increased nitric oxide levels by 21% after just under an hour. Another study likewise showed that beetroot juice supplementation (3.4 ounces daily) boosted nitric oxide levels in the study’s participants. Beets can also lead to a range of other benefits, such as better athletic performance, healthier blood pressure levels, and enhanced cognitive function.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds make great snacks, and they’re also high in arginine, the aforementioned amino acid that helps our bodies produce nitric oxide. Studies show that incorporating arginine-rich foods into your diet can boost your body’s nitric oxide levels. One study of 2,771 people found that an increased intake of arginine-rich foods was connected to increased nitric oxide in the blood, while another study found that arginine supplementation led to higher nitric oxide levels after two weeks. Arginine may also help manage C-reactive protein (CRP), a blood marker associated with cardiovascular health, with this study showing a correlation between higher arginine intake and better CRP levels.

Final takeaways

Nitric oxide is important for the optimal functioning of your body. If you’re concerned about boosting your nitric oxide levels, you can incorporate some of the foods listed above into your diet. Be on the lookout for some of the signs and symptoms of low nitric oxide levels, and consult with your doctor if you have any questions.

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