Nitric oxide and its potential benefits

Written by Supriya Bhattarai


Nitric oxide and its potential benefits


Nitrates are naturally occurring, inorganic compounds formed during photosynthesis process, by plants from nitrogen found in the air. These compounds were added to foods to prevent events like botulism and bacterial overgrowth, however these compounds were long thought that it could potentially cause cancer. Hence the term “Nitrate free” was incorporated in cured meat such as ham, sausage, bacon etc. However, NO was discovered as a very critical and important component for cardiovascular health in 1988 which led to awarding of the Nobel Prize for this discovery.


How is Nitric oxide made?

Humans can produce nitric oxide in several ways. It can be synthesized from L- arginine with the help of the enzyme nitric oxide synthetase. It can be synthesized from sweat through our skin or it can also be derived from dietary nitrates that we eat. When we ingest nitrate-rich foods our body converts these nitrates into nitric oxide.



What does nitrate do?

Nitrate is the key player when it comes to opening or dilating your blood vessels. Dilated blood vessels mean more blood flow which has many benefits. This same reason accounts for increasing nitric oxide level for athletes because it can actually improve their performance due to its properties of vasodilation.


Why do we need it?

Since nitric oxide is an unstable molecule rather than a hormone which can stay elevated for hours or even days, it needs to be replenished constantly. Also the amount of nitric oxide formed in our body starts decreasing with age, chronic stress as well as insufficient sleep also limits its production.


From vasodilation to improving athletic performance Nitric oxide proves to be of importance, so it’s crucial to focus on our daily regimen, in order to optimize the production of nitric oxide. You can take available supplements to maintain the levels or you can increase your levels through your food and lifestyle habits. Here is the list of tips regarding food and lifestyle habits that can upgrade your Nitric oxide production.


1. Eat food rich in nitrates.

The foods highest in nitrate include beet roots and leafy greens such kale, spinach, lettuce. Other foods include cabbage, celery, radishes, turnips, and mushroom. The bacteria present in our mouth activate the NO production process, hence keeping your nitrate rich food a little longer helps, therefore chew your food well and consume liquids slowly. In order to increase your intake of these nitrate-rich vegetables, you can make vegetable juices or add steamed or roasted beets to a blended protein drink.


2. Eat food rich in polyphenols

Food rich in polyphenols and flavonoids encourage the endothelial cells of the blood vessels to produce more Nitric oxide. Hence increase your intake of berries, green tea, dark chocolate, pomegranates.

3. Get adequate rest and recovery

Optimum rest and recovery is important to stabilize the production of Nitric oxide. Give yourself time; indulge in calming relaxing activities like listening to music, meditation and a sound 8 hour sleep.


4. Long breathing and Sun exposure

Deep breathing exercises activate the sinuses which produce Nitric oxide. This produced nitric oxide travels through and reaches the lungs where it acts as bronchodilator. This action speeds up oxygen delivery and promotes anti-bacterial activity. Likewise, exposure to sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D3 which drives the production of Nitric oxide. Hence, stay under the sunlight for at least 20 minutes, three times a week.


5. Avoid the use of antiseptic mouthwash and anta-acids

The conversion of dietary nitrates to nitric oxide requires plenty of healthy bacteria in your mouth and high levels of digestive enzymes in your stomach. Antiseptic mouthwash reduces these essential oral bacteria, while antacids suppress the production of stomach acid, interfering with NO production.


Bottom line

Nitric oxide is an unstable compound with important benefits for cardiovascular health. The production of Nitric oxide in the body lowers when subjected to stress, low hours of sleep as well as increase in age. Since it’s also an unstable compound our body forms it, utilizes it and then it’s gone. Therefore, it is important for us to incorporate a daily regimen that supports and maintains the production of nitric oxide.