Nitric oxide is a molecule produced by the body that relaxes the blood vessels to allow you to have good blood circulation. It's production is absolutely essential to your health but unfortunately can be limited by many different factors.
There are natural ways in which you can help boost it. Below are some of the best ways to get that nitric oxide boost you really need naturally.
1. Eat Vegetables High In Nitrates
Nitrates are compounds naturally found in fruits, vegetables and grains. Nitrates are converted into nitric oxide which have a range of health and fitness benefits.
Vegetables such as spinach, beetroot, celery, lettuce, rockets and carrots are rich in nitrates. Generally most root vegetables have a healthy supply of nitrates.
Beetroot seems to be the most studies vegetable when it comes to nitrates and a popular choice for those looking to improve exercise performance. Evidence shows that beetroot can improve exercise in a variety of sports.
Despite the evidence that nitrates from food can increase nitric oxide, there is fear around nitrates. This is generally because nitrates are used as a preservative in foods like bacon. and other processed meats, to prevent the growth of bacteroa. These products have been strongly linked to an increased riskf of cancer (3, 4) and nitrates are thought to be the contributing factor.
However nitrates only become a problem when they turn into compounds called nitrosamines. This requires the nitrates to be exposed to high heat in order to do so (5).
Gunter Kuhnle, a Professor of Food and Nutritiona Sciences at University of Reading, UK explains the differences between processed meat and vegetables:(6):
“When you eat nitrates, they are converted to nitrites by bacteria in your mouth. Once the nitrites reach the stomach’s acid, they can turn into either nitric oxide [NO] or N-nitroso compounds. N-nitroso compounds like nitrosamines are carcinogenic. What makes processed meats so ideal for forming N-nitroso compounds is that they have a combination of nitrite and proteins from the meat. And the meat’s heme seems to help convert them into N-nitroso compounds.”
Kuhnle also found that when people drank beet juice for 6 weeks, they found no sign of nitrosamines in their urine.
Vegetables also contain antioxidants like vitamin C and polyphenols, which help to prevent the formation of harmful nitrosamines (7)
The presence of these compounds helps ensure that the nitriates are ocnverted to beneficial nitrix oxide rather than the harmful stuff, once they reach your stomach.
Therefore, nitrates from vegetables are harmless compared to those in processed meats. This is particularly true if eaten in excess over a long period of time (8).
So get a healthy dose of vegetables in daily to boost your nitric oxide levels naturally.
2. Up Your Intake Of Antioxidants
Nitric oxide is volatile which means it can degrade quite quickly in the bloodstream. This means it has to be constantly replaced (9).
One way to help limit nitric oxide's break down is to consume antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that help neutralize harmful free radicals in your bodies. They are mainly found in plant foods.
Free radicals are waste substances produced by your cells. If your body can't remove them efficiently then this results in oxidative stress and the short life of nitric oxide (10).
Some common antioxidants (and ones you may have heard of) include:
- Vitamin C - This antioxidant helps repair and restore tissue
- Glutathione - This is a powerful antioxidant that is made in the body's cells. Its levels decrease stress, toxin exposure and even aging. It detoxifies the whole body.
- Vitamin E - This one protects cells from free radical damage and slow the aging process of your cells. Vitamin E also helps keep the immune system strong and protect against many dieases including cancer, and cardiovascular diseases (10).
Many studies have found that consuming nitric oxide precursors like citrulline and nitrates with antioxidants, maintains great levels of nitric oxide in the body by helping reduce its breakdown (12, 13).
As antioxidants tend to be mainly found in plant foods, vegetables are a great source of them. As mentioned before, vegetables also tend to be high in nitrates - so you can kill 2 birds with 1 stone here.
The fact vegetables contain both nitrates and antioxidants is proboably why they arte so effective and boosting and maintaining optimal nitric oxide levels.
3. Eat Garlic with Vitamin C
I have already mentioned that vitamin c is an antioxidant and thus good at prevenitng the deterioartion of nitric oxide. However when you pair it with garlic, it helps boost nitric oxide in an impressive way.
Garlic is a natural vasodilator. It is filled with nitrates just like beetroot and spinach, but also offers another delight called quercetin. Quercetin has been shown to boost nitric oxide levels.
One study gave participants garlic tablets and vitamin c for 10 days straight. They found that the combination boosted endolethial nitric oxide by 200%. This was a much better result than consuming garlic on its own (although garlic still was shown to be effective at dropping high blood pressure compared to medication - 14).
4. Get Some Sunlight On Your Skin
Everyone knows that getting out and getting some sun is important for your skin to produce vitamin D. However it isn't well known that sunlight can also boost nitric oxide levels by triggering the skin to synthesize it.
The skin has a large store of nitrite and nitrate. When the skin gest sunlight it can activate it, reducing it to nitrite and nitric oxide.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that when sunlight touches the skin, nitric oxide is released into the bloodstream (15).
The results indicated that exposure to sunlight dilates blood vessels which significantly lowered blood pressure. They also found that pre-form stores in the upper layers of the skin were involved in mediating these effects.
Many people worry about exposing themselves to sunlight without sun protection creams, however the benefits of sun exposure far outweigh the risks. It is important to get some sun exposure without lathering yourself in suncream.
5. Get Exercising
Being active and doing some form of exercise regularly is important for overall health.
Exercise gets your heart rate up and blood pumping, which in turn improves the function of the endothelium. Endothelium is the thin layer of cells that line your blood vessels. These are the cells that produce nitric oxide.
So exercise is important in keeping these cells healthy and thus increasing your ability to produce nitric oxide.
As well as improving the health of the endothelium in your vessels, studies have also show that exercise increases antioxidant activity which as we know prevents the break down of nitric oxide (16).
If you don't already exercise and are wondering how long it would take to see these benefits, well you'll happy to know not too long. You will be able to see benefits in 10 weeks with as little as 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week (17).
The type of exercise also doesn't matter too much. Pick something you enjoy and get out there and boost that nitric oxide production.
6. Stop Using Mouthwash
Mouthwash is designed to destroy bacteria in your mouth that contributes to the development of tooth decay and diseases. However it tends to kill all types of bacteria including the beneficial bacteria in your mouth too.
Some of these beneficial bacteria are needed to convert nitrate to nitric oxide and without it you can't produce nitric oxide (18).
How long does mouthwash cause a problem for? Is it temporary? According to some reserarch mouth can kill bacteria needed to produce nitric oxide for up to 12 hours (19).
Some of these mouthwashes advertise 24 hour protection too.
The lack of nitric oxide production due to mouthwash could result in other health issues such as diabetes. Nitric oxide is needed to regulate insulin which helps cells use the energy obtained from food. If you aren't producing nitric oxide then insulin can not do its job.
One study looked he effects of mouthwash use in relation to diabetes. They found those who used mouthwash 2 times a day were 65% more likely to develop diabetes than those who never used mouthwash (20).
So if you want to boost nitric oxide, quit the mouthwash or at least use it sparingly.
7. Spice Up Your Life
Spicy foot flavored with hot chilli peppers could be the answer! Hot chilli peppers contain a compound called capsaicin which might set your mouth on fire but also helps your blood vessels relax producing more nitric oxide.
Researchers have discovered that long term ingestion of capsaicin can reduce blood pressure (21).
So if you like spicy food you are probably doing yourself a favor when it comes to your NO levels.
8. Don't Forget To Laugh
;Laughter has been shown to be beneficial to good health. It is good to laugh and I can't imagine that anyone wouldn't enjoy laughter.
Men who watched 60 minutes of a comedy film showed significant increases in nitric oxide compared to a control group (22).
So go enjoy a good stand-up comedy or tv show for that additional help at boosting your NO levels.
Nitric oxide is important for overall health and without it can cause a whole host of issues including high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease to name a few.
As a result it is important to maintain or boost nitric oxide levels to maintain good health.
So pick a diet high in nitrate rich vegetables as not only will nitrates help boost nitric oxide production but the antioxidants found in vegetables will also prevent deterioration of nitric oxide. You should also get plenty of sunlight and exercise at least 30 minutes 3 times a week to optimise nitric oxide production. You may also want to make the effort to get some laughter in your life.