Nitric oxide (NO) is a molecule that our bodies produce to help our cells communicate with each other by transmitting signals throughout the body. This makes NO a vital component for many of your body’s important functions.
Nitric oxide not only increases your endurance and strength but it also improves sleep quality, stabilizes blood pressure and increases both smell recognition and memory. Also, if you are a man, nitric oxide paired with testosterone is vital for you to produce an erection.
Today many people take NO in supplement form and pair it with exercise to achieve these effects. The problem with supplements is that some products contain harmful additives, preservatives and chemicals. Further, these only stay in the body for a short amount of time making them somewhat inefficient. This is a reason why it’s important to have a whole foods diet packed with not only NO but also the pre-cursors to help your body produce its own NO as needed.
When we talk about whole foods there are always a variety of options to achieve your nutritional goals but for this example I’m going to shine a spotlight on beets. Beets have a high concentration of nitrates (roughly 20 times more than that of most vegetables) which are eventually converted in your body to NO. Beets are not only great for detoxifying your liver, they also decrease inflammation, improve cardiovascular health and due to their high fiber content assist with keeping your “routes of elimination” working properly. They grow quickly once seeded and the tops can be thinned and eaten in everything from soups to salads or just on their own as a side dish.
Nitric Oxide sources: raw cocoa, watermelon, pomegranate, walnuts, brown rice, spinach, oranges, beets, cranberries, garlic, cayenne, raw honey, pistachios, wild salmon, kale, and onions.
As well as eating foods specifically geared to increasing NO intake it is important to eat good quality protein packed with amino acids; most specifically L- Arginine and L-Citrulline. L- Arginine is nitric oxide’s precursor and the more you get in your diet, the more NO your body can make. L- Citrulline is important because it converts to L- Arginine within our bodies once again helping to increase NO production.
L- Arginine sources: Wild sockeye salmon, grass fed beef, turkey, chicken, eggs (specifically yolks), legumes, almonds, cashews, walnuts, and seeds.
L- Citrulline sources: Watermelon, onions, garlic, legumes, almonds, walnuts, and dark chocolate.
Also taking in antioxidants are crucial, specifically vitamin C, to decrease free radical oxidation. Free radicals are known to destroy nitric oxide before it has a chance to work so eating enough antioxidants to balance your free radical/ antioxidant balance is very important.
Not only can you increase nitric oxide by eating NO rich foods but you can also boost it through exercise. Exercise puts more of a demand on your body to release NO by widening and relaxing our vessel walls and allowing more blood to pass through. Sunlight is also helpful because when the sun hits your skin your body naturally releases nitric oxide in to the bloodstream. So head outside for your workout and enjoy a beet salad when you’re done!
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Brooke Carragher, C.H.N- Certified Holistic Nutritionist
Whole U Nutrition- A Whole U approach to wellness
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