Few people know about nitric oxide (NO) and all the health benefits associated with it. What cannot be stated enough is that we need this little compound to thrive at our best. Nitric oxide production plays a critical role in promoting heart health. Nitric oxide works to make our blood vessels wider and more flexible. A benefit of this is improving our blood flow. This blood flow is the start of so many other wonderful benefits associated with nitric oxide production, such as circulation improvement. Failure to build sufficient amounts of nitric oxide in the body can lead to heart disease after enough time.

What Is Nitric Oxide?

A common nickname for nitric oxide is the “miracle molecule.” Nitric oxide is held in such high regard because it plays a crucial role in so many cellular processes and body processes. Some of these processes include digestion, memory, immune response, and circulation. Furthermore, nitric oxide production is so important because nitric oxide is a signaling neurotransmitter. NO is used to communicate across almost every cell in the body. How does this relate to heart health? Nitric oxide production helps protect our cardiovascular systems from aging and the damage that can occur from lifestyle choices. NO helps our heart and blood vessels stay healthy and functional.

Why Nitric Oxide Production Matters For Heart Health

The main function of nitric oxide on heart health is arterial elasticity; this is a fancy way of saying NO helps our blood vessels stay flexible as we age so that blood flow can remain optimal. NO can help ensure your red blood cells do not stick together and start to form clots and blockages. NO also supports a healthy blood pressure level. The endothelial lining of your arterial walls produce nitric oxide naturally. As long as this lining stays healthy, you won’t be vulnerable to inflammation and other damaging side effects of decreased nitric oxide production.

Unfortunately, nitric oxide levels begin to drop as we get older. As a result, the older you get, the more important it is to boost your nitric oxide levels. With all this in mind, you may be wondering what you can do to optimize your nitric oxide levels to avoid any unwanted heart problems?

How To Boost Your Nitric Oxide Levels For Your Heart Health

There are several ways you can ensure you have optimal nitric oxide levels for your heart health. Here are a few tips to boost nitric oxide levels:

1. Take L-arginine

L-arginine is an amino acid used as a primary precursor for nitric oxide production. This amino acid can be found in foods such as red meat, chicken, salmon, legumes, almonds, and cheese. L-arginine is also widely available as a supplement if you have food preferences or dietary restrictions that limit the exposure you can get to L-arginine through food. You can read up more about the relationship between L-arginine and nitric oxide here.

2. Eat Nitrate-Dense Foods

Certain vegetables contain a compound called nitrates. Nitric oxide production is possible through converting nitrates. Eating foods rich in nitrates will boost and optimize your nitric oxide production. Some foods high in nitrates include:

  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Beetroot
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Radishes
  • Turnips

This list is definitely not all the vegetables out there, but it’s a good start for you to begin adding nitrates into your nutrition. Eating foods that are nitrate dense can lower blood pressure as well as improve energy and stamina levels in some people.

It is worth pointing out that the nitrates found in vegetables are okay for large consumption. Processed meats such as bacon and hot dogs commonly contain nitrates. Those nitrates are used as a preservative and have been linked to some cancers. However, the nitrates from your vegetables are safe and contain antioxidants such as vitamin C. So eat your veggies, but try to avoid excessive bacon consumption. Your nitric oxide production will be boosted for sure if you do this.

3. Consume More Antioxidants

The body naturally produces nitric oxide but uses it up quickly. Because of this, it needs to be consistently replenished to keep levels high and experience the heart health benefits. One way we can do this is by introducing more antioxidants into our diets. Antioxidants are molecules that rid the body of excess free radicals that create oxidative stress. These free radicals can break down nitric oxide molecules rapidly, so we want antioxidants to stop this.

Some foods commonly associated as antioxidant-rich are:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Pecans
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Kale
  • Beets
  • Spinach

Types of Antioxidants

Various other fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables aside from the ones listed above contain antioxidants as well. Some of the most common types of antioxidants are:

  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C forms connective tissues as well as produces brain chemicals to aid in nerve cell communication and signaling.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E shields from free radicals which can negatively impact aging and speed up the onset of some diseases. It also helps keep the immune system strong.
  • Polyphenols: The body uses polyphenols to fight off the risk of cancers and cardiovascular disease.
  • Glutathione: The body uses glutathione as a detoxifier for cells. Glutathione is known as “the mother of all antioxidants” because it is present in almost every cell in the body. It also plays a role in various body systems and functions.

Some research supports the idea that taking nitric oxide precursors such as nitrates with antioxidants can optimize nitric oxide levels by slowing down the rate of nitric oxide breakdown. Also, most vegetables that are high in nitrates are full of antioxidants. This combination allows for improved nitric oxide production and optimal consistent levels. This consistently high level of nitric oxide is what is needed to promote heart health benefits.

4. Exercise

The whole point of exercising is to get the blood pumping right? Well, your nitric oxide production increases when you exercise. Exercise promotes blood flow, which promotes the delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Not to mention the cardiovascular benefits of working your muscles, heart, and lungs consistently. Blood pressure levels and improved endothelial health can result from more exercise.

Protecting the Endothelium

The endothelium is the cellular lining within blood vessels. These are the cells that produce nitric oxide. When they produce nitric oxide, the blood vessels stay flexible and dilated for improved blood circulation throughout the body. If nitric oxide levels become insufficient, your endothelium can become dysfunctional. This dysfunction leads to heart problems and blood pressure issues like hypertension.

When we exercise, we promote endothelium health by increasing vasodilation. Vasodilation is the widening of blood vessels via relaxation of the smooth muscles within the lining of arteries. By incorporating more aerobic exercise such as jogging and walking into your daily routine, you can improve your endothelial health and increase nitric oxide production.

5. Use Nitric Oxide Boosting Supplements

This one is an obvious choice if you can check the other boxes above. You should always try to get nitric oxide boosters from lifestyle choices and nutrition first. If you find that all of the above still isn’t enough, then it’s time to look into supplements. Nitric oxide supplements do not contain nitric oxide, but they do contain the precursors the body can use to convert into nitric oxide. The most common ingredients you will find are L-arginine and L-citrulline.

Both of these are amino acids. L-arginine promotes nitric oxide via the L-arginine-NO pathway. The body naturally produces L-citrulline. As a result of this natural production, L-citrulline gets converted into L-arginine. This allows for more L-arginine available for nitric oxide production. Both amino acids are great for decreasing blood pressure, so are both great for heart health. These amino acids are usually split into some ratio in a NO booster. The ideal ratio of L-arginine to L-citrulline is 2:1, which you can learn more about why here.

The Takeaway

Nitric oxide is essential for overall heart health. As vasodilation occurs, blood flow becomes more efficient. This allows more oxygen and nutrients to be available for cells and muscles. Because of this, it is important to achieve and sustain optimal nitric oxide levels.

Nitric oxide is a valuable tool to have in your health arsenal. Almost every cell in your body utilizes it. Your muscles use it for energy, stamina, and fatigue control. The brain uses it to communicate between neurons. Your blood cells use it to avoid clotting. The reproductive organs use it to increase libido and sexual health. Our immune system uses it to stay strong and vigilant against foreign intruders.

Nitric oxide is easy to add to your diet in various forms. There is no shortage of benefits to your body as a whole when supplementing nitric oxide. As a bonus, when we increase our nitric oxide consumption, our bodies begin to produce more nitric oxide naturally. If you care about living a long life with a strong heart, seriously look into what nitric oxide can do for you. If you are on any medication, talk to your doctor. Otherwise, follow the steps above and enhance your nitric oxide production asap!

Improving Nitric Oxide Production and Heart Health