This article is likely to attack your guilty pleasure foods, so I’m apologizing right now in advance. I like junk food and fast food as much as the next guy, but the foods in this article are KILLING your nitric oxide levels. Why does this matter? Good question. Let’s explore the importance of nitric oxide as well as the foods we enjoy that kill our nitric oxide levels.

Let’s face it, most of us are suckers for crunchy foods, sweet foods, deep-fried foods, and other delicious guilty pleasures we all know are bad for our health. Some of us use these foods for comfort, for celebration, and for every occasion in between. However, despite the textures and flavors we crave from these foods, they come at a cost. We pay that cost with our vitality and health. In terms of health, the price is high blood pressure, high cholesterol, an increased risk of becoming obese, and more. In terms of vitality, the price is becoming sedentary, developing a lack of stamina and energy, and of course the death of nitric oxide.


Why Killing Nitric Oxide Is So Detrimental To Our Health

Nitric oxide (NO) is a gaseous molecule produced naturally in the body. It dilates our blood vessels and helps our cells communicate, among a plethora of other health benefits. The dilation of blood vessels is known as vasodilation, and this is the most important function NO has in our body for keeping us healthy. When blood vessels dilate, they widen and allow for greater blood flow. This improves the delivery of oxygen and key nutrients throughout the body. As I already said, nitric oxide is naturally produced in the body. However, as we age this production naturally decreases. This means we have to work harder to keep our nitric oxide levels up as we age.

Unfortunately, many of the foods we enjoy only kill nitric oxide faster rather than preserve it. These foods not only kill our nitric oxide levels, but they have detrimental outcomes for our overall health and unforeseen consequences for those that are dear to us. Nobody wants to watch someone they love consistently make poor food choices that hurt themselves and those around them. Our food choices have multiple consequences such as:


  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health
  • Relational Health
  • Financial Health

Let’s explore these consequences a little before diving more into the specific foods that will kill your nitric oxide levels.


Physical Health

This one is the most obvious for most people. When we consume foods that are overly processed, sugary, high in saturated fats, etc., we develop a multitude of health problems. Some of these include:


  • High blood pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Risk of becoming overweight/obese
  • Poor circulation

Other factors such as activity level, genetics, and environmental factors are at play as well. However, no one can deny that nutrition plays one of the biggest roles in overall health. As the saying goes, “you are what you eat.” We have to make good food choices to avoid killing our nitric oxide and developing these health problems.


Mental Health

This one is starting to get more attention in recent years but still needs to be addressed. Our mental health controls much of our physical actions. Many people turn to comfort foods to address mental health struggles, which only serves to increase physical health problems. People look to junk foods to cope with issues such as anxiety, depression, chronic stress, acute stress, grief, and more. So if we want to improve our physical health, we must also improve our mental health. Some quick tips for better coping strategies than eating foods that kill nitric oxide include:


  • Exercise
  • Set small goals for yourself
  • Set up a healthier reward system
  • Choose healthier comfort foods
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Spend time in nature
  • Spend time with friends/family
  • Engage in writing/journaling to express your emotions


Relational Health

Most of you might not have considered this consequence of food choices, but how you eat has a ripple effect that intersects with your relationships. These relationships can include significant others, friends, family, coworkers, and just members of your community. All of these are relationships that you are a part of. Your food choices can negatively impact all of these. Not only can poor food choices kill nitric oxide, but they can create problems in your marriage, problems in your friendships, problems at work, and so on. Obviously, some of these are less likely than others, but still in the realm of possibility if your food choices are taken too far too often. Your choices do not affect just you. Every choice you make has a greater impact than you might realize.


Financial Health

This consequence again is contextual. Junk food is in some cases cheaper than healthier options depending on where you live. However, over time those purchases can add up in a big way. Let’s say you buy a basic cheeseburger and fries meal three times a week because your schedule is hectic and you don’t think you have time to cook. If this meal costs approximately $8 per meal, you are spending $24 per week on fast food. That’s $96 per month and $1,152 per year. That cost adds up over time. Imagine the healthier foods and other purchases you could make if you weren’t spending over $1,100 per year on junk food.


How One Bad Meal Can Kill Nitric Oxide

Just to put the importance of food choices in perspective, there was a study conducted looking at how fast food affects nitric oxide. After just one meal, endothelial health was hindered for about 6 hours post-meal. The endothelium is where NO is produced. The meal led to tighter blood vessels and the endothelium function was impaired. While this effect is temporary, if you eat like this often, these effects last longer and take longer to recover from.

The impairment happens due to the free radicals released from fast food that create high oxidative stress. This oxidative stress inhibits NO production. Free radicals literally kill nitric oxide molecules. Making good food choices matters!


Which Foods Kill Nitric Oxide?

Now that we have discussed the impacts of poor food choices not just on nitric oxide, but on overall health and quality of life, it’s time to call out the foods that kill nitric oxide.


1. High Salt Foods

A high-salt content is common in heavily-processed foods because it enhances the flavor. A little bit of salt is good for you because it can replenish electrolytes in the body. However, too much salt restricts blood vessels. This can lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. Studies have also shown that excess salt intake reduces nitric oxide production substantially. Research shows salt usage should not exceed 5 grams per day. The World Health Organization cautions against consuming more than 1 teaspoon of salt daily to reduce the risk of developing rdiovcaascular problems.

Foods that are high in salt you should avoid include:


  • Canned veggies
  • Salad dressings
  • Chips
  • Salted nuts and seeds
  • Pre-packaged foods


2. High Saturated Fat Foods

This one is where fast food really shines. Most fast food options come packed with saturated and trans fats. These foods have been shown to reduce endothelial function for several hours after each meal. If you eat fast food all day, it can lead to 18-24 hours of endothelial impairment. Furthermore, eating foods high in saturated fats can lead to the development of high cholesterol, particularly your low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL). As a general rule of thumb, you want your high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) to be high and your LDL to be low. Unfortunately, foods high in saturated fats raise your LDL, which is bad. Having high LDL reduces nitric oxide production. Since fast food is high in saturated fats and trans fats, your LDL will skyrocket over time.

If you want to avoid killing your nitric oxide, stay away from these foods high in trans and saturated fats:


  • Fried foods such as french fries
  • Fast food
  • Cooking oils
  • Fried processed foods such as potato chips
  • Bacon
  • Hot dogs
  • Processed meats


3. Sugary Foods

I am a huge fan of sweets, but unfortunately, too much sugar can kill nitric oxide. Studies have shown that a high glucose diet leads to a drop in nitric oxide production. We can avoid this by watching our sugar intake to avoid sugar spikes. Foods that are high in glucose include:


  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Milk
  • Syrup
  • Candy
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Ice cream
  • Doughnuts
  • Sugary drinks
  • High starch foods such as potatoes
  • Pasta

Substitute these white grains with foods such as quinoa, beans, and of course fruits and veggies. You do not have to cut all sweets, but you want to keep your sugar intake to no more than 24-36 grams per day to avoid the negative effects of excess sugar consumption.


Be Mindful To Not Kill Nitric Oxide

While it is essential to avoid foods that kill nitric oxide, you can also look into ways to boost nitric oxide as well to offset poor food choices. An occasional slip-up is something you can bounce back from. The key is making sure you are being mindful of your food choices as often as you can to avoid killing your nitric oxide. We all need that molecule as plentiful as we can keep it. Make sure you share this article with your family and friends. To learn more about healthy living tips and the importance of nitric oxide, check out the rest of our blog here.