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Foods are a simple way to boost your body’s production of nitric oxide (NO.) NO plays a vital role in aspects of your health, which we’ll cover below. Limited capacity to produce nitric oxide is associated with erectile dysfunction, heart disease, and diabetes.
Certain conditions can lower your body’s natural nitric oxide production, including:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Chronic arterial injury
What is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide (NO) is a compound your body makes. NO is the result of a conversion process. This process takes nitrates from your diet and then turns them into a chemical you can use. You can take supplements that will increase your production especially amino acids.
You can also consume certain foods that will improve your body’s natural NO production.
The different systems NO play a role in include:
- Immune system: Helps the cells of your immune system communicate with one another to react to invaders faster.
- Circulatory system: NO helps your blood vessels dilate and constrict. As a result, NO helps with blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
- Exercise performance: Research shows NO can improve physical performance. For example, athletes who take nitrate supplements seem to tire more slowly. You may notice better muscle performance and general exercise performance if you add more nitrate to your diet. Along with reducing time to fatigue, nitric oxide can play a role in lowering the soreness you experience after a challenging workout.
- Type 2 diabetes: The compound’s production is often impaired in people who have type 2 diabetes. When you have type 2 diabetes and impaired NO production, it can lead to poor blood vessel health. Poor vessel health is then linked to kidney disease, heart disease, and high blood pressure. When you increase your body’s NO production, it helps improve insulin sensitivity for better blood sugar control.
- Erectile dysfunction: ED is one of the most common reasons men want to increase their nitric oxide levels. Your penis needs NO for its muscles to relax. The relaxation lets chambers inside the penis fill with blood, creating an erection.
7 Foods With Nitric Oxide
If you want to increase your levels naturally, there are certain foods with high nitric oxide. Our picks for the best foods to increase nitric oxide include the following:
Beets are high in dietary nitrate. Your body can then convert those nitrates to nitric oxide. In one study of 38 adults, having a beetroot supplement increased their nitric oxide levels by 21% in just 45 minutes.
In another study, drinking 3.4 ounces of beet juice boosted nitric oxide levels significantly in both men and women.
Along with being one of the best foods with nitric oxide, beets or beetroot juice has many other health benefits. They can help lower blood pressure, improve your athletic performance help your cognitive function. Beets are good for lowering oxidative stress and overall heart health as well.
Spinach, as well as other leafy greens such as kale, cabbage, and arugula, have high nitrate content. Your body takes the nitrates from these foods and then converts them to NO
In one review, when you regularly include spinach and dark green, leafy vegetables in your diet, it helps your body consistently keep your NO levels at an optimal level.
In one particular study, having a meal high in nitrates, including spinach, increased nitrate levels eightfold in salivary measurements.
The same study showed the nitrate-rich meal also decreased systolic blood pressure.
Garlic activates an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase, making it a good source of dietary nitrate intake. NO synthase helps convert nitric oxide from L-arginine.
L-arginine is an amino acid that you can also take as a supplement.
Garlic in one study increased nitric oxide levels in the blood up to 40% within an hour. That study was on animals.
In a test-tube study, aged garlic extract helped increase how much the body could absorb nitric oxide.
In animal and human studies, garlic has been shown to have beneficial health effects by increasing nitric oxide levels including better exercise performance and lower blood pressure. When you lower your blood pressure through a source of nitrates, it reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease.
4. Meat, Poultry & Seafood
Meat, seafood, and poultry are all high in coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 is also known as CoQ10. CoQ10 can help your body retain nitric oxide.
Some foods with the highest CoQ10 concentrations include organ meat, muscle meat, and fatty fish. CoQ10 can help your physical activity and athletic performance, mitochondrial function, improve heart health and help prevent migraines. CoQ10 is also likely good for your brain health, offering protective effects against neurodegenerative disorders.
5. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin. When you consume a diet rich in vitamin C, it increases the bioavailability of NO in the body. That then maximizes the absorption of nitric oxide. There’s some research indicating vitamin C can also increase levels of NO synthase.
Nitric oxide synthase is an enzyme you need to produce NO.
- Citrus fruit can help lower blood pressure
- You may notice better brain function
- Vitamin C from citrus fruits can help reduce your risk of heart disease
Watermelon is a source of citrulline. Citrulline is an amino acid. Your body converts citrulline to arginine and then to nitric oxide. In one study, citrulline stimulated nitric oxide synthesis in just a few hours.
In a study of men drinking eight ounces of watermelon juice for two weeks, researchers found significant nitric oxide bioavailability improvements.
Pomegranate is one of the rich sources of antioxidants and is one of the best nitric oxide foods. Antioxidants protect against cellular damage. Dietary intake of foods high in antioxidants also helps your body preserve NO.
Studies in both humans and animals have found pomegranate can improve blood flow. Improving blood flow can help with erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure.
What About Dietary Supplements to Increase NO Activity?
We recently added a whole post about using supplements to increase nitric oxide that we encourage you to check out.
While you can’t take a nitric oxide supplement directly, some supplements help raise your levels and increase your body’s natural production. Supplements to boost nitric oxide activity include:
- L-arginine: An essential amino acid, L-arginine supplements produce nitric oxide through a direct pathway. In people with high blood pressure, including pregnant women, L-arginine may be helpful. There’s mixed evidence from additional studies on whether the amino acid L-arginine helps with workout performance or improves blood flow.
- L-citrulline: This amino acid is produced as a byproduct of nitric oxide and has numerous beneficial effects. Then, it’s recycled back to L-arginine, and it increases your natural NO production. L-citrulline in research has been shown to improve blood flow and exercise performance and lower blood pressure. L-citrulline may be beneficial for erectile dysfunction. L-citrulline is considered safe with minimal side effect risks even when you take high doses.
- Pine bark extract: Also known as maritime pine bark, it contains polyphenols and antioxidants. The French maritime pine tree when used as a supplement, also appears to enhance the body’s production of NO. That increase in NO production helps improve blood flow and oxygen supply. Pine bark extract can improve the symptoms of ED significantly when paired with L-citrulline.
Final Thoughts—Foods with Nitric Oxide
Certain foods don’t actually have nitric oxide, but instead, they help your body produce and retain more of it.
These nitrate-rich foods also tend to have other health benefits and are great functional foods. Raising your nitric oxide levels can help with erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure and improve your overall health.
In general, trying to follow a healthy diet can also help your NO production. Remember if you have any health condition you’re concerned about, talk to your doctor.