Nitric Oxide, Cardiovascular Health & Athletic Performance


Nitric Oxide (NO) is a signaling molecule made by your body that relaxes blood vessels and improves oxygen delivery. This translates into lower blood pressure, improved cardiovascular function & better athletic performance.

You can increase nitric oxide levels in your blood by:

  • Eating plant foods high in nitrate and citrulline
  • Regular exercise
  • Sunlight exposure 
  • Avoiding mouthwash

Nitrate rich plant foods have a high antioxidant content and can be used by your body to make NO.

Nitrates in processed meats are added during processing to kill botulism spores. They are low in antioxidants and high in amines and amides. Instead of making nitric oxide, they make nitrosamines and nitrosamides, known carcinogens.

The top 10 nitrate rich plant foods (most to least) are: Arugula, Rhubarb, Cilantro, Butter leaf lettuce, Mesclun greens, Basil, Beet greens, Oak leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, and Beets.

Nitric Oxide is made from Arginine, and arginine can be made from Citrulline.

The top 12 Citrulline sources are (most to least) are: Yellow Watermelon, Orange Watermelon, Red Watermelon, Watermelon Leaves (citrulline comes from the Latin word citrullus, which means watermelon), Cucumber, Pumpkin, Pumpkin leaves, Muskmelon, Squash, Gourds, Kiwano, & Chocolate.

Citrulline may also protect against cell aging and reduce free radicals caused by high blood glucose.

Exercise ramps up the production of an endogenous (made by the body) antioxidant called manganese super oxide dismutase (mn-SOD). This boosts the half-life of NO and keeps it around longer.

Your skin stores a lot of nitrite, and when it is exposed to UVA radiation (sunlight), it cases the nitrite to be released into the blood where it can be used to make NO. As little as 15 minutes of sun exposure has been shown to significantly lower blood pressure in healthy people.

Mouthwash has been shown to kill nitrate producing bacteria, effectively making this potential source of NO unavailable to you. Regular mouthwash use has also been associated with developing diabetes.