Q:

What are some natural sources of nitric oxide?

A:

Beets, beetroot juice, spinach and leafy greens are all natural sources of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a gas that acts as a signaling molecule within the body. It is produced in the lining of arteries, known as the endothelium, but also enters the body by consuming foods that contain nitrates.

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Kale and other natural sources increase nitric oxide in the body because they are naturally rich in nitrate. The bacteria in human saliva convert nitrates in food into nitrites. Gastric juices in the stomach convert nitrites into nitrogen dioxide, dinitrogen trioxide and nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide is mainly produced in the endothelium by the enzyme nitric oxide synthase. The enzyme converts the amino acid argenine into nitric oxide. An increase of argenine consumption does not trigger the production of nitric oxide in the endothelium. Production of nitric oxide using nitrate is unrelated to the production using argenine.

Nitric oxide production is triggered by physical activity or low cholesterol levels. Nitric oxide expands blood vessels, increasing blood flow and reducing the chances of clotting. High cholesterol levels, stress, high blood pressure and smoking reduces the natural production of nitric oxide. Studies show that the use of antiseptic mouthwash can reduce production of nitric oxide by killing the nitrate converting bacteria in the saliva.

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