The 10 Best Foods to Boost Nitric Oxide Levels
By Rachael Link, MS, RD on September 25, 2018
Nitric oxide is a vital molecule produced in your body that impacts many aspects of health.
It helps blood vessels dilate to promote proper blood flow and may provide various health benefits, including improved exercise performance, lower blood pressure and better brain function (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Switching up your diet is one of the best and most effective ways to naturally boost levels of this important molecule.
Here are the 10 best foods to boost your nitric oxide levels.
Beets are rich in dietary nitrates, which your body can convert to nitric oxide.
According to one study in 38 adults, consuming a beetroot juice supplement increased nitric oxide levels by 21% after just 45 minutes (5Trusted Source).
Similarly, another study showed that drinking 3.4 ounces (100 ml) of beetroot juice significantly increased nitric oxide levels in both men and women (6Trusted Source).
Thanks to their rich content of dietary nitrates, beets have been linked to a number of health benefits, including improved cognitive function, enhanced athletic performance and lower blood pressure levels (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
Beets are high in nitrates, which can significantly increase levels of nitric oxide in your body.
Garlic can boost nitric oxide levels by activating nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme that aids in the conversion of nitric oxide from the amino acid L-arginine (10Trusted Source).
One animal study showed that aged garlic extract temporarily increased blood nitric oxide levels by up to 40% within an hour of consumption (11Trusted Source).
Another test-tube study found that aged garlic extract also helped maximize the amount of nitric oxide that can be absorbed by the body (12Trusted Source).
Both human and animal studies indicate that garlic’s ability to increase nitric oxide levels may have a beneficial effect on health and can help lower blood pressure and improve exercise tolerance (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
Garlic can enhance the bioavailability of nitric oxide and may increase levels of nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme that converts L-arginine to nitric oxide.
Meat, poultry and seafood are all excellent sources of coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10 — an important compound believed to help preserve nitric oxide in the body (15Trusted Source).
In fact, it’s estimated that the average diet contains between 3–6 mg of CoQ10, with meat and poultry supplying about 64% of the total intake (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
Organ meats, fatty fish and muscle meats like beef, chicken and pork contain the highest concentration of CoQ10.
Studies show that getting enough CoQ10 in your diet not only preserves nitric oxide but can also help improve athletic performance, prevent migraines and promote heart health (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
Meat, poultry and seafood are high in CoQ10, a key compound that helps preserve nitric oxide in your body.
- Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is loaded with flavanols — naturally occurring compounds that boast an extensive list of powerful health benefits.
In particular, research shows that the flavanols found in cocoa can help establish optimal levels of nitric oxide in your body to promote heart health and protect cells against oxidative damage (21Trusted Source).
One 15-day study in 16 people showed that consuming 30 grams of dark chocolate daily led to significant increases in nitric oxide levels in the blood.
What’s more, participants experienced decreases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels — the top and bottom number of the blood pressure reading (22Trusted Source).
Because of its rich content of nitric-oxide-boosting flavanols, dark chocolate has been associated with improved blood flow, enhanced brain function and a lower risk of heart disease, too (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
Dark chocolate is high in cocoa flavanols, which increase levels of nitric oxide to promote heart health and prevent cell damage.
- Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, arugula, kale and cabbage are packed with nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in your body (26Trusted Source).
According to one review, regular consumption of nitrate-rich foods like green leafy vegetables can help maintain sufficient levels of nitric oxide in the blood and tissues (27Trusted Source).
One study even showed that eating a nitrate-rich meal containing spinach increased salivary nitrate levels eightfold and significantly decreased systolic blood pressure (the top number) (28Trusted Source).
Other research has found that consuming high-nitrate leafy greens may also be associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and cognitive decline (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).
Leafy green vegetables are high in dietary nitrates, which can be converted to nitric oxide and may help maintain proper levels in your blood and tissues.
- Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit are all excellent sources of vitamin C, an important water-soluble vitamin that plays a central role in health (31Trusted Source).
Vitamin C can enhance levels of nitric oxide by increasing its bioavailability and maximizing its absorption in the body (32Trusted Source).
Research shows that it may also bump up levels of nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme needed for the production of nitric oxide (33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source).
Studies indicate that citrus fruit consumption may be linked to decreased blood pressure, improved brain function and a lower risk of heart disease — all of which may be due in part to their ability to boost nitric oxide levels (35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source).
Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which can enhance the bioavailability of nitric oxide and increase levels of nitric oxide synthase.
Pomegranate is loaded with potent antioxidants that can protect your cells against damage and preserve nitric oxide.
One test-tube study showed that pomegranate juice was effective in protecting nitric oxide from oxidative damage while also increasing its activity (38Trusted Source).
Another animal study found that both pomegranate juice and pomegranate fruit extract were able to increase levels of nitric oxide synthase and boost the concentration of nitrates in the blood (39Trusted Source).
Human and animal studies have found that antioxidant-rich pomegranate can improve blood flow, which may be especially beneficial in treating conditions like high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction (40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source).
Pomegranate can help protect nitric oxide against damage, enhance the activity of nitric oxide and increase levels of nitric oxide synthesis.
- Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in arginine, a type of amino acid that is involved in the production of nitric oxide.
Some research suggests that including arginine from foods like nuts and seeds in your diet can help increase nitric oxide levels in your body.
For example, one study in 2,771 people showed that a higher intake of arginine-rich foods was associated with higher levels of nitric oxide in the blood (42Trusted Source).
Another small study found that supplementing with arginine increased levels of nitric oxide after just two weeks (43Trusted Source).
Thanks to their arginine content and stellar nutrient profile, regularly eating nuts and seeds has been associated with lower blood pressure, improved cognition and increased endurance (44Trusted Source, 45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source).
Nuts and seeds are high in arginine, an amino acid needed for the production of nitric oxide.
Watermelon is one of the best sources of citrulline, an amino acid that’s converted to arginine and, ultimately, nitric oxide in your body.
One small study found that citrulline supplements helped stimulate nitric oxide synthesis after just a few hours but noted that it may take longer to see positive effects on health (48Trusted Source).
Meanwhile, another study in eight men showed that drinking 10 ounces (300 ml) of watermelon juice for two weeks led to significant improvements in nitric oxide bioavailability (49Trusted Source).
Recent research suggests that upping your intake of watermelon not only enhances nitric oxide levels but can also improve exercise performance, decrease blood pressure and boost blood flow (50Trusted Source).
Watermelon is high in citrulline, which is converted to arginine and then later used in the production of nitric oxide.
- Red Wine
Red wine contains many powerful antioxidants and has been tied to a multitude of health benefits (51Trusted Source).
Interestingly, some studies have found that drinking red wine could also increase levels of nitric oxide.
One test-tube study showed that treating cells with red wine increased levels of nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme involved in the production of nitric oxide (52Trusted Source).
Another test-tube study had similar findings, reporting that certain compounds found in red wine enhanced nitric oxide synthase and increased the release of nitric oxide from the cells that line the blood vessels (53Trusted Source).
For this reason, it’s not surprising that moderate consumption of red wine has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve heart health (54Trusted Source, 55Trusted Source).
Red wine can increase levels of nitric oxide synthase, which can help enhance nitric oxide levels.
The Bottom line
Nitric oxide is a crucial compound involved in many aspects of health, including blood pressure regulation, athletic performance and brain function.
Making a few simple swaps in your diet can be an easy and effective way to increase your levels of nitric oxide naturally.
Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy protein foods can optimize nitric oxide levels while also promoting better overall health in the process.