Nitric oxide is well known as a heart health nutrient, but do you know what else you’re missing if you have low levels? Whether you want to push back typical aging or if you’re looking for the best way to boost your workouts, this article is your source for the most recent clinical research on natural nitrate supplements.
Why Would You Want More Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide (“N-O” for short”) is a simple molecule with profound effects. Doctors know it for how it makes blood vessels dilate and relax. Physiologists know it for the effect it has on exercise capacity. Beyond that, it’s effects on your gut, your brain, and even the mitochondria that power your cells are well researched, but not well known.
Nitric oxide levels decline with age, almost any heart diseases, and a variety of other conditions such as chronic inflammation.
Use antibacterial mouthwash regularly? You probably have low N-O levels.
Use antacids like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)? You probably have low N-O levels.
Heart problems? Cancer? Inflammation? Yep. Each one, and every chronic disease I’ve researched is in some way linked with altered N-O metabolism.
Thankfully, a lot of research shows that raising N-O levels with natural nitrates can have a clear role in altering the outcomes of these diseases. This is most clear in treating cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, but has wide-reaching implications for treatment strategies of the future.
On the flip side, if you’re young and fit are nitrates going to make a difference?
N-O is used in research and by professional athletes to enhance workouts and boost your distance, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to rise to your potential or get left in the dust.
How Do You Get Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide is made in two major ways: from amino acids (which is capped and tightly regulated) and from inorganic nitrates.
Your body can make N-O from amino acids—the smallest building blocks of proteins—but the amount you can get from them is limited, and the research shows that they might not even work to boost nitric oxide levels!
When the nitric-oxide-forming amino acids arginine and citrulline are sapped, your body can ramp up nitric oxide via another source: natural nitrates and nitrites.
You would recognize top nitrate-containing foods for their health benefits: spinach, beets (beetroot or beet juice), arugula (“rocket”), chard, and a number of other leafy veggies.
Recently, red spinach (“amaranth”) have emerged as the very best sources of nitrates, and Aronia berry (“chokeberry”) has emerged on the scene as a potent source too.
Red beet root has been the industry standard for raising NO levels. There’s nothing wrong with the tried and true, professional-quality benefits from beet juice, but there’s a catch:
- First, nitrate levels in beets vary considerably. One batch can have 10 times the amount as another from the same farm.
- Frankly, the nitrate levels in beets punch like a lightweight compared to the heavy-hitting doses in red spinach.
Depending on where and when they’re planted, how they’re grown, and how they’re stored and processed, you might get enough nitrates from beets to beat your personal record… or you might just be painting your plate red.
You just don’t know how much of a benefit you’re getting when you down a couple pounds of roasted beets (yes, it takes the nitrates in about 2 or 3 beets to get the immediate benefits shown in research).
You can try beet juice as well, but you’ll have the same problems: concentrated doesn’t always deliver. Check out our table comparing nitrate doses from many different sources.
Plus, the extra sugar in most beet juices can spike your blood sugar and insulin. That’s not necessarily a problem if you’re a high-performing athlete recovering from an event, but it’s definitely a no if you care about healthy, normal metabolism.
A standardized nitrate supplement一one that guarantees a minimum level of nitrates per serving—eliminates these issues. Other supplements might provide a benefit, but going with a standardized and certified beet powder makes sure.
Beet powder may have been popular in the past, but research evolves and the newest science says there are even better sources of natural nitrates.
Red Spinach (Amaranthus tricolor)
Red spinach is taking the sports supplement industry by storm. Recent research shows that just a fraction of the amount of red spinach can produce substantial gains compared to beetroot extract. Red spinach extract also has vitamin E, potassium, and is loaded with inflammation-fighting antioxidants for your physical and mental health to put you at ease whether you’re facing a tournament or adding grace to your years.
Chokeberry (Aronia Melancarpa)
Aronia berries are a concentrated source of unique antioxidants plus a remarkable amount of dietary nitrates. Even the types of aronia berries that have the lowest levels of nitrates make ruby-red beets pale to a paltry pink. Research in humans is still catching up, but studies show that it may have promising effects on inflammation in athletes and may lower cholesterol and triglycerides, among other benefits.
Turmeric (Curcumin longa)
Turmeric doesn’t have any nitrates in it, but its ochre active ingredient curcumin can still help boost nitrate-making processes in healthy adults. Add on the other health benefits of one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory agents known to humankind, and you can see that it’s a great pair to any nitrate source.
Mango (Mangifera indica)
If you’re considering a nitric oxide supplement, make sure you’re getting one that actually works. If you want to know what the best and most popular nitrate supplement is, check out our guide here!
You know how it’s made. You know who might have low levels. You know where to get it. But who should supplement with nitric oxide in the first place?
6 Health Benefits of Nitric Oxide
1.Healthy Nitrates, Healthy Heart
For heart health, there is nothing more important than nitric oxide. It’s so important that its discovery led to the Nobel prize in 1998. Large studies have shown that eating natural nitrates from spinach and beets is linked with a significantly lower risk of heart disease. Typical natural nitrate supplements can:
- Lower the strain on your heart. The effects are highest if you take a higher nitrate dose or you have low baseline nitric oxide levels.
- Increase your exercise capacity by lowering the amount of effort you have to put into your cardiac rehab workout.
- Increase the flexibility of your blood veins and arteries and increase circulation and blood flow in tiny blood vessels
- Reduce inflammation that leads to heart disease
- Improve heart function
- Lower triglycerides
Most heart conditions are linked with a limited ability to use nitric oxide, so its even more important to get yourself checked if you have a personal or family history of cardiac problems.
But these results are just from using “typical” nitrate supplements. Your run of the mill nitrate source has variable levels of nitrates and who-knows what kind of certification, and the research proves that.
Resync offers a not-so-typical nitrate supplement. Resync provides more nitrate than any other brand on the market. It has the highest safety and quality certifications in the supplements industry. And my team and I care about making sure you know the truth behind nitrate supplements.
Look at the effects of the other ingredients in Resync and you can see why Resync Recovery could be promising for anyone keeping tabs on their blood panels.
2. A clean energy boost
Do you ever reach for a post-lunch pick-me-up? Looking for the best natural energy supplement instead of caffeine?
Swap that habit with one that’s good for your health and support your energy levels naturally. Eat a lot of plants, get your nitrate-rich red and green leafy veggies, and if you still feel like you need a natural boost, consider supplementing with natural nitrates.
Nitrates have been used as performance aids in distance sports for decades. By decreasing the amount of breathing it takes to do something and increasing the length of time you’re able to sustain it, nitrates provide an advantage when you’re breathing hard.
Nitrates lead to dilated blood veins and more blood flow. More blood flow means more nutrients and more energy.
By the same process that nitrates can lead to a performance advantage in sports, many people (myself included!) report a similar edge in every-day use. Unlike caffeine, the boost provided by nitrates isn't followed by a crash.
Although there aren’t scientific studies to back it up, be your own researcher and feel the effects of a nitrate for yourself. You might just ditch the coffee in favor of something a bit more colorful, and a lot more enjoyable!
3. Fight Inflammation With Nitric Oxide
Inflammation is caused by an immune system reaction. When your immune system attacks an invading flu viruses, the resulting inflammation is a good thing一even if it doesn’t feel so great!
When your immune system ramps up your defenses, they use nitric oxide to make reactive species which is their weapon of choice in the fight against pathogens.
At other times, like with chronic inflammation, your overactive immune system causes long-term negative effects. This kind of inflammation leads to heart disease and autoimmunity among other conditions.
When a scarred or inflamed blood vein gets nicked with a free radical—the cousin of nitric oxide who went to the dark side—your immune system swoops in and patches the damage. If free radicals cause enough damage, the scarred area overflows with immune cells and blows up (literally, it’s called a thrombus) resulting in serious heart disease.
Enter: nitrates. Their well-known effect of relaxing blood vessel walls helps prevent those immune cells from latching on.
In addition, don’t forget about the other antioxidants like vitamin E and phytochemicals found with natural nitrates that fight inflammation. Plus, nitric oxide is antioxidant in itself and can act like a hormone to reduce inflammatory processes.
Nitrates can fight inflammation once it begins in the artery, as well as help lower the chronic oxidative stress in the first place, making them unsung heroes in the fight against inflammation.
4. Brain health, short term and long
As a molecule that helps get nutrients to critical tissues with tiny blood veins, nitric oxide is especially important for brain health. Nitric oxide does more than just help out the blood vessels in your brain though, it also works as a neurotransmitter.
When brain cells aren’t functioning properly and nitrite levels are low一like with older age or a neurological disease 一those brain cells aren’t able to transmit information effectively. But when those cells aren’t firing right and you raise nitrite levels to normal levels, the brain cells are once again able to connect and fire.
Additionally, poor nutrient delivery to the brain is linked to dementia. It makes sense: nutrients are critical for your cells to survive, so cells without access slow down and die off.
Nitrates seem to increase blood flow in your entire brain when you’re exercising. But at rest they have a different effect.
Instead, when you simply supplement with a nitrate and don’t change anything else nitrates increase the blood flow to specific areas of your brain. In older people, they help get nutrients to the parts of the brain that control decision-making and free-will.
Let that sink in. Nitrates help the part of the brain that is most sensitive to age-related decline. What a powerful effect with profound potential!
A good source of nitrates includes other naturally-occurring antioxidants. Aronia berry一aka “chokeberry”, a natural nitrate full of antioxidants一has potential in preventing inflammatory damage to the nervous system in athletes.
Plus, chokeberries are a highly concentrated source of anthocyanins which are a class of natural chemicals being actively researched for their role in preventing age-related cognitive diseases.
If you’re looking for a nitrate supplement for brain health, make sure it’s certified, standardized, and contains the antioxidants from full-spectrum berry extracts.
5. Get your gut in shape
Just like nitric oxide is used in blood veins to open up blood vessels, your gut uses the universal signalling molecule to move food through your digestive system. That means it might be useful for promoting regular bowel movements, but that’s just the beginning of the story of nitrates and gut health.
When your gut is damaged or inflamed, it can let things get in your bloodstream that shouldn’t be there, known as gut permeability or “leaky gut”.
Whether or not leaky gut is the cause or effect of many autoimmune issues, it is definitely linked with inflammation and heart disease.
Remember all those benefits I mentioned about nitrates being most well known for their positive effects on heart health? They’re just as important here, when inflammatory triggers are being let into the blood stream. But nitrate sources can be helpful for leaky gut issues for other reasons.
Leaky gut is linked to an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. When certain “bad” bacteria overpopulate your GI system, they might lead to obesity, heart disease, inflammation, or many other negative health outcomes.
So the key is to support the good bacteria with fiber-rich fruit and vegetables. But don’t limit yourself to just that - research is showing that there are certain superfoods that are the best for healthy microbiome.
The most potent natural nitric oxide sources (red beet root, red spinach extract, and aronia “chokecherry” berry extract) each give benefits for your gut microbiome besides being a source of nitric oxide.
This leads us to one reason why a synthetic nitrate supplement might not be your best choice for gut health. First, they don’t work as well as natural nitrates. The bad news is that not all bacteria in your gut are good, and both good and bad kinds can use nitrates for food.
Without the other benefits that natural extracts and whole foods provide, synthetic nitrates could feed bad bacteria without helping out the good ones. Natural nitrates, on the other hand, provide crucial nutrients and antioxidants that foster the growth of good bacteria.
Beet powder contains fiber, which is fuel source that your bacteria crave. Red spinach extract is full of iron and polyphenols which foster a positive microbiome.
And then there’s aronia berry extract. It may limit inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease and help repair stomach damage caused by alcoholism. But even more interesting is how the natural plant chemicals in chokeberry help create a positive gut microbiome which is directly correlated with better heart health.
Beyond the microbiome, the anti-inflammatory antioxidants in chokecherry and red spinach may help restore leaky gut.
This all goes to show that you’re supporting your gut health on multiple levels when you take nitrates alongside the nutrients they naturally come with.
6. Nitric Oxide And Sexual Dysfunction
The next benefit of nitric oxide is not just for men. People are often afraid to talk about impotence, or “erectile dysfunction” (E.D.), but it’s a widely-feared condition that has promising natural treatment options. Even less talked about is the female counterpart: female sexual arousal disorder.
Nitric oxide works to relax blood vessels in the penis. This relaxation allows them to fill with blood, resulting in an erection. Low nitric oxide and nitric-oxide-related heart health issues are a leading cause of E.D. This has been known for so long that a poem has even been written on it.
Every other woman has problems with sexual arousal. If you’re one of them, start talking about it and look for ways you can support yourself naturally.
These amino acids were leading nitric oxide supplements in previous decades, but research has proven that natural nitrates give a bigger boost to nitric oxide levels. And you know what they say about boosting nitric oxide levels…
Stay tuned for our next article on the Benefits of Nitric Oxide for Physical Performance!
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Written by registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN and Barbara Depta. Updated 05/19/2021