Nitric oxide is a molecule naturally found in the body and produced by cells that line your blood vessels and heart. Its main function is acting as a vessel to convey information between cells. It plays a major role in keeping blood flowing through the body and keeps it going to vital areas such as the brain.
Essentially nitric oxide works by lubricating the veins and arteries in your body. It makes the inner surface of blood vessels smooth and slippery, helping them to move through the body with ease.
An added benefit of the ‘slipperiness’ of cells with healthy levels of nitric oxide is they are much less likely to clot together. This also reduces friction and speeds up blood flow, which it vital to good health.
Nitric oxide is also proven to help increase blood flow by dilating the blood vessels. It is often given to heart patients for this reason.
It’s all well and good knowing about the importance of nitric oxide but how do we enrich our body’s natural levels? As with vitamins, it is better to get nitric oxide naturally from a healthy diet. There are a number of simple changes you can make to your diet which will ‘turn on’ the production of nitric oxide in your body.
- Eat more plant-based foods. All plant foods will boost nitric oxide production but legumes, which are rich in arginine, are especially useful.
- Do more aerobic activity. This has the added bonus of helping your heart by stimulating nitric oxide production while strengthening your heart muscles.
- Ensure you are eating a rich antioxidant diet daily. You can get these from fresh plant foods.
Just as there are simple ways to turn the production of nitric oxide on, there are also simple things you may be doing which hinder production. To prevent your body slowing the production of nitric oxide, it’s important to:
- Avoid most fats and oils
- Increase your intake of fresh raw whole foods particularly leafy vegetables
- Do some exercise every day, and
- Don’t smoke! We probably don’t need to explain how bad smoking is for your heart!
People who live sedentary lifestyles, with poor diets high in fats, oils and animal proteins, and who smoke, are in the highest risk group cardiovascular attacks. Stimulating nitric oxide production helps give your body extra protection from a heart attack. Nitric oxide is your body’s way of ‘heart attack proofing’ itself!