Nitric Oxide And Blood Pressure – A Powerful Ingredient in Beetroot
Written by Eli Ben-YehudaOn October 19, 2019
In recent years many studies have been done on beetroot health benefits. These studies led to the most recent discovery with beet juice, so perhaps beet juice can be used to help people who have developed stiff hearts from high blood pressure, diabetes, or a combination of both.
What is in beets that’s so powerful?
So what is the compound in this humble little vegetable that packs such a punch when it comes to high blood pressure?Nitric oxide.
What is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide is a molecule that our body produces to help its 50 trillion cells communicate with each other by transmitting signals throughout the entire body.
Nitric oxide has been shown to be important in some cellular activities. Here are a few Nitric Oxide benefits:
- Help memory and behavior by transmitting information between nerve cells in the brain
- Assist the immune system in fighting off bacteria and defending against tumors
- Regulate blood pressure by dilating arteries
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve sleep quality
- Increase your recognition of sense (i.e. smell)
- Increase endurance and strength assist in gastric motility
Nitric Oxide and blood pressure
Nitric oxide has gotten the most attention due to its cardiovascular benefits. Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel Prize, was prescribed nitroglycerin over 100 years ago by his doctor to help with his heart problems.
He was skeptical, knowing nitroglycerin was used in dynamite, but this chemical helped with his heart condition. Little did he know nitroglycerin acts by releasing nitric oxide which relaxes narrowed blood vessels, increasing oxygen and blood flow.
The interior surface (endothelium) of your arteries produce nitric oxide. When plaque builds up in your arteries, called atherosclerosis, you reduce your capacity to produce nitric oxide, which is why physicians prescribe nitroglycerin for heart and stroke patients.
How to increase Nitric Oxide in my body
There are basically two ways to increase nitric oxide in your body, diet, and exercise. When you run or lift weights, your muscles need more oxygen which is supplied by the blood.
As the heart pumps with more pressure to supply the muscles with blood, the lining in your arteries releases nitric oxide into the blood, which relaxes and widens the vessel wall, allowing for more blood to pass through.
As we age, our blood vessels and nitric oxide system become less efficient due to free radical damage, inactivity, and poor diet, causing our veins and arteries to deteriorate.
Think of a fire hose as water rushes through it to put out a fire – it needs to expand enough to handle the pressure, still keeping enough force to put out the fire. Athletes and youth have the most optimal nitric oxide systems, reflecting their energy and resilience.
Nitric Oxide in diet
Another way to increase nitric oxide is through diet, most notably by consuming the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline. Arginine, which can be found in nuts, fruits, meats and dairy, and directly creates nitric oxide and citrulline inside the cell.
Citrulline is then recycled back into arginine, making even more nitric oxide. Enzymes that convert arginine to citrulline and citrulline to arginine need to function optimally for efficient nitric oxide production.
We can protect those enzymes and nitric oxide by consuming healthy foods and antioxidants, like fruit, garlic, soy, vitamins C and E, Co-Q10, and alpha lipoic acid, allowing you to produce more nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide only lasts a few seconds in the body, so the more antioxidant protection we provide, the more stable it will be and the longer it will last. Doctors are utilizing this science by coating stents (mesh tubes that prop open arteries after surgery) with drugs that produce nitric oxide.
Foods that contain Nitric Oxide
OK, so you don’t like beets, you never have and you never will. Not even if it will lower your high blood pressure. So what else can you eat? Here is a list of vegetables that contain nitric oxide:
- Chinese cabbage
Cooked or raw: which is best?
If you want to get the maximum benefits of nitric oxide from beets is it best to eat them raw or cooked? Cooking beets decrease the bioavailability of dietary nitrate from the food, meaning that raw beets deliver more dietary nitrate.
To potentially experience an ergogenic effect from dietary nitrate you have to consume about 5-7 mmol of dietary nitrate, which is difficult to achieve eating actual beets but is the amount found in about 500ml of beetroot juice made from raw beets.
Concentrated beetroot juice shots and powders can further reduce the volume of fluid you have to consume.
More about Nitric Oxide and blood pressure
We have a great article specifically on beet juice with recipes on how to prepare. We are sure you’d love them. Click here to read.
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