Few things may affect your health more than what you eat on a daily basis. Diets too heavy in processed foods and eating plans that involve removing entire food categories often lead to key nutrient deficiencies.
The good news is there are easy-to-follow diets that may help sidestep these issues, like the DASH diet. Studies involving the DASH eating plan found that diets rich in vegetables (i.e., 8-10 servings) help support healthy blood pressure thanks to their calcium, potassium, polyphenols (antioxidants), and fiber content. You can learn more about the DASH and other top diets here.
But there’s also another prominent nutrient present in the vegetables, often the dark leafy ones, that are so heavily featured in these eating plans—dietary nitrate.
Dietary Nitrate = Nitric Oxide = Cardiovascular Health
Dietary nitrate is known to be supportive of healthy blood pressure. The dietary nitrate content in food is used by the body to make nitric oxide (NO) which supports normal vasodilation (the relaxing of blood vessels), healthy blood pressure levels, and healthy cardiovascular function.
We pulled together a list of powerhouse foods that are capable of providing sufficient dietary nitrate that may help support healthy blood pressure levels and cardiovascular health. See what we found below!
Top Foods with Nitric Oxide Potential
Beet root has one of the highest levels of dietary nitrate in the plant kingdom. And we know that dietary nitrate intake is necessary to help promote nitric oxide production, which is an essential component of helping to support healthy blood pressure.
However, ensuring you’re getting enough dietary nitrate from raw beets is difficult. It’s why we verify that every serving of HumanN’s SuperBeets provides the dietary nitrate necessary to help produce nitric oxide. In fact, we take extraordinary efforts to ensure our functional foods do just that — HumanN continually tests its products to ensure they’re providing optimal nutrition to support N-O production.
Although not commonly known, arugula is actually a cruciferous vegetable (similar to broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage).
Out of all vegetables, arugula contains the highest amount of dietary nitrates. So toss it into your next salad and pat yourself on the back for treating your body right.
Kale is a rich source of potassium and magnesium. The Harvard Medical School highlights these two minerals to be especially important for heart health. But kale’s superpowers don’t stop there — it also contains a significant amount of dietary nitrate to help with nitric oxide production. No wonder it’s one of the dark leafy greens that are so popular in the Mediterranean and DASH diets. Just make sure that if you’re cooking it, you lightly steam it to maintain all the nutrients.
Not only is spinach high in dietary nitrates, but it also is packed with potassium. Interestingly, potassium and sodium have an inverse relationship.This means that potassium helps usher sodium, a nutrient that can negatively impact healthy blood pressure levels, out of your body. We bet you didn’t know how hard spinach can work for your healthy lifestyle!
Spirulina, similar to many other foods on this list, also promotes nitric oxide production. In a study involving males and females, 4.5 grams per day of spirulina was shown to help support healthy blood pressure levels in both men and women.
Celery contains more than 250 mg/100g fresh weight of dietary nitrate. Not only that, but this vegetable also has n-Butylphthalide (NPB), a constituent that helps relax arterial walls. But to get the needed amount of NPB, you will need to eat roughly 4 stalks of celery—including the leaves—everyday.
We realize that’s a lot of celery to eat in one day, so it may be better to focus on adding other vegetables to your diet.
Garlic contains sulfur that is critical for N-O production. Unfortunately, these molecules are the same that cause garlic breath. Since they degrade quickly, fresh garlic has been shown to help support heart health. Try consuming the equivalent of 1-4 cloves of garlic every day.
But if you’re worried about garlic breath, try eating an apple afterwards. It won’t help with nitric oxide, but you’ll get some fiber and a variety of nutrients. Plus, people might have longer conversations with you after lunch.
8. Swiss Chard
With bitter leaves and sweet stems, swiss chard has more to offer than just dynamic flavor. It provides the dietary nitrate necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Try boiling both the leaves and stems before enjoying this power vegetable.
One of the oldest vegetables, cabbage grows in a variety of colors all offering a great source of the nutrients your body needs to help make nitric oxide. Adding to this, it’s a great source of fiber, doing your digestive tract a favor, too!
Are you noticing a trend among these superfoods?…almost all of them are leafy greens! The tried and true phrase “eat your greens” plays a big role in ensuring you get the dietary nitrate your body needs to make nitric oxide, which helps support healthy cardiovascular function.
Be Sure You’re Getting The Proper Amount of Dietary Nitrate
Because of modern farming practices, vegetables like beets can vary up to 300% in their dietary nitrate levels, and may even cause them to be nutrient and vitamin deficient. This means the beets you buy today and the beets you buy next week probably have a different amount of nutrients and dietary nitrate.
To learn more about the topic of dietary nitrate, read our latest article by Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, the Vice-Chair of the AHA Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health – Contemporary Dietary Recommendations and Food Sources of Nitrate and Nitrite.