Beets and Dietary Nitrates: Nitric Oxide Activation From Food
Diet has a large impact on nitric oxide (N-O) production. That’s because in addition to being produced in the endothelium (lining of the arteries), it is also made in the mouth and the digestive tract … as long as the conditions are right.
When we’re younger, the body easily converts the naturally occurring nitrates found in certain plant foods into N-O. Beets, spinach, and leafy greens are especially nitrate rich. As these foods are chewed, helpful bacteria in the saliva converts the nitrates into nitrites. Once in the stomach, gastric juices act on nitrites and convert them to nitrogen dioxide, dinitrogen trioxide, and nitric oxide. Antioxidants go to work on the nitrogen dioxide, scavenging the extra oxygen molecule and reducing it to still more nitric oxide. The N-O is then absorbed through the intestinal tract and back into the bloodstream.
As we age, though, this process becomes less efficient and the body does not produce as much nitric oxide. By the time you’re 40, studies show you’re only making about half or less of what you made when you were 20. By the age of 40, most men produce only about 50% of the N-O they did in their teens and twenties. Women fare even worse. By age 50, their available N-O levels are typically only about 35% of women in their twenties. It takes a conscious and concerted effort to keep N-O levels up. Exercise and nitrate-rich foods are more important than ever, but they still may not be enough. N-O supplementation can be a wise choice to help you support cardiovascular health, sexual health , promote athletic performance, enjoy more all-around energy.