Nitric oxide is a gas containing an atom of nitrogen and an atom of oxygen. It is not found in foods or beverages; however, consumption of certain substances found in food make the body produce more nitric oxide. According to the “Manual of Dietetic Practice,” nitric oxide is an important vasodilator and neurotransmitter and is essential for proper immune system function. In the body, it is produced from the amino acid arginine via the enzyme nitric oxide synthase.
Red meat is a source of arginine, reports MedLinePlus. Red meat is an ideal food for athletes, not only because nitric oxide can increase exercise performance as reported in the “Manual of Dietetic Practice,” but also because it is an excellent source of protein containing all the essential amino acids. In addition, red meat is a source of iron and zinc. Iron is essential for healthy red blood cells while zinc can promote recovery and regulates healthy hormone levels.
Shrimp is a source of arginine, according to the University of Hawaii. In addition, the National Marine Fisheries Service reports that shrimp is very high in selenium, a trace element that is incorporated in antioxidant enzymes within your body. Like most other kinds of seafood, shrimp are a source of omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are associated with a number of health benefits including optimal brain development, protection against heart disease and cancer, and mood regulation.
Nuts and Seeds
The University of Hawaii reports that nuts and seeds are also sources of the nitric oxide precursor arginine. They are concentrated in protein and fat, however, the fat within nuts and seeds is of the unsaturated type, which is heart healthy. Nuts and seeds tend to be good sources of a number of vitamins and minerals, including zinc and calcium. The latter is essential for muscle contraction and healthy bones and teeth.
The watermelon is high in the amino acid citrulline. In the body, citrulline is converted to arginine, which consequently is used to produce nitric oxide. A study published in the March 2007 issue of “Nutrition” found that consumption of watermelon juice by healthy adult humans resulted in significant increases of blood arginine levels. The doses used were 780 and 1560 grams of watermelon juice daily for three weeks, which is equivalent to about 1 and 2 grams of citrulline per day, respectively. Compared to the group not given the juice, blood arginine levels were up by 12 percent and 22 percent in the low and high dose groups, respectively.