Nitric oxide plays a number of beneficial roles in the body, including increasing blood flow to your brain, lowering blood pressure levels and limiting the formation of blood clots. Foods don't actually contain nitric oxide. Some foods do contain nitrates, which your body can turn into nitric oxide. This doesn't mean all sources of nitrates are healthy, however.
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Eat Your Greens and Other Vegetables
Dark green leafy vegetables and beets tend to be among the foods highest in natural nitrates. If trying to increase your nitrate intake, eating arugula, celery, lettuce, beets, spinach, watercress and chervil are good options as they contain more than 250 milligrams of nitrates per 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces. Other high-nitrate vegetables include endive, fennel, leek, celeriac, Chinese cabbage and parsley, with 100 to 250 milligrams per 100 grams.
Don't Forget the Fruit
Strawberries and melons are the fruits that help you produce the most nitric oxide, and other fruits, including raspberries, cherries, bananas, raisins, prunes and figs, also provide some nitric oxide. These are small amounts, however, with a banana providing less than 5 milligrams of nitrates in each 100-gram serving.
Limit Processed Meats
Processed meats, including bacon, hot dogs and ham, are actually much lower in nitrates than many vegetables. They have less than 10 milligrams of nitrates and nitrites combined per 100 grams. It isn't a good idea to get nitrates from these meats. When heated, the type of nitrates in these meats, combined with substances called amines in the meat's protein, may form a cancer-causing compound called nitrosamines.
Getting the Most Benefits
You'll get the most benefits if you eat nitrate-containing fruits and vegetables raw, as cooking can destroy their ability to increase your nitric oxide production, according to Oregon State University Extension. Eat a food high in vitamin C at the same time. Other good foods to eat for nitric oxide production include unsaturated oils, dark chocolate, red wine and high-antioxidant foods, such as berries.