Nitric oxide is a gas that is naturally generated in the body and plays a vital role in several important functions. Some foods, by nature, can elevate the level of this gas in our body. Here, we give you information about a few functions of nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide is a chemical compound with the symbol NO, and it contains a single nitrogen and oxygen atom each. In the mammalian and human body, nitric oxide is the free radical which in some way or the other serves some important purpose by acting as a medium in numerous life processes that takes place within our body.
It plays a significant role in vasodilation, immune functions, and also acts as a neurotransmitter. In the human body, it is synthesized by the enzyme nitric oxide synthase or NOS. However, production and preservation of this gas depends upon several important nutrients.
Nowadays, bodybuilders use supplements of this compound to improve muscle growth. Nevertheless, production of nitric oxide can also be increased by consuming foods that contain this compound.
Functions of Nitric Oxide
Presence of adequate nitric oxide in our body is crucial for proper functioning of the cardiovascular, nervous and the immune system. It facilitates vasodilation or dilation of the blood vessels, which in turn can provide protection against heart diseases and strokes.
It can also prevent the formation of blood clots within the blood vessels, which too can go a long way in lowering the risk for cardiovascular diseases. For the nervous system and the brain, it acts as a neurotransmitter that transmits impulses between the nerve cells.
Macrophages, an important component of the immune system produces nitric oxide to destroy infectious agents like bacteria. It also increases blood flow to certain organs, when needed. For example, it sends more blood to the stomach to facilitate digestion after eating every meal.
Similarly, it increases supply of blood to other organs and the extremities of the body. Apart from these, it takes part in oxygen delivery and glucose uptake; besides helping to regulate blood pressure, lower the level of cholesterol in the body, and prevent erectile dysfunction in men.
Foods Containing Nitric Oxide
✦ Soy beans and soy products, along with certain sea foods are some of the important foods rich in nitric oxide. ✦ Even some nuts such as peanuts, walnuts and Brazil nuts can help to increase the level of nitric oxide in the body.
✦ Apart from these, some other foods are beans, milk and dairy products, lean meat, and chickpeas.
✦ The amino acid L-arginine acts as a catalyst in the production of nitric oxide. In fact, the enzyme nitric oxide synthase breaks down the amino acid l-arginine, and in the process generates nitric oxide.
✦ Similarly, vitamin C and E are of crucial importance for maintaining or preserving the level of nitric oxide in the body.
As far as l-arginine is concerned, one can get this amino acid from protein-rich foods such as wheat, oats, chicken, beef, milk and dairy products, cereals and chickpeas.
Vitamin C can be found in a significant amount in citrus fruits like lemon and orange, broccoli, Kiwi fruit, Brussels sprouts, pepper, strawberries, cauliflower, spinach, tomatoes, celery, pineapple and parsley.
On the other hand, nuts, wheat germ, corn oil, sunflower seeds, olive oil, mustard greens, turnip greens, and spinach, are some of the excellent sources of vitamin E.
Today, these supplements have gained large-scale popularity, especially amongst bodybuilders. However, nitric oxide is a free radical, and if its level elevates significantly, it can damage the tissues and have several other undesirable effects on our health.
Therefore, to avoid the side effects, it is very important to take supplementation only under the supervision of your health care provider. Along with foods, exercises too can help to raise the level of this gas in the body.