What’s the Beet About Nitric Oxide?

Nitric oxide is a beneficial gas that is produced in the human body. It has several functions to help maintain health. The most well known of these is its role in dilation of the blood vessels which contributes to maintaining a healthy blood pressure. It also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and as an antimicrobial in the immune system.  It regulates programmed cell death and inhibits platelet aggregation. Nitric oxide (NO) is also important for male sexual function.

Nitric oxide is created from several precursors. These precursors can be found in food. The first of these is nitrates from vegetables. These are not in the same form as in processed meats and therefore do not incur risk. Nitrate from vegetables is converted to nitrite and then nitric oxide.

The highest nitrate vegetable sources are

  • Beets
  • Green leafy vegetables (i.e. spinach, lettuce)
  • Fennel
  • Radishes
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Parsley


Supplement sources with high nitrate content

  • Spirulina
  • Greens powders
  • Beet root powder


The other pathway for creating nitric oxide is the L-arginine to nitric oxide production. Arginine is converted to citrulline and then to nitric oxide. Supplementing with either of these two amino acids is effective at increasing NO, but citrulline seems to be the most effective.


Hum Reprod Update. 1998 Jan-Feb.    Nutrition Today 9/10/2020  J Nutr Metab 2018


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  Research, nutritional information and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.