Exercising is a great way to stay in shape, maintain healthy circulation, and keep your metabolism functioning optimally. One of the most important aspects to being healthy, though, is maintaining a healthy diet comprised of plant-based foods. If you want to help keep your heart healthy, we recommend eating a diet with a lot of nitrate-rich foods.
Nitrates vs. Nitrites
Let it be known that nitrates and nitrites are not the same thing. Nitrites are typically found in hot dogs, bacon, or other cured meats. They can be dangerous to the body when heated, which is why it is best to avoid them. Nitrates, on the other hand, occur in a lot of fresh vegetables. Nitrates get converted into nitrites, due to the bacteria in your mouth, when consumed, but they don’t pose a threat to your health because the vegetables are rich in antioxidants. Your body also takes those naturally occurring nitrates and converts them into nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide sounds dangerous, but you are thinking of nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. Nitric oxide protects the mitochondria in your cells. Additionally, nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator, which helps to relax and widen your blood vessels for better blood flow. When your blood is flowing healthily, more oxygen and nutrients can be carried to your heart, brain, and other organs, and it can efficiently eliminate waste and carbon dioxide. It also helps to keep your immune system healthy.
How Nitric Oxide Promotes Healthy Heart Function
A recent study showed that high blood pressure patients, who drank beet juice three times a week, for six weeks, an hour before exercising, experienced better blood flow and oxygenation. Some also experienced improved brain function. Nitric oxide goes to the areas of the body that need oxygen, and the brain is one of those areas. Keep your brain and heart healthy by eating nitrate-rich foods.
Which Foods Should You Eat?
When it comes to choosing which nitrate-rich foods to eat, it is worth doing a little bit of homework to decide what foods agree with you. To save you some time, we have compiled a list of some of the best nitrate-rich foods.
- Arugula: 480 mg of nitrates per 100 grams
- Rhubarb: 281 mg of nitrates per 100 grams
- Cilantro: 247 mg of nitrates per 100 grams
- Butter Lettuce: 200 mg of nitrates per 100 grams
- Spring Greens: 188 mg of nitrates per 100 grams
- Basil: 183 mg of nitrates per 100 grams
- Beet Greens: 177 mg of nitrates per 100 grams
- Oak Leaf Lettuce: 155 mg of nitrates per 100 grams
- Swiss Chard: 151 mg of nitrates per 100 grams
- Red Beets: 110 mg of nitrates per 100 grams
Other Notable Nitrate Foods Include:
- Bok Choy
- Mustard Greens
- Winter Melon
It is widely known that eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables can help lower your risk of heart disease. Leafy greens are some of the best heart healthy foods, primarily because they have a lot of nitrates. When your body converts nitrates into nitric oxide, it acts as a messenger molecule in physiological processes. It helps to expand arteries and it is needed for brain cell communication. It also helps immune cells inhibit cancer cell growth. Start eating nitrate-rich foods today for a healthier tomorrow.