How nitrates can help your blood flow

What if you were told that a few simple dietary changes could help reduce your risk of high blood pressure and the associated risks to your heart health, such as heart attacks and stroke?1

Nitrates are compounds which are found in naturally in some of the foods you eat. Dietary nitrates have been linked with helping to increase blood flow to the whole body. Better blood flow has a range of benefits for you including good cardiovascular health, muscle recovery, brain health and even sexual function.

The effect of nitrate-rich plant based foods on the cardiovascular system has only relatively recently become a research focus by scientists and researchers but results so far have been promising.

Where do nitrates come from?

Your body won’t make sufficient amounts of nitrates on its own, but by consuming a range of healthy foods containing dietary nitrate your body will create nitric oxide, which is the substance that is thought to aid with vasodilation- the process of relaxing and widening the arteries to promote increased blood flow. Your body makes nitric oxide with the help of your ‘good’ bacteria that exists in a healthy gut and mouth, so being in good health may help aidthis process.

How can they help my blood flow?

Nitrates from plant based foods such as beetroot, celery and spinach in your diet could help increase oxygen efficiency within your cells. This means that they help maintain the optimum levels of oxygen within red blood cells and help oxygen delivery throughout the body. Nitrates aid with vasodilation and may allow for easier widening of your arteries and could aid with the prevention of blood clot formation, which can increase risk of heart disease. Most significantly, nitric oxide has been shown in some studies to aid with lowering blood pressure2 Nitrates can also help you improve your athletic performance by helping the heart pump blood to where it’s needed. Nitrates help the red blood cells deliver oxygen and nutrients more efficiently to your muscles, which reduces fatigue and increases performance and stamina. One study from 2014 based on seven people showed that eating nitrate-rich fruits and vegetables over a 6-day period improved exercise performance, including using energy more efficiently during exercise, reducing muscle fatigue and improving sprint performance.3

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Which foods contain healthy levels?

Nitrates are found in foods such as dark leafy vegetables including spinach and kale, as well as root vegetables such as radishes and beetroot, which has been shown to significantly increase in nitrates in the blood.4 One study based on the participants drinking beetroot juice has shown that the juice can potentially lower blood pressure.5

Soil contains nitrate, so the nitrate levels in your vegetables depends on how they were grown. Food grown in organic soils contain more nitrate than non-organically grown food.

Although the nitrate levels found in dark green leafy vegetables are very beneficial to your health nitrates from processed meat sources do not possess the same benefits.

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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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Sources

  1. https://www.bhf.org.uk/news-from-the-bhf/news-archive/2014/december/dietary-nitrates.
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26037632.
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5037521/.
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27418682.
  5. http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/early/2010/06/28/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.153536.