Why Care About Nitric Oxide?

Why should we care about nitric oxide? (an excerpt from The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet by Rip Esselstyn)

Nitric oxide (NO) is a critical chemical compound in your body that is released by the cells in your arteries, signaling muscle fibers in your cell walls to relax and allow more blood to flow.

The ability of your endothelial cells to pump out nitric oxide (NO) is a direct marker of the health of your vessels. The more your endothelial cells produce NO, the better their ability to keep the inner lining of your vessels smooth like Teflon instead of rough like Velcro. Typically, when we are fifty, our bodies are producing 50 percent less nitric oxide than when we were twenty-five. 

The good news is that you can make up for that lost 50 percent by chewing your greens and absorbing the natural nitrates that reside in leafy greens, especially kale, swiss chard, spinach, arugula, beet greens, mustard greens, Napa cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and beets.

When you chew—and only chew—your food, the bacteria residing in the crevices and grooves of your tongue combine with the nitrates in leafy greens and reduce them to chemicals called nitrites. Then, when you swallow these nitrites, the gastric acid in your stomach further reduces them to nitric oxide that allows them to combine with the existing nitric oxide in your system and help relieve pressure on your arteries. 

Some nitrites in your stomach do not get reduced into nitric oxide, however. Instead, they continue further downstream into your gut and eventually are reabsorbed into the bloodstream. Your circulatory system carries these auxiliary nitrites back to your salivary glands where they will be concentrated ten to twenty fold. As you chew more food, your own saliva pours the nitrites into your mouth and the whole process begins again. The nitrites will be further reduced by the gastric acid in your stomach into more nitric oxide. Bam! It’s a nitric-oxide party in your mouth, your gut, and in your endothelial cells! 

This is an extremely delicate process honed by thousands of years of evolution. When you drink your green smoothies and juices, you bypass this synergistic and wonderful system and miss out on one of the most powerful holistic reasons for including green leafies in your diet. This is why I want you eating green leafy vegetables as often as possible.

How to eat six servings of leafy greens per day:

  • Add a handful to your sandwich
  • Make a pizza! Cook greens in with your pizza sauce, then top your pizza with more greens once it comes out of the oven!
  • Hide a handful at the bottom of your bowl before you ladle in soup, stew or chili.
  • Spinach goes great with oatmeal! It sounds weird but you won’t even taste it!
  • Salads taste amazing with greens from The Chef’s Garden. Top with your favorite oil-free dressing or a flavored balsamic vinegar.
  • Make it a habit to fill half your plate with greens at every meal. You won’t believe how good you’ll feel!