Despite our best efforts, we may not be able to prevent getting the novel (new) SARS coronavirus that leads to COVID-19. The good news is, it’s a lot like the common flu and for most healthy people, recovery is quick and it’s not a big deal. The bad news is, it spreads easily, it has at least 10 times the mortality rate of the regular flu, and we don’t have a vaccine yet.
So, if you are immunocompromised, older, working with the sick, or just interested in boosting your immune system, you might be interested to know about a study back in 2005 that found that the presence of nitric oxide significantly inhibited the replication cycle of SARS coronavirus. In other words, nitric oxide disrupts the virus’ ability to grow.
What Is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide is used by the body for cell signaling, blood vessel dilation to promote better blood flow and there’s evidence that it helps lower blood pressure and improve brain function. How can we get more nitric oxide? We can boost our nitric oxide simply by the foods we eat.
Top 5 Nitric Oxide Sources
Here are the top 5 sources of plant-based nitric oxide, so you can better defend against coronavirus if it ever enters your body. Why wait for a man-made vaccine when we can have, as Hippocrates put it, “food be [our] medicine.”
- Beetroot Juice – Beets are the king of raising nitric oxide levels. Beets have a lot of nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide. According to one study, consuming a beetroot juice supplement raised nitric oxide levels in the subjects by 21% in 45 minutes. Another study showed drinking just 3.4 ounces of beetroot juice every day significantly raised nitric oxide levels in men and women. 3.4 ounces is about what TSA lets you take on the plane for carry-on liquids so it’s definitely not much.
- Garlic – Maybe this is why people have taken garlic for colds for centuries. Garlic boosts levels of nitric oxide by activating nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme involved in the conversion of nitric oxide from the amino acid L-arginine. So if you’re taking arginine supplements, garlic will help turn more of it into nitric oxide. One study showed that aged garlic extract temporarily increased blood nitric oxide levels by up to 40% within an hour and another study found that aged garlic extract also helped maximize nitric oxide absorption by the body.
- Leafy Greens – Green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, arugula, and celery are packed with nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in your body. One study found that regularly eating green leafy vegetables was associated with healthy levels of nitric oxide in the body so this is the single best way to keep elevated levels of nitric oxide in your body. Time to start eating more salads!
- Citrus Fruits – Or anything high in vitamin C. But of course oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit are all excellent sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a critical role in health and raises levels of nitric oxide by increasing its bioavailability and maximizing absorption. Research also shows that it may increase levels of nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme necessary for the production of nitric oxide.
- Nuts and Seeds – Almonds, cashews, walnuts, chia seed, flax seed, pumpkin seed, and sunflower seeds have a lot of arginine, a type of amino acid that assists in the production of nitric oxide. Research suggests that getting arginine from foods like nuts and seeds in your diet can help increase nitric oxide levels in your body. For example, a large study involving 2,771 people showed that a higher intake of arginine-rich foods was associated with higher levels of nitric oxide in the blood. Another study found that supplementing with arginine increased levels of nitric oxide after just two weeks.
Now here’s our natural drug disclaimer (just like the one’s on TV). Warning: Eating more of the foods listed in our Top 5 Foods to Fight Coronavirus is not only going to help with coronavirus, but elevated nitric oxide levels may lower your blood pressure, improve circulation, and improve mental cognition.