Eating foods high in nitrates is a proven way of spurring both good health and athletic performance.
Nitrates facilitate the production of nitric oxide, which generates increased oxygen and blood flow across the body, heart, and brain, leading to advantages such as lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. These are just some of the health benefits.
From an athletic point of view, nitrates improve the efficiency when muscles use oxygen, thereby playing a key role in reducing fatigue. Whether you want to maximize the health benefits or get an edge over competitors, or both, a measured approach to nitrate intake works best.
When on the lookout for foods high in nitrates, leafy vegetables are an excellent source. Spinach, kale and salad greens, particularly arugula lettuce, are a nitrate nirvana of wellness.
Beetroot equally deserves plenty of plaudits. All-natural beetroot concentrates are a convenient way of incorporating it into a diet, particularly given that cooking reduces the available nitrates in vegetables while juicing beets can be a messy and time-consuming exercise.
Fruits and nuts are also packed with nitrates, oranges, cranberries, walnuts, and pistachios just for some examples.
Not all foods high in nitrates equate to wide-ranging health benefits. As an example, processed meats are packed with nitrate content, yet are hardly a food associated with healthy eating and may increase cancer risk according to the World Cancer Research Fund.
Then there are nitric oxide supplements, an easy and tempting fix. But keeping things natural is healthier, not to mention more cost effective.
The smartest play to reap the benefits of nitrates is to incorporate healthy eating into your diet.
Beyond the wide-ranging health benefits, an increase in nitrates in a diet can be a secret weapon for athletes looking to get an edge.
Those engaged in regular, high-intensity exercise are essentially enduring a depletion of oxygen from their muscles and need nitrates to increase blood flow and energy.
The best way to maximize this effect is through a long-term strategy, which involves building a strong nitrate base through a healthy diet. Topping that up with a burst of nitrate-heavy content, through something like beet juice, is a recipe for success.
As an example, adding beet juice or a beet juice concentrate to a smoothie is a great way of getting a pre-workout performance boost or aiding recovery.
Whether it’s to stay healthy, improve performance, or extend endurance, nitrates carry plenty of benefits.
For athletes and those engaged in regular exercise, a strategic approach to increasing nitrate intake will maximize the advantages on offer.
Beets, and other nitrate-heavy foods, will not necessarily make athletes go faster and longer on their own, nor through sporadic consumption. But when combined with a healthy eating strategy, these foods can provide those marginal gains that all competitors crave.
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