You have probably read by now, that the traditional Mediterranean Diet has been shown to decrease the risks of cardiovascular disease by up to 30%, including conditions like stroke and heart attacks. As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Mediterranean Diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil, may contain a “synergy among the nutrient-rich foods included in the Mediterranean diet that fosters favorable changes in intermediate pathways of cardiometabolic risk, such as blood lipids, insulin sensitivity, resistance to oxidation, inflammation, and vasoreactivity.” Vasoreactivity has to do with the expansion or contraction of blood vessels in and around the heart.
What was interesting to me is that the researchers, though having just completed a long-term, large study of some 7400 people, were hesitant to say why the Mediterranean diet caused these improvements in the health of the people they studied. What they did conclude is that the findings were consistent with findings from other research that showed that nuts and olive oil, which are important components of this diet, and the diet in general improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
In my opinion, the cause of many of the benefits mentioned above may also have to do with
the increase of nitric oxide that may be achieved through the Mediterranean Diet.
Thousands of studies each year have demonstrated the power of nitric oxide in the human body. We know that nitric oxide is a powerful anti-oxidant, neuro-transmitter, part of the immune system and vasodilator. By signaling the blood vessels to relax and enlarge, nitric oxide helps to lower the blood pressure, and move more blood, oxygen and other nutrients in to the muscles, organs and other tissues. It also allows for the efficient removal of toxic waste products from the cells and blood. Nitric oxide benefits include fighting cancer, improving the symptoms due to diabetes, improving the sex life, building muscle and endurance, and improving cognitive ability. So far, its effects fit the bill for some of the benefits seen in the diet study. I am sure it is not solely responsible, but I believe that it contributes. And here is why:
The Mediterranean Diet is rich in foods high in the precursor materials that generate nitric oxide in the body.
The traditional Mediterranean Diet, as well as the one studied in the research mentioned above, is heavy in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and dairy, like yogurt and cheese. Some of the specific foods include lentils, beans, eggplant, onions, mushrooms, a variety of greens like kale and arugula, grapes, and fatty fish, clams, oyster, mussels and crustaceans like lobster and crab. You’ll notice that many of these foods are on the list of foods that boost nitric oxide! In fact some of these foods are among the top foods based on arginine content. Some of them will contribute 3 – 4 grams of arginine per 200 Calories. Arginine is the primary amino acid that is broken down to generate nitric oxide in the body.
So while I can’t prove the link between the Mediterranean Diet and high nitric oxide levels in the body, it makes sense. I would love to see a study to test this hypothesis.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be expensive to eat enough of the right foods, like those in the Mediterranean Diet, to improve your health or reach your fitness goals. If that is the case, then consider adding to your diet over the counter nutritional supplements like Nitrix, N.O. Xplode or HemaVol. They can provide you the raw materials you need to boost your nitric oxide to optimal levels, often for less cost and more conveniently than eating 40 plates of spinach every day! You can also find other nutritional supplements at Vitamin Shoppe.