The secret to warding off depression, heart disease, and stroke while slashing the risk of memory loss: optimizing levels of nitric oxide (NO). This ‘miracle molecule’ keeps blood vessels healthy while elevating ‘happy hormones,’ including norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Indeed, it’s an important messenger in the brain that helps promote anti-depressive effects.
It’s worth mentioning that NO has a dual role in the brain — high levels of it have also been linked to major depressive disorder. That’s why boosting levels of it naturally (instead of taking NO pills) may be the healthiest way to improve mental health. An added bonus of NO? It protects against infections (including COVID-19). While NO production dips in our 50s, boosting levels naturally is easy. Just…
Pink up your drink.
Stirring one teaspoon of pink beetroot powder into a glass of juice or a smoothie adds a payload of nitrates, compounds that are converted into nitric oxide by the body. That’s the reason researchers found that sipping a beetroot beverage increased people’s NO levels. One fruity-tasting powder to try: HumanN SuperBeets Powder (Buy from Amazon, $34.16).
Permission granted to indulge in a piece of Halloween candy! Turns out enjoying an ounce of the sweet confection (about 6 dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses or ⅔ of a dark chocolate bar) each day may boost NO levels, according to University of Indonesia findings. Study authors explain that dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, potent compounds that activate enzymes that increase NO production.
Hum a tune.
Can’t help celebrating the season by humming a festive fall tune like “Monster Mash” or “I Put a Spell on You?” Good for you! The vibrations produced by humming enhance the formation of NO in the sinuses and nasal passages, according to 2002 research. In fact, their study determined that just 25 seconds of humming was enough to increase nitric oxide in airways.
Switch to this swish.
Using antiseptic mouthwashes can send NO levels plunging within three days, findings in the American Journal of Hypertension suggest. The reason, according to researcher Louis Ignarro, PhD: The rinses kill off oral bacteria that produce enzymes needed for the formation of nitric oxide. If you feel a freshening fix is needed, he advises rinsing with a drop or two of peppermint oil mixed into ¼ cup of water.
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A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.