The Miracle Molecule

A simple chemical process on the tongue transforms "harmful" nitrates into heart-healthy nitrites!

“The discovery of nitric oxide and its function is one of the most important in the history of cardiovascular medicine,” — Dr. Valentin Fuster, president of the American Heart Association. Consider our attention grabbed!

Before nitric oxide (also known as nitrite) can work its magic on your cardiovascular system, however, it exists as nitrate. Yep – that buzzword molecule in hot dogs and lunch meat. What’s important to understand about nitrates is that they are not evil little hobgoblins percolating in your circulation, waiting for the chance to make you sick. When nitrates react with compounds found in proteins like cured meats, there is the possibility that they will form cancer-causing substances. Hence, nitrate hysteria.

So how does this relate to beets, and when does the nitrate transform into heart-nourishing nitrites? Glad you asked!

Protein rich foods like ham, bacon, hot dogs, sausages, and cold cuts are common sources of “bad” nitrates because of the chemical reaction we mentioned above. High-nitrate vegetables such as beets, spinach, radishes, lettuce, celery, and bok choy yield an opposite effect: nitrates are less likely to be transformed into harmful chemicals because of the presence of vitamin C in the veggies themselves.

In these instances, nitrates are awesome. Their conversion into nitrites (a snazzy chemical conversion on your tongue, as illustrated below) results in an all-body amazingness experience:


Nitric oxide is known to boost stamina and endurance, and is phenomenal for heart health. It signals tissues and blood vessels to relax, enhancing blood and oxygen flow throughout the brain, heart, and muscles. For athletes, this could mean having enough energy to run a little faster for a little longer than usual. For everyday beet enthusiasts, especially those with hypertension, relaxed blood vessels mean the blood can circulate more easily, lowering blood pressure. No matter how you slice it, eating beets is good for your heart.

Beets are one of the best natural sources of nitrate in the vegetable kingdom. In fact, an average sized beet (much like the size of our Organic Cooked Beets) contains 20 times the dietary nitrates than most other vegetables. Two beets a day perched atop a sumptuous leafy-green salad (we can’t recommend this Detox Kale Salad enough!) provides the recommended intake of nitrate.

Will nitrates be guest starring in your dreams now, instead of your nightmares? Let us know!