Heart Health & Nitric Oxide

· Blog

We recently watched a video with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a prominent cardiologist who has been advocating a Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) diet to prevent and even reverse heart disease.

In this video he talked about the role of nitric oxide in keeping our arteries, particularly the endothelial cells in our arteries, healthy. We always find it fascinating to learn the science behind how our bodies work and the role WFPB plays in good health.

Join us to hear more.

It turns out our endothelial cells are responsible for the ability of our arteries to expand when more blood is needed by our muscles or organs. They lose that ability when we eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) that is high in fat and salt. This inability to expand when there is a need for more blood to flow is what creates high blood pressure.

In our bodies, in order to get more blood to flow through an artery without the pressure rising dangerously requires a larger hose. In the same way, a fire hose can carry a lot more water than a garden hose without the pressure rising. When our arteries have the ability to expand with the demand for more blood, it's like they turn into fire hoses. The pressure doesn't go up that much for the amount of extra blood pumping through them.

What Dr. Esselstyn points out is that the magic chemical in this process is nitric oxide. The endothelial cells produce this naturally, but when we eat the SAD diet, the fat injures the cells and they lose the ability to produce enough nitric oxide to stay healthy. As the cells are injured, the body lays down plaque to protect the cells, and that makes them more rigid.

Somewhat to our dismay, Dr. Esselstyn pointed out that even if we eat a healthy, low-fat WFPB diet, the endothelial cells lose their ability to produce nitric oxide over time. At age 60 they've typically lost 50% and at age 80, 70%.

Fortunately, there are a few alternative ways the body can produce nitric oxide. The main one is to eat lots of dark leafy greens. 3 times a day if you don't have heart disease and 6 times a day if you do.

Also important is that you chew the greens. There are bacteria in our mouths that produce the enzyme to make nitric oxide when we chew the greens. And if we add balsamic vinegar as a dressing, that increases the nitric oxide production even more.

So, there's one more good reason to eat lots of greens. We have them morning, noon and night and never tire of them.

And a client of ours, who recently converted to a full commitment to WFPB with lots of greens, mentioned how she found herself yearning for more greens in her diet while she was traveling and eating some of her meals in restaurants.

If we listen to our bodies, our innate wisdom urges us to eat what supports it to thrive. And that is lots of greens and vegetables.

The recipe this week is a Morning Thai Salad. As unconventional as it may seem, salad is customary as a morning meal in many cultures around the world. Here's a tasty Thai salad with plenty of greens to keep our hearts healthy and our taste buds happy too. Good anytime of the day, by the way. 😊

To your Amazing Health,
Connie and Bill

broken image

Morning Thai Salad (Serves 2) *Adapted from Forks Over Knives

  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 8 oz. package of bean sprouts
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2-3 cups Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1½ cups red cabbage, sliced very fine and chopped
  • ½ English cucumber, diced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 bunch green onions, thin slices
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion or shallots
  • ½ cup peanuts
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro


In a small bowl add the lime juice, zest, balsamic vinegar, ginger red pepper flakes and pepper and stir well.


In a large bowl combine remaining ingredients, rice, bean sprouts, red pepper, cabbage, cucumber, carrot, onion, peanuts, basil and cilantro. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to combine.

Serve and enjoy.