Inorganic nitrate from dietary and endogenous sources is emerging as a substrate for in vivo generation of nitric oxide (NO) and other reactive nitrogen oxides. Dietary amounts of nitrate clearly have robust NO-like effects in humans, including blood pressure reduction, inhibition of platelet aggregation, and vasoprotective activity. In animal models, nitrate protects against ischaemia-reperfusion injuries and several other types of cardiovascular disorders. In addition, nitrate most surprisingly decreases whole body oxygen cost during exercise with preserved or even enhanced maximal performance. Oxidative stress and reduced NO bioavailability are critically linked to development of hypertension and other forms of cardiovascular diseases. Mechanistically, a central target for the effects of nitrate and its reaction products seems to be the mitochondrion and modulation of oxidative stress. All in vivo effects of nitrate are achievable with amounts corresponding to a rich intake of vegetables, which are particularly rich in this anion. A theory is now emerging suggesting nitrate as an active component in vegetables contributing to the beneficial health effects of this food group, including protection against cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.