If you’ve done any kind of research into superfoods, you might have run across the term “quercetin.” Fruits such as apples and blueberries are high in quercetin, as are vegetables. Quercetin plays a critical role in delivering many health benefits, but what exactly is it that makes this compound so important?
What is Quercetin?
Quercetin is known as a flavonoid, a compound that helps give a plant its color. But flavonoids have much more of a purpose than making a plant look beautiful. Flavonoids are phytonutrients, or chemicals that are responsible for many of the health benefits found in fruits and vegetables. They belong to a special class of phytonutrients known as polyphenols, which have been associated with several benefits, including weight management and heart health.1
Here are just a few of the most important quercetin benefits.
One of the most important quercetin benefits comes from the fact that the compound has antioxidant properties.2 As the name implies, an antioxidant fights the effects of oxidation. Oxidation is a natural process, and one that’s necessary for us to live. If you’ve ever seen a rusty old bike, the rust is an example of oxidation at work.
However, there are times that oxidation can hurt us.
For example, oxidation leads to the creation of harmful molecules known as free radicals. These molecules are missing an electron, and they roam freely through the body looking to find it.
Unfortunately, free radicals aren’t very particular when it comes to stealing an electron. They’ll take it any way they can get it. When they steal an electron from cells – such as those that make up your tissues and muscles – serious damage can result. Antioxidants keep this damage from happening by giving electrons to free radicals.3
There is some evidence that quercetin could help people suffering from disorders associated with the blood vessels and heart.4 According to one study, people who eat high-quercetin foods, such as vegetables and fruits, have a better chance of having a healthy heart for years down the line.5
There are two ways researchers believe foods high in quercetin help heart health. The first is that it encourages blood flow, helping deliver critical nutrients to the heart.6 The second is that quercetin’s antioxidant properties play a role in helping to prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol. If too much LDL accumulates, that restricts blood flow.7
When LDL becomes oxidized, it can stick to the walls of your arteries. This can lead to severe cardiovascular problems.8
Another one of the major quercetin benefits is that it appears to help you maintain a healthy blood pressure. In one study, participants with hypertension (high blood pressure) who took quercetin supplements showed stabilization in both their diastolic and systolic blood pressure levels.9
Increased Endurance, Respiratory Health
Athletes are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve performance. There are several supplements on the market specifically designed for athletes. Many of them contain quercetin, because it has been shown to help increase blood flow.
Studies show that increased blood flow helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to joints and muscles.10
Quercetin may also help athletes avoid problems such as illnesses that can be a side effect of intense exercise. According to the results of one study, athletes who took a quercetin dosage of 1000 mg before, during, and after a three-day period of intense bicycling were less susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections.11
But it appears that non-athletes can also benefit from quercetin when it comes to respiratory issues. Research shows that quercetin may help inhibit the development of histamines, which are chemicals that can lead to problems such as sneezing and nasal congestion.12 According to another study, quercetin also helps to relax the airways, easing symptoms of respiratory problems as a result.13
Improved Skin Health
Research also indicates that quercetin inhibits the development of mast cells. These are immune system cells that contribute to many allergic conditions. One study shows that quercetin helped substantially ease skin conditions that were not responding to conventional medicinal approaches.14
The stress hormone cortisol plays an essential role in your body’s “fight or flight” response. When you are stressed, your cortisol production ramps up. Cortisol is important, but if your body produces too much of it, muscle damage can result.15 Quercetin may help suppress the enzyme needed to produce cortisol, which can help people who experience stress for extended periods of time.16
How Do I Get More Quercetin?
You can take supplements containing quercetin, but if you’d rather get it through food, you have plenty of options. Here are just a few popular high-quercetin foods:
· Cocoa (20.13 mg per each 100-gram serving17) – The cocoa plant gives us chocolate and is a good source of quercetin, but it can also deliver other health benefits. Research shows that it can help boost not only cardiovascular health, but also cognitive function.18,19
· Blueberries (5.05 mg/100g) – Blueberries can be picked in the wild or purchased from your local grocery store. They have been linked to cognitive benefits, and they may also help lower blood pressure.20,21
· Apples (4.7 mg/100g) – Did you know an apple a day could seriously boost your heart health? According to one study, women who ate fruits like apples every day saw a 20 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol after six months than women who did not eat them.22
· Spinach (4.11 mg/100g) – Spinach has been linked to lower blood pressure, stronger bones, and healthy skin. The vegetable is also high in fiber, which helps promote regular bowel movements to keep your digestive tract healthy.23
· Green tea (2.77 mg/100g) – Green tea is a very popular drink among health-conscious people. One reason is that research indicates the beverage helps to burn fat.24
· Red wine (2.16 mg/100g) – Consumed in moderation, red wine is believed to not only help keep blood vessels healthy, but to also help keep levels of LDL cholesterol in check. In addition, red wine may play a role in reducing the formation of blood clots.
· Strawberries (1.14 mg/100g) – Strawberries are incredibly popular, and they’re also quite healthy. They’re a great source of vitamin C, and they’ve also been shown to help protect cardiovascular health.26,27
Are There Any Quercetin Side Effects?
It’s important that you speak with your doctor first before taking any sort of supplement containing quercetin. The reason is that the compound could have an effect on medications you might be taking. For example, quercetin blocks the development of an enzyme that helps your body break down several types of medicines, such as certain heart medications.28
Wrapping it Up
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to consider either taking a quercetin supplement or increasing your intake of foods that contain the compound. There are not only a lot of quercetin benefits, but also a lot of quercetin foods you can easily find on your grocery store shelves. Boost your quercetin intake and help boost your health, too!