What do cherries, wine, broccoli and green tea have in common? All of these foods are rich in the bioflavonoid quercetin. One of the most commonly found bioflavonoids—seriously, quercetin is in a lot of foods—research has shown that this particular compound is a powerful antioxidant with widespread and encouraging health benefits for people from all walks of life (1). But what is quercetin exactly? And what are the top quercetin benefits?
What Is Quercetin?
“Specifically, quercetin is a plant pigment that offers that plant protective qualities. More broadly, quercetin is a bioflavonoid, which is in turn a phytochemical,” describes Marissa Ciorciari, a registered dietitian based in South Florida who specializes in inflammatory conditions, food sensitivities, plant-based eating and wellness through integrative and functional nutrition.
Phytochemicals refer to the biologically active compounds found in plants and are known to have antioxidant and anti-cancerous qualities, as well as an ability to regenerate essential nutrients (2).
6 Quercetin Benefits
Research has shown that quercetin can benefit a person’s health in many ways. The qualities listed below just scratch the surface, as more research is needed to further explore quercetin benefits.
Anti-inflammation. A known antioxidant, one of quercetin’s top health benefits is its anti-inflammatory properties (3). By battling inflammation, quercetin may positively impact people suffering from inflammation-related issues such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. “Inflammation can be the root cause of many chronic conditions,” Ciorciari notes. “So you can apply the potential benefits of quercetin to a lot of health concerns.
Anti-carcinogenic. Quercetin is also known to be anti-carcinogenic, which means it could potentially reduce a person’s cancer risk. Ciorciari says that there hasn’t been a lot of official research into this particular benefit, but she believes that it’s an area that deserves more attention. “As a nutritionist who used to work in cancer therapies, I think there’s a lot of great, promising literature out there showing quercetin’s role in this area. We just need more long-term studies.”
Cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that quercetin may help reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health (4).
Reduce the risk of infection. Quercetin has unique properties that may help reduce the risk of infection, a research review published in Nutrients describes. The same review stated that it may also improve mental and physical performance (3). Ciorciari also notes that quercetin can have a positive effect on wounds and skin abnormalities.
Allergies. Ciorciari says that some people have used quercetin to treat allergies, with some success.
Improving insulin resistance. There have been a number of studies showing that quercetin use can reduce insulin resistance, and it has been shown to improve diabetic condition in animals with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes (4).
Ways to Add Quercetin to Your Diet
People looking to reap the benefits of quercetin use are in luck—it can be found in all kinds of produce. “There are so many ways to add quercetin to your diet,” Ciociari says. “Citrus fruit, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, berries and cherries, onions, especially red onions, red bell peppers and the cacao plant, so cocoa is an option! You’ll also find it in green tea and lots of herbs, like mint. It can even be found in wine.”
Ciorciari recommends that anyone looking to add more quercetin to their diets look for foods rich in the flavonoid before resorting to supplements. “I always advocate for a ‘food first’ approach to adding nutrients to someone’s diet,” she explains. “If a person is eating a diet full of different colors—and by that I mean colors that occur in nature in fruits and vegetables—they’re going to be able to ingest a good amount of antioxidants just from their everyday food.”
How to Choose a Quercetin Supplement
If adding more fruits and veggies to your diet isn’t feasible, there are also quercetin supplements available. Ciorciari recommends caution, however, when looking into supplements because they aren’t closely regulated in the United States. “Purity and quality of the source is always something to keep in mind,” she says. “Stick to reputable brands that you are familiar with.”
Possible Quercetin Side Effects
Ciorciari says that one of the major benefits of adding more quercetin to your diet is that it doesn’t have many documented side effects.
She does say, though, that pregnant and breastfeeding moms, as well as anyone with compromised health, should consult with their doctor before starting a quercetin regimen.
“There’s some research that shows quercetin interactions with certain medications, like antibiotics and even blood thinners,” Ciorciari says. “It can also have some impact on chemotherapy. When in doubt, talk to your health care provider.”