You may already know that antioxidants, tiny molecules that ward off and protect our bodies from harmful free radicals lurking in the environment, are incredibly beneficial for our health and overall wellness. But what many people might not realize is that each of the hundreds (if not thousands) of antioxidants out there has a unique function and provides a unique benefit. One antioxidant that’s gaining immense traction in current research (and the wellness-sphere of social media) is quercetin.
Ring a bell? Consider this your guide to the buzzy antioxidant—and how you can support your health by getting more of it.
What is quercetin?
Quercetin is a type of antioxidant called a flavonol that is part of a class of antioxidants known as flavonoids. These flavonoids fall under the umbrella group of antioxidants called polyphenols, explains functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, F.N.T.P.
The health benefits of quercetin
Flavonols support the body’s response to inflammation and help to ward off potentially harmful oxidative stress, ultimately supporting a number of aspects of health, from cognition and heart health to metabolic function.
Like many other antioxidants, quercetin is also a go-to for immune support. “Studies, like this one published in the journal frontiers in Immunology, show the potential of quercetin, when used alongside other immune-supporting nutrients like vitamin C, to have immune-modulating benefits,” says The Vitamin Shoppe dietitian Rebekah Blakely, R.D.N. It may also come in handy for those dealing with immune issues related to gut and respiratory health.
Research also suggests the antioxidant may offer joint health benefits. One randomized controlled trial published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition also found that women with joint concerns who took quercetin for eight weeks experienced greater joint comfort in the morning and following physical activity.
Last but not least, quercetin mitigates the effects of histamine, a chemical in the body that transmits messages between cells as part of the immune response (and the culprit behind symptoms associated with allergies), according to Blakely. For this reason, it can be helpful for seasonal support.
How to add quercetin to your routine
While there’s no recommended daily value for the antioxidant, Rodgers recommends aiming for 200 to 500 milligrams per day. (The average person consumes between 10 and 100 milligrams, according to research published in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care.)
Luckily, there are a few easy ways to incorporate more of it.
1. Eat more fruits and veggies
Primarily found in fruits and vegetables, some of the best sources of quercetin include red leaf lettuce (31 milligrams), asparagus (24 milligrams), romaine lettuce (12 milligrams), onion (11 milligrams), and green pepper, according to Blakely. It’s also found in edible flowers, as well as certain nuts, like almonds and pistachios. (Plus, wine lovers will be pleased to know that red wine is yet another great source.)
“While the content of quercetin in different fruits and vegetables varies greatly, if you aim for six to 12 half-cup servings of produce today, you’ll definitely consume more quercetin than you would on a diet higher in meats and starches,” Blakely suggests.
2. Start your day with coffee
Many of us already begin our day with a cup of joe. Since coffee beans contain quercetin, this morning ritual is a great way to start the day with the antioxidant. The amount of the antioxidant you can score from coffee varies based on the variety, but generally ranges between 21 and 32 milligrams per cup, according to research published in Antioxidants.
3. Take a quercetin supplement
If you’re not a coffee or tea drinker, struggle to get the recommended amounts of fruits and veggies, or just want to boost your quercetin intake further, a quercetin supplement can help.
“Most supplements contain about 500 to 1,000 milligrams,” says Rodgers. (Two popular picks: Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Quercetin Immune, which provides 500 milligrams of the antioxidant, and Solgar Quercetin Complex, which combines 500 milligrams of quercetin with vitamin C and other antioxidants.)
Just keep in mind that certain people—including those with kidney issues and pregnant and breastfeeding women, shouldn’t take quercetin supplements, according to Rodgers. And, as always, check in with a doctor or pharmacist before combining them with daily medications.