Food fads come and go, but plant-rich eating habits are now recognized as a solid foundation for life-long health and comfort.
Research is now looking at how food plants top up vitality, and identifying which of their components are most responsible for health benefits. In many studies, the phytonutrient quercetin keeps popping up in a surprising variety of ways.
Quercetin guides immunity
Quercetin is well-known as an immune nutrient, and it works within individual cells while also improving overall coordination of immune function:
- Quercetin protects immune cells when they respond to microbes, toxins, and allergens, and helps them mount a more effective immune defense.
- When you get a generous amount of quercetin from your diet, it aids better balance between the defense and offense divisions of your immune system. This is really valuable, because immune imbalance can lead to things like inflammation, allergies, and autoimmune problems if it goes too far.
- An especially impressive research finding is that quercetin is one of the top nutrients for encouraging natural renewal of aged or damaged cells that can accumulate within organs and impair body function. For more on how rejuvenation affects body aging, have a look at this post.
Quercetin and the brain
The Mediterranean diet and its associated stress-busting lifestyle have long been linked with better brain function — especially during aging.
In a 2020 study, quercetin was highlighted as an important contributor to the cognitive benefits of the Mediterranean approach to living and eating. This study showed that people with the highest levels of quercetin in their diets enjoyed a 70% reduction in their risk for cognitive issues — an impressive conclusion!
If you’re interested in greater detail on how quercetin and other plant nutrients support brain and immune function, here’s a link to that recent study.
Quercetin takes it further
Part of the reason that quercetin is able to target the brain AND the immune system is that it works through your digestive tract. Yes, you heard that right!
Your diet is a crucial source of immune information about your life and your environment, and your intestines have specialized immune cells that sample everything passing through. These gut immune cells then share that intelligence with your immune system — it’s actually an incredibly important way of keeping your immunity up to date!
Quercetin is the equivalent of a superfood for the friendly flora living in the intestines. These beneficial microbes actively limit the growth of harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses that hamper immunity and can cause digestive problems — just another way quercetin keeps health on track.
Quercetin and energy
One last thing — quercetin can also get involved in the body’s energy economy. It appears to improve energy production within cells, according to this study in athletes taking 1000 milligrams of quercetin daily.
And just like quercetin aids renewal in cells, it gives the same help to cells’ mitochondria — the microscopic powerplants where body energy is created. Processing energy takes a heavy toll on mitochondria, and they need to be rejuvenated even more regularly than the cells in which they reside.
Best dietary sources of quercetin
In search of quercetin? You can find it in apples and apple peels, buckwheat (especially the Himalayan Tartary variety of buckwheat), black tea, onions, oolong tea, red wine, berries, garlic, shallots, turmeric, and peppers of all kinds.