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21 Quercetin-Rich Foods That Belong In Your Diet + The Benefits Of This Antioxidant

January 3, 2021

The year 2020 cast a spotlight on immunity. As such, there was lots of discussion around the usual players, like vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D, but another, lesser-known compound, called quercetin, also came into the light. 

Like vitamins and minerals, quercetin is found naturally in many of the foods you're probably already eating—and some that likely don't make it to your plate very often. Here, we break down some must-knows about this potent antioxidant and share the foods highest in quercetin that deserve a place in your diet this year.

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What is quercetin?

Quercetin belongs to a group of plant compounds called flavonoids. Like all flavonoids, quercetin acts as an antioxidant in your body and scavenges for free radicals. It also helps shut off inflammation, which causes oxidative damage and can contribute to a host of health problems, including cancer1, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease2, to name a few.

Research has also connected quercetin to allergy-relief and some pretty serious immune support3. According to Vincent Pedre, M.D., board-certified internist, part of the reason quercetin supports your immune system is because it acts as a prebiotic, feeding the good bugs in your gut.

"It also augments the effects of vitamin C, synergistically helping to prevent over-activation of mast cells, which secrete histamine when the body is inflamed," Pedre previously told mbg. "Not to mention, quercetin acts as a zinc shuttle, getting natural antiviral zinc into cells where it can help mitigate viral replication."

OK, so how much quercetin do I need per day?

Quercetin is widely distributed among plant foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It's also a component of some medicinal herbs4, including Ginkgo biloba, St. John's wort, and Sambucus canadensis, a type of elderberry.

On average, people get around 5 to 40 milligrams of quercetin per day through their diet, but if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, it's likely that you're getting closer to 200 to 500 milligrams. There's no magical number for how much quercetin you should be getting daily, but most supplements recommend dosages between 500 and 1,000 milligrams per day—and that's the dosage many studies on quercetin's benefits mention, too.

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Foods high in quercetin.

There are quercetin supplements available, but you can also increase your intake through whole foods, which also provide additional phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals that work synergistically to offer bonus benefits.

If you're trying to level-up your quercetin, focus on getting a variety of these foods daily:

  1. capers (most concentrated source!)
  2. red onion (highest vegetable source!)
  3. shallots
  4. red apples
  5. grapes
  6. berries
  7. cherries
  8. scallions
  9. kale
  10. tomatoes (organically grown tomatoes have up to 79% more than conventional fruit5)
  11. broccoli
  12. Brussels sprouts
  13. cabbage
  14. citrus fruits
  15. bell peppers (green and yellow)
  16. nuts (almonds and pistachios6)
  17. asparagus (cooked has slightly more)
  18. buckwheat 
  19. black tea
  20. green tea
  21. elderberry tea
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Bottom line.

Quercetin is an antioxidant that combats inflammation, helps support your immune system, and reduces your risk of allergies and chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. While the average person gets a maximum of 40 milligrams per day, upping your intake to at least 500 milligrams will likely give you the most health benefits.

There are plenty of quercetin supplements, but the best plan of attack for boosting your intake is to include a variety of quercetin-rich foods, like capers, red onions, kale, and organic tomatoes, in your regular diet. If you're considering taking a quercetin supplement, check in with your doctor first to make sure it's right for you.

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Lindsay Boyers
Lindsay Boyers
Certified holistic nutrition consultant

Lindsay Boyers is a holistic nutritionist specializing in gut health, mood disorders, and functional nutrition. Lindsay earned a degree in food & nutrition from Framingham State University, and she holds a Certificate in Holistic Nutrition Consulting from the American College of Healthcare Sciences.

She has written twelve books and has had more than 2,000 articles published across various websites. Lindsay currently works full time as a freelance health writer. She truly believes that you can transform your life through food, proper mindset and shared experiences. That's why it's her goal to educate others, while also being open and vulnerable to create real connections with her clients and readers.