Quercetin benefits the heart and body in numerous ways and as such is an important nutrient to incorporate into your diet. It’s found in a variety of foods. Scientists call it a flavonoid. A number of recent studies have been conducted about how quercetin may protect heart health and prevent heart disease. Here’s what you should know about this powerful nutrient.
What Is a Flavonoid Anyway?
A flavonoid is basically a plant pigment. They are responsible for the different colors that we see in plants, and can be found in onions, apples, wine, berries and leafy greens. In your body, flavonoids have a variety of actions. Most have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. The nutrients were originally called “vitamin P” because of the effect they have on vascular permeability. They basically prevent “leaky blood vessels” by strengthening the walls of the vessels, but that’s not all they can do.
Specific Quercetin Benefits For The Heart
Results of recent studies show that quercetin:
• Inhibits the system that raises blood pressure during times of stress. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease.
• Lowers cholesterol and blood lipid levels. High cholesterol and high blood lipids are also risk factors.
• Maintains antioxidant levels in the heart’s cells. Antioxidant levels in the heart are very high when we are young but decrease significantly once we pass the age of 30.
• Protects the heart from environmental toxins. Toxins like lead and other heavy metals are known to play a role in heart disease.
• Protects heart cells from oxidative stress. The main role of antioxidants in the body is to prevent or lessen oxidative stress, which is also called free radical damage. This is one of the key quercetin benefits.
• Prevents lipid oxidation. This is the process that causes hardened plaques to form on the inner walls of the arteries and blood vessels, raising blood pressure and making the vessels less flexible. This is the main process involved in age related heart diseases like atherosclerosis.
• Interferes with the biological pathway leading to inflammation in the heart and blood vessels. When the plaques form on the arterial walls, they trigger an immune system reaction involving inflammation. Inflammatory molecules cause the vessel walls to swell, making them even narrower and raising blood pressure even higher. Eventually this out of control inflammation can cause the wall to rupture and that leads to a heart attack.
Addressing any of these issues could help to prevent heart disease. Addressing all of them should definitely help. The results may seem amazing but the findings are not really that unusual. While these are among the first studies conducted using quercetin specifically, a variety of flavonoids have been used in other studies and the benefits were similar.
How Can I Get More Quercetin In My Diet?
First, you can eat more sweet potatoes, cranberries, kale, blueberries and broccoli. Those are all sources of quercetin. Second, you may want to consider a dietary supplement, just not a quercetin supplement. Research shows that the form in supplements is not well-absorbed. Most of it is excreted as waste. So, single-ingredient quercetin supplements are basically a waste of money.
On the other hand, you can up your quercetin benefits by taking a supplement that contains rutin, amino acids, green tea, black tea or bilberry extract. Quercetin is produced in your body when you eat foods or take a supplement containing rutin and amino acids. Small amounts of the more absorbable form of quercetin are found in green tea, black tea and bilberry extract. Since the amount in each extract is small, you would want to take a supplement that contains most, if not all of the extracts.
Speaking of supplements, resveratrol is something to look for on the label of ingredients. Research shows that resveratrol combined with quercetin inhibits the production of fat cells. As you probably know, excessive body fat contributes to heart disease in more ways than one.
What’s the Bottom Line on Quercetin and Heart Disease?
You can’t rely on quercetin benefits or any other single nutrient to keep your heart healthy. You need to try to eat healthy foods that provide a variety of nutrients. Individual nutrients like quercetin should be thought of as helpers or maybe as a bit of insurance when we sometimes make the wrong choices. We all have some level of stress and stress has many negative effects on the cells of our bodies. Nutrients can help to protect the cells from some of the stress effects including high blood pressure, as mentioned in the study results above.
We all have busy lives and it’s not always easy to eat right. Nutrients can help to protect the body’s cells from the effects of an unhealthy diet, at least on the short-term. You can’t eat an unhealthy, high fat diet every day even if you are taking a good supplement. But if you occasionally eat too much fat, quercetin and other nutrients may help to keep your cholesterol and blood lipids on the healthy side. This is another benefit we can take away from the study results.
The better dietary supplements provide many important nutrients, including those that produce quercetin. The best supplements also contain extracts like green tea and bilberry. Those extracts provide many health benefits, not just the ones related to the quercetin content. Other pages of our website are devoted to the details of beneficial heart-healthy supplements. Take the time to learn more about how nutrients can protect your heart and possibly prevent heart disease.