Quercetin: The Anti-inflammatory Antioxidant for Muscles


Quercetin Reduces Inflammation

Quercetin Foods
Eat Quercetin Foods to Reduce Inflammation. Jan-Otto/Getty Images

Quercetin is one of the most researched antioxidant bioflavonoids and among the ingredient lists of numerous health-enhancing supplements today. There are over 6,000 identified flavonoids to date, with quercetin leading the ranks for antioxidant functioning and possible links to numerous health benefits. Antioxidants help the body by removing toxins, reducing inflammation, and decreasing cellular and tissue damage. Many athletes have tried quercetin supplementation to improve muscle inflammation caused by their workouts and boost their overall athletic performance. 

A 2013 study in The International Journal of Preventative Medicine examined the effects of quercetin supplements on exercise performance and body composition. There were four groups of participants. One group got a quercetin supplement, one got a vitamin C supplement, one got both supplements, and the last group got two placebos. The participants took these supplements every day for 8 weeks. The study authors reported, “lean body mass, total body water, basal metabolic rate, and total energy expenditure increased significantly in the quercetin group after intervention.”

While those findings are promising, they aren't universal. A different study on quercetin supplements found improved fat oxidation (burning) without any boost to exercise performance. A study on male athletes only found an effect for exercise endurance, and a study on female athletes found no effect in any category. As is typical with research, it takes time to collect and draw accurate conclusions.

Quercetin is an antioxidant with potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects post-exercise. However, more research regarding the effectiveness of quercetin in supplement form is needed. If you want to get antioxidant benefits, consuming quercetin-rich foods makes the most sense. Quercetin naturally occurs in a wide variety of plant foods, fruits and vegetables included.

Take a look at the following foods which contain high concentrations of quercetin.


Apples Contain Lots of Quercetin


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Apples are a significant source of bioflavonoids, especially quercetin. According to The International Journal of Food Properties, “Apple flavonols include several [forms of quercetin], which are dietary components with high anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties."

A fun antioxidant fact about apples: International studies suggest that 4% to 19% of total flavonoids in the diet come from apples, which explains the relatively high incidence of quercetin in the general population. It appears that through knowledge of apples being rich in quercetin or people just enjoying their apple a day to keep the doctor away, antioxidant health benefits of this “super food” are widespread. It is no wonder apples rank high on the list of post-workout recovery foods.


Onions Have High Concentrations of Quercetin


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

According to The National Onion Association, “Based on studies conducted at The Queen's University at Belfast, Ireland and Wageningen Agricultural University, the content of quercetin in onions is estimated to be between 22.40 mg and 51.82 mg per medium-sized onion (100 grams).” Who cares about “onion breath” when a high antioxidant rating with superior health benefits is concerned? Eating onions full of bioflavonoids to slow down and repair tissue damage sounds like a good trade-off. Load up the fresh salsa with a whole onion and power up that body to fight exercise-induced​ inflammation the spicy way!


Broccoli Contains Quercetin: A Superior Bioflavonoid


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Both quercetin and kaempferol are superior bioflavonoids naturally occurring in broccoli. According to Food Chemistry, quercetin accumulates equally in broccoli leaves and florets, while kaempferol is mostly present in florets.

Broccoli just so happens to be one of the most commonly consumed “super foods” in the United States. The phytochemicals contained in broccoli have been linked to reduced risk of cancer. In general, flavonoids like quercetin in broccoli are known for their potent antioxidant abilities, making this “super food” a must-eat for exercise recovery and muscle repair.


Berries: Reduce Exercise Induced Inflammation Naturally


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

According to a review of three intervention studies in Nutrition and Cancer, “Quercetin is bioavailable from a diet containing berries . . . it may be a good biomarker of fruit and vegetable intake in general.” During the second study, subjects consumed 100g of bilberries, black currants, and lingonberries per day, and after 2 months, they showed a 50% increase in blood quercetin levels. Simply adding berries to our daily intake provides antioxidants and protection against disease and improved ability to reduce exercise-induced inflammation. Want to feel better post-workout? Enjoy a variety of berries in shakes, with oatmeal, stirred in yogurt, or eaten out of hand for a natural antioxidant boost!

11 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Darla Leal
Darla Leal is a Master Fitness Trainer, freelance writer, and the creator of Stay Healthy Fitness, where she embraces a "fit-over-55" lifestyle.