Part of the fun we have here at CLEAN.FIT is constantly learning new things about food and nutrition, which we love sharing with you! We recently learned about a powerful, natural food pigment, called Quercetin (pronounced ‘kwer-sih-tin’). Like other natural pigments, also called flavonoids, Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant. It’s found in most superfoods, like broccoli, kale, berries, and spinach. Colorful foods like these have higher nutritional value. This is why we’re passionate about eating the rainbow!
First, let’s define what an antioxidant is and why they’re important. When you leave an apple slice out on the counter, the process that makes it slowly turn brown is a chemical reaction called oxidation. As the interior of the apple is exposed to oxygen in the air, the cells become damaged. Let’s throw it back to high school biology class and break it down even further: oxidation happens when an electron is taken from a cell, causing an imbalance.
When it comes to the human body, some oxidation and cell breakdown is normal. However, certain factors like alcohol intake, air pollution and radiation (like from to much sun exposure) can increase free radicals in the body, which cause oxidation and stress your system. Antioxidants help to keep the amount of oxidation in your system in balance by donating an electron to the free radicals, re-balancing them.
Coating the exposed piece of apple with something like lemon, which contains antioxidants, helps limit exposure and reduce oxidation, delaying the browning process. Antioxidants, like those found in lemon, prevent or repair the effects of oxidation - a process by which cells deteriorate and potentially die.
So which foods contain Quercetin and why is it so beneficial? Quercetin is one of the most abundant antioxidants. Onions, broccoli, apples, and berries contain the highest amounts of quercetin, followed by citrus fruits. Some of the many scientifically proven health benefits of consuming quercetin are increased cardiovascular health, decreased risk of infection, and anti-histamine properties. Quercetin is even more effective at helping the body fight allergies when combined with the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain, which is found in foods like pineapple. More and more, people are turning to this combination for post-surgery recovery because of its anti-inflammatory benefits.
One of the key benefits of Quercetin is its ability to act as a defense against free radicals. Cancer-causing free radicals cause cell death by stealing electrons from cells, in a process called oxidation (paging Bill Nye, the science guy!). While oxidation occurs naturally in the body in small amounts, quercetin and other antioxidants help keep this process in check, and repair and even prevent damage caused by free radicals. It works by repairing damage and proactively balancing electrons to free radicals. By incorporating more foods with quercetin in your diet, you’re boosting your body’s natural defenses.