Power your diet food with Astaxanthin. The next generation of anti-oxidants. A nutrient that can sharpen your vision, clear your mind and boost your immune system. The natural sources of astaxanthin are algae, yeast, salmon, trout, krill, shrimp and crayfish.
Food With Astaxanthin
Fish aside, what is the astaxanthin content in other foods? Marine life – or land animals which eat it – are about the only places you are going to find it. There is one land-based plant which produces it in relatively high amounts and that is phaffia yeast . However it’s not common in nature.
Animals do not produce astaxanthin, they get it from plants they eat. Those plants happen to be microalgae, which grow in the salt water oceans as well as fresh bodies of water. So technically, there are only vegan and vegetarian sources of astaxanthin, at least if you’re getting it straight from the original source which made it. The same holds true for the essential fatty acid, omega 3 . Salmon are getting omega 3’s from what they eat, it’s not something they synthesize themselves.
Even if a certain type of marine life doesn’t directly eat plants, it may be eating other animals which do lower down on the food chain. For example, animal A may not directly eat astaxanthin, but it eats animal B which does directly eat it. As a result, A gets it from eating B.
This is why seafood is the most common source of astaxanthin in food. It’s not that we as humans can’t eat microalgae directly, but rather we choose not to. Unfortunately that is the only vegan source.
|Food||Astaxanthin Concentration (ppm)|
|13.||Arctic Shrimp (Pandalus borealis)||1,200|
|14.||Phaffia Yeast (Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous)||10,000|
|15.||Green Algae (Haematococcus pluvialis)||40,000|
To put those numbers in perspective, the salmonoid category (such as foods 1-10) average out at about 5 ppm.
That explains how much astaxanthin is in krill oil. It’s a rich source because the whole krill (before refining and extracting the oil) has around 24x more astaxanthin content than salmon and similar species of fish.
Green algae? That puts sockeye salmon to shame. The species Haematococcus pluvialis has 8,000x higher concentration than salmonoids.
Obviously, not all of those are feasible for the human diet. We’re willing to wager that you don’t want to scarf down a bowl of krill and almond milk for your breakfast tomorrow. Nor do you care to slurp up the Pacific ocean for some of that green algae!
What percentage of seafood sold in the world is shrimp? The entire category only represents 4.6% of seafood by weight . Isolating that figure further, the cold water species of shrimp (which includes arctic) is only about 6% of the total world supply of shrimp sold per year .
That means only 0.276% of seafood sold includes arctic shrimp (but not just the P. borealis, as other cold-water species too).
The warm-watered species are what we commonly eat and those have most of their pigment in the tails. Even if you ate those, much of it leaches out from boiling.
The more red, the better
If you’ve ever broken open one of the capsules for this particular antioxidant supplement, you will realize how intensely red of a pigment it is. Astaxanthin food coloring is actually used for some applications because of that – to make seafood appear more red. Unfortunately though, it’s almost always the synthetic kind, which doesn’t have the same antioxidant properties.
Given its bright red color – usually but not always – the best natural astaxanthin food sources are those which have the most intense color. There are not precise and vetted studies on the exact amounts in the following foods (numbers 16 through 20) and that is because they contain less (often exponentially lower amounts) than the salmonoids. Plus, most of it is in their shells or scales which are not edible. As a result, you don’t really see in-depth studies being done on these to measure how much they have in their edible parts.
19. Shrimp (warm water varieties)
20. Red snapper
Health Benefits of Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin is a natural, red pigmented ketocarotenoid (or plant color) found in some types of microalgae and yeast. It’s mainly found in Haematococcus pluvialis, a type of algae, and Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous, a type of yeast.
This ketocarotenoid shares some chemical similarities with carotenes, which are also plant colors, like lycopene and beta-carotene. However, it is more closely related to oxygenated xanthophylls (an oxygen-rich plant color) like lutein and zeaxanthin, which are known for improving eye health.
Algae and yeast produce and accumulate astaxanthin naturally. It serves as a food source for marine species like crawfish, lobster, krill, salmon, trout, shrimp, and crab, that transfer this pigment up the food chain. Crustaceans accumulate astaxanthin in their shells and flesh, while salmon and trout build up this pigment in their flesh. Consuming seafood rich in astaxanthin can provide you with certain health benefits.
As a carotenoid, astaxanthin is a fat-soluble pigment with powerful antioxidant properties that plays a role in protecting your cells from free radicals and oxidative stress. Carotenoids are known for their ability to neutralize reactive oxygen, on the inner and outer layers of cell membranes.
In addition, astaxanthin may provide health benefits such as:
Immune System Support
Astaxanthin can influence your immune system, helping to activate white blood cells (T-cells) and natural killer (NK) cells.
While T-cells attack foreign cells based on antigen markers, NK cells don’t require activation and work at a faster speed to stop invasions that can weaken your health.
Reduction in Inflammation
Along with boosting your immune system, astaxanthin may also help to reduce inflammation. In particular, this pigment acts on reactive oxygen species to reduce proteins that can cause inflammatory diseases like celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes.
Protection from UV Skin Damage
Taking supplements or consuming foods rich in astaxanthin may also help to protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) damage. Astaxanthin accumulates in the epidermis and dermis layers of your skin, helping to block UV penetration and reduce existing damage.
Support Cognitive Health
Carotenoids have a positive effect on the brain by reducing the risks for neurodegenerative diseases. Astaxanthin is a smaller molecule, which means it can cross the blood-brain barrier and add protection for your brain as well as your body’s organs.
This carotenoid may also help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders and/or slow their onset rate.
Healthy Heart Function
If you’re trying to improve your heart health, you may have good results with astaxanthin. This carotenoid can help to reduce LDL or bad cholesterol and can raise HDL or good cholesterol, while also lower high blood pressure.
Astaxanthin has several health benefits, but it comes with a few risks such as:
Blood Pressure Medication Interaction
Since astaxanthin may help to lower blood pressure, you should not take it if you have been prescribed blood pressure medication by your doctor.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
It is unknown whether astaxanthin causes side effects if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. To avoid potential risks, do not take astaxanthin supplements or high quantities of astaxanthin-rich foods while pregnant or nursing a child.
If you have a known seafood allergy, avoid getting astaxanthin from these sources. If you experience any allergy symptoms after consuming seafood, see your healthcare provider and discuss other methods for adding this nutrient to your diet.
Amounts and Dosage
There is no set dosage for astaxanthin, although some studies have recommended doses of 4 milligrams per day. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved doses up to 12 milligrams per day.
Astaxanthin comes in supplement form with varying quality levels and doses. Speak to your doctor for advice on whether supplementation is right for your health needs. In food, you can get astaxanthin by eating shrimp, salmon, crab, or trout.
7 Potential Benefits of Astaxanthin
Fish oil with omega-3 fatty acids isn’t the only thing from the ocean that can improve function in the human body. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment that occurs in trout, microalgae, yeast, and shrimp, among other sea creatures. It’s most commonly found in Pacific salmon and is what gives the fish its pinkish color.
An antioxidant, astaxanthin is said to have many health benefits. It’s been linked to healthier skin, endurance, heart health, joint pain, and may even have a future in cancer treatment.
As you may be aware, antioxidants are good for you. Astaxanthin’s antioxidant properties provide the main source of the health claims and benefits of the supplement, particularly when used to help treat cancer.
It’s been linked to improved blood flow, and lowering oxidative stress in smokers and overweight people. A comparison of astaxanthin and other carotenoids showed that it displayed the highest antioxidant activity against free radicals.
Because of its antioxidant properties, there has been a lot of research on how astaxanthin might help to treat various cancers. One study found short- and long-term benefits for the treatment of breast cancer, including reduced growth of breast cancer cells.
The high cost of purified astaxanthin has limited its use in further studies and cancer treatments.
3. The skin
Astaxanthin can be used topically to promote healthy skin. A 2012 study showed that combining topical and oral doses of astaxanthin can help to smooth wrinkles, make age spots smaller, and help maintain skin moisture. There were positive results in both men and women, but more study is needed to confirm these findings.
4. Exercise supplement
There has been a lot of study on how astaxanthin can affect endurance, as well as fatigue levels after exercise. Studies on mice show that it can boost the body’s use of fatty acids, which helps endurance, and prevent muscle and skeletal damage.
So far, however, evidence for its effects on human exercise is still lacking. One study using human subjects found no exercise benefits from astaxanthin supplements in relation to muscle injury.
5. Heart health
Researchers are also looking into claims that astaxanthin can benefit heart health. A 2006 study examined astaxanthin’s effects on rats with hypertension (high blood pressure), and results indicated that it may help to improve elastin levels and arterial wall thickness.
Other claims include the notion that astaxanthin can prevent heart disease and help lower cholesterol, but there isn’t sufficient evidence to support these uses yet.
6. Joint pain
Astaxanthin may also have a future in the treatment of joint pain, including conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, which affects nearly one in every five Americans, and carpal tunnel syndrome. However, results so far have been mixed.
Some studies show that astaxanthin may be able to reduce inflammation and pain symptoms related to arthritis. However, a study on the relationship between astaxanthin and carpal tunnel syndrome found no evidence to support the claim.
7. Male fertility
In a 2005 study, astaxanthin showed positive results for male fertility. Over the course of three months, the double-blind study examined 30 different men who were previously suffering from infertility.
The researchers saw improvements in sperm parameters, like count and motility, and improved fertility in the group who received a strong dosage of astaxanthin. As this was a relatively small-scale study, more evidence and research is needed to support this claim.
Get some salmon in your belly
While the jury’s still out on some of these health claims, you can be sure that — being an antioxidant — astaxanthin is good for you.
To benefit from its antioxidant properties, try to eat some salmon once or twice a week. For instance, this simple recipe for grilled salmon is perfect for a light dinner.
Choose whole foods as your first option for getting required nutrients. Astaxanthin is available in supplement form, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t monitor the manufacture or sale of supplements or herbs.