Food With Lutein And Zeaxanthin is a blog dedicated to educating people about the health benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin. Our goal is for you to be completely informed about the nutrients in your food and how they can improve your eyesight.
Food With Lutein And Zeaxanthin
Lutein is in most fruits and vegetables, but green and yellow foods have the highest amounts. Because it’s a fat-soluble nutrient, cooking or eating lutein-rich foods with a healthy fat like olive oil can improve its absorption in your body.
These eight foods offer some of the highest amounts of lutein per serving:
Kale’s dark green color holds high amounts of nutrients, including impressive levels of lutein. One cup of raw kale contains about 11 milligrams, almost two times the amount linked to health benefits. Cooking it reduces kale’s lutein by nearly half, however, but this total still meets your daily recommendation.
Loaded with iron, vitamin K, and magnesium, spinach is an all-in-one source of many essential vitamins and minerals. It’s also high in antioxidants like lutein, with 8 milligrams in one cup. Unlike kale, cooking spinach enhances its lutein content. The same serving of cooked spinach has up to 16 milligrams.
3. Romaine Lettuce
While a lighter-pigmented leafy green, romaine lettuce still has plenty of lutein. Two cups of shredded lettuce in a salad add almost 4 milligrams to your meal. If you want an even more lutein-rich lunch, try including a handful of green beans or broccoli for an extra 1 to 2 milligrams.
Corn gets its yellow pigment thanks to lutein, and per cup contains about 3.6 milligrams. Corn-based products boast similarly high levels. One 6-inch corn tortilla has about 4 milligrams of lutein, while about nine corn chips have 1.7 milligrams.
5. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C and contain a range of carotenoids, including lutein. While each pepper color has its nutritional advantages, green bell peppers have the highest lutein content with up to 1.4 milligrams depending on the pepper’s size.
With its subtle, balancing flavor, parsley is a staple ingredient in many recipes. Adding a half-cup of the herb to soups, sautés, or even smoothies can bring 1.2 milligrams of lutein to your meal.
Many types of nuts have some lutein, but pistachios come out on top with 1.4 milligrams per ounce. Pistachios are also lower in fat than many other nuts, but they still contain many calories per serving, so make sure to watch your portions to avoid unwanted weight gain.
Although the amount can vary from egg to egg, one yolk contains about 0.1 milligrams of lutein on average. They may not be the richest dietary source, but studies suggest that eggs are a great way to get lutein because they’re high in healthy fats, helping our bodies better absorb it.
Why You Need Lutein
There’s no set intake requirement for lutein, but its health benefits are associated with consuming about 6 milligrams a day. The average person gets about 1.9 milligrams daily from their diet alone.
Ensuring you get enough lutein can have health benefits like:
Long-Term Eye Health
Research shows that high lutein intake can prevent age-related vision loss and cataracts, and improve symptoms in people who have these conditions.
Lutein may help improve cognitive performance. Studies show that the nutrient helps preserve and boost brain activity, improving memory, learning efficiency, and verbal fluency. Much more research is needed to confirm these effects, however.
In both foods and supplements, lutein usually accompanies another carotenoid called zeaxanthin.
These nutrients are both antioxidants that protect your skin cells from ultraviolet (UV) sun damage. Studies show this activity may also improve skin tone and slow signs of aging.
Lutein And Zeaxanthin Benefits, Food Sources, & Side Effects
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two important carotenoids found in nature. These pigments are available in several fruits and vegetables. The benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin include fighting against chronic illnesses and promoting human health. Both these potent antioxidants are also known to promote eye health. This article explores foods that are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, their health benefits, dosage, and possible side effects. Keep reading.
What Are Lutein And Zeaxanthin?
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two types of carotenoids. Carotenoids are compounds that give foods their characteristic color. They act as antioxidants and play a vital role in several bodily functions, including promoting eye and skin health .
Lutein and zeaxanthin are primarily found in the macula of the human eye. They are the xanthophylls that play different roles in the biological systems – as important structural molecules in cell membranes, as short-wavelength light filters, and as keepers of the redox balance.
Both these antioxidants have a similar structure and provide a range of health benefits. However, they are most popular for their beneficial effects on human eyes.
Which Foods Are Rich In Lutein And Zeaxanthin?
Below is a list of food items rich in the antioxidants.
|FOOD||AMOUNT OF LUTEIN & ZEAXANTHIN IN 100 G|
|Kale (cooked)||19.7 mg|
|Winter Squash (cooked(||1.42 mg|
|Collards (cooked)||10.9 mg|
|Yellow sweet corn (canned)||1.05 mg|
|Spinach (cooked)||11.31 mg|
|Swiss chard (cooked)||11.01 mg|
|Green Peas (cooked)||2.59 mg|
|Arugula (raw)||3.55 mg|
|Brussels Sprouts (cooked||1.29 mg|
|Broccoli rabe (cooked)||1.68 mg|
|Pumpkin (cooked)||1.01 mg|
|Egg Yolks fresh (raw)||1.1 mg|
|Sweet Potatoes leaves (cooked)||2.63 mg|
|Carrots (raw)||0.36 mg|
|Asparagus (cooked)||0.77 mg|
|Mustard greens (cooked)||5.96 mg|
|Beet greens (cooked)||1.82 mg|
|Dandelion greens (cooked)||3.40 mg|
|Garden Cress (cooked)||8.40 mg|
|Turnip greens (cooked)||8.44 mg|
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database
What Are The Health Benefits Of Lutein And Zeaxanthin?
1. Promote Eye Health
A diet with a good amount of lutein and zeaxanthin increases the concentration of macular pigments, preventing the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
Both these antioxidants are concentrated at the central fovea of the macula and form the macular pigments. They are known to protect the macular region from photo-oxidative injury. They achieve this by scavenging the reactive oxygen species and filtering blue light.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are also known to improve macular pigment optical density, visual acuity (clarity of vision), and contrast sensitivity (visual ability to distinguish an object from its background) in patients with early AMD . An increase in the intake of these carotenoids may be protective against late AMD .
Studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin may also reduce the risk of cataract . Cataract (clouding of the lens of the eye) is another major vision disorder affecting the elderly. Though cataracts mostly occur due to age, they also are caused by oxidative stress, diabetes, exposure to toxic elements/pollutants, radiation, and as a side effect of certain medications (including corticosteroids).
2. Benefit The Skin
Lutein and zeaxanthin exhibit powerful antioxidant properties, which help promote skin health. Much like the eyes, our skin also suffers damage due to oxidative stress, UV exposure, and blue light.
These can cause DNA damage and alter collagen turnover (a type of protein responsible for skin structure and elasticity). This can result in tanning due to the overproduction of melanin and may even increase the risk of skin cancer .
The antioxidant properties of lutein and zeaxanthin also help improve the overall skin tone and texture .
These are the two major benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin. Apart from the many food sources, one can also experience the goodness of these antioxidants through supplements.
A Note On Lutein And Zeaxanthin Supplements
Supplementation for these twin carotenoids has been found to be as effective as consuming them through diet. However, getting them from natural sources, like green leafy vegetables, fruits, eggs, and others, is preferable.
But getting enough of these from diet alone may get difficult, especially if one is busy with their work commitments. If this is the case, supplementation can help. It is an effective method to ensure adequate intake of these powerful antioxidants.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two carotenoids that are often used in supplement form. They are both antioxidants that help protect against free radical damage, which may cause oxidative stress in cells and lead to cellular damage. Oxidative stress has also been linked to many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disorders.
The market is flooded with a host of supplements. If you are wondering how to choose the right one, the following factors can help:
- The actual amount of lutein and zeaxanthin in them
- Comparison with the formulations mentioned in the two clinical studies, AREDS and AREDS2 (AREDS stands for Age Related Eye Disease Study)
The best approach, though, would be to ask your doctor to prescribe the right supplement.
How Much Of Lutein And Zeaxanthin Should You Take Daily?
Currently, there is no set Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for lutein and zeaxanthin. However, research has found that supplementing with 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin could be beneficial for overall health (including that of the eye and skin) .
This amount is based on studies conducted on humans and animals. There have not been any studies done on cannabis plants. However, we do know that they contain high levels of carotenoid compounds. Therefore, we recommend taking this dosage to ensure optimal health benefits.
What Are The Side Effects Associated With Lutein And Zeaxanthin?
There is no concrete research here. Some sources say that taking up to 20 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin is safe. Ensure you check with your doctor.
Studies show that excess intake of carotenoids may lead to carotenoderma (a yellow-orange skin discoloration). This condition is not harmful and usually subsides by reducing the intake of carotenoids
There are no known toxic side effects of taking too much lutein and zeaxanthin, though. However, there is no evidence available to determine the safety of their supplementation in children and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Hence, please check with your doctor.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are the commonly found natural antioxidants. They are responsible for imparting colors to fruits and vegetables. The benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin include forming eye pigments, preventing eye disorders, and evening out your skin tone. These antioxidants are primarily beneficial to your eyes and skin. You can reap their benefits by consuming foods and vegetables such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, or dietary supplements. However, excess consumption can lead to a few side effects. Seek medical advice if you experience any adverse effects.
How lutein and zeaxanthin can help your eyes
A one-two punch of eye and vision health benefits
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two types of carotenoids, yellow to red pigments found widely in vegetables and other plants. Though lutein is considered a yellow pigment, it appears orange-red in high concentrations.
In nature, lutein (LOO-teen) and zeaxanthin (zee-ah-ZAN-thin) appear to absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight, especially from high-energy light rays called blue light.
Cooked spinach is one of the best natural food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.
In addition to being found in many green leafy plants and colorful fruits and vegetables, lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in the macula of the human eye, giving the macula its yellowish color. In fact, the macula also is called the “macula lutea” (from the Latin macula, meaning “spot,” and lutea, meaning “yellow”).
Recent research has discovered a third carotenoid in the macula. Called meso-zeaxanthin, this pigment is not found in food sources and appears to be created in the retina from ingested lutein.
Lutein and zeaxanthin appear to have important antioxidant functions in the body. Along with other natural antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin E, these important pigments guard the body from damaging effects of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can destroy cells and play a role in many diseases.
In addition to important eye and vision benefits, lutein may help protect against atherosclerosis (buildup of fatty deposits in arteries), the disease that leads to most heart attacks.
Eye benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin
It is believed that lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin in the macula block blue light from reaching the underlying structures in the retina, thereby reducing the risk of light-induced oxidative damage that could lead to macular degeneration (AMD).
A number of studies have found that lutein and zeaxanthin either help prevent AMD or may slow progression of the disease:
- Research published in Nutrition & Metabolism found that a nutritional supplement containing meso-zeaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin effectively increased the optical density of the macular pigment in eyes of the majority of human subjects. The macular pigment is believed to offer protection against the development of macular degeneration.
- Studies published in American Journal of Epidemiology, Ophthalmology and Archives of Ophthalmology found higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet are associated with a lower incidence of AMD.
- Two studies published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science found that eyes with greater levels of macular pigments were less likely to have or develop macular degeneration.
- In research published in Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, the study authors conclude that lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin filter short-wavelength light and prevent or reduce the generation of free radicals in the retinal pigment epithelium and choroid. They also suggest that a mixture of these carotenoids is more effective than any one of the individual carotenoids at the same total concentration.
- In a study published in the journal Optometry, participants with early AMD who consumed 8 mg per day of dietary zeaxanthin for one year improved their night driving and their visual acuity improved an average of 1.5 lines on an eye chart.
In May 2013, the much-anticipated results of the second large-scale Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS2) sponsored by the National Eye Institute were published.
AREDS2 was a follow-up to the original 5-year AREDS study published in 2001, which found use of a daily antioxidant supplement containing beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and copper reduced the risk of progressive AMD by 25 percent among participants with early and intermediate macular degeneration.
The goal of AREDS2 was to evaluate the effect of other nutrients — including lutein and zeaxanthin — on the prevention of AMD and other age-related eye diseases. AREDS2 also investigated the effect of removing beta-carotene from the AREDS supplement, since supplementation of this vitamin A precursor has been associated with increased risk of certain cancers among smokers and previous smokers.
The AREDS2 results revealed study participants with early signs of macular degeneration who took a modification of the original AREDS nutritional supplement that contained 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin (and no beta-carotene) every day for the 5-year study period had a 10 to 25 percent reduced risk of AMD progression. Study participants whose diets contained the lowest amounts of foods containing natural lutein and zeaxanthin experienced the greatest AMD risk reduction from taking the daily nutritional supplement.
While AREDS2 and other studies provide evidence that lutein and zeaxanthin may play a role in preventing macular degeneration (or at least reducing the risk of progression of AMD), it’s less clear if these carotenoids help prevent cataracts.
Research published in Archives of Ophthalmology suggests women whose diets include high amounts of healthful foods containing lutein, zeaxanthin and other carotenoids have a lower risk of cataracts than women whose diets contain lower amounts of these nutrients.
In AREDS2, however, supplemental lutein and zeaxanthin had no effect on cataract risk or progression.
Foods containing lutein and zeaxanthin
The best natural food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are green leafy vegetables and other green or yellow vegetables. Among these, cooked kale and cooked spinach top the list, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Non-vegetarian sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include egg yolks. But if you have high cholesterol, you’re much better off getting most of these yellow nutrients from fruits and vegetables.
Try our easy eye-healthy recipes — all contain lutein and zeaxanthin.
Lutein and zeaxanthin supplements
Lutein & zeaxanthin foods.
Because of the apparent eye and cardiovascular benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin, many nutritional companies have added these carotenoids to their multiple vitamin formulas. Others have introduced special eye vitamins that are predominantly lutein and zeaxanthin supplements.
There currently is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for lutein or zeaxanthin, but some experts say you should ingest at least 6 milligrams (mg) of lutein per day for beneficial effects.
It remains unclear how much lutein and zeaxanthin is needed daily for adequate eye and vision protection. Also, it is unknown at this time whether supplements have the same effect as lutein and zeaxanthin obtained through food sources.
There are no known toxic side effects of taking too much lutein or zeaxanthin. In some cases, people who eat large amounts of carrots or yellow and green citrus fruits can develop a harmless yellowing of the skin called carotenemia. Though the appearance of the condition can be somewhat alarming and may be confused with jaundice, the yellow discoloration disappears by cutting back on consumption of these carotenoid-rich foods. (Carotenemia also can be associated with over-consumption of carotenoid-rich nutritional supplements.)
Popular lutein and zeaxanthin supplements include:
- MacuHealth with LMZ3 (MacuHealth LLC)
- EyePromise Zeaxanthin (Zeavision)
- ICaps Eye Vitamin Lutein & Zeaxanthin Formula (Alcon)
- Macula Complete (Biosyntrx)
- MacularProtect Complete (ScienceBased Health)
- MaxiVision Ocular Formula (MedOp)
- OcuGuard Plus (TwinLab)
- Ocuvite (Bausch + Lomb)
The source of lutein in many lutein supplements is marigold flowers, while for zeaxanthin it is often red peppers. If you choose a lutein and zeaxanthin supplement, make sure it’s a high quality product from a reputable dietary supplement company.
Remember that taking dietary supplements does not replace a healthy diet. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables usually is the best way to get the important eye nutrients you need.
If you have low macular pigment levels and are sensitive to light, ask your eye care professional about photochromic lenses. These eyeglass lenses protect your eyes from UV and high-energy visible blue light that can damage retinal tissue, and they darken automatically in sunlight to ease light sensitivity.
Also, remember that individuals sometimes react differently to certain supplements, which can have unintended effects such as adverse reactions with medications. Consult with your physician or eye doctor before trying any vision supplements.
Animal study finds nutritional supplements reduce risk of diabetic retinopathy
Nutritional supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin, lipoic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids are effective in preventing the development of retinopathy among diabetic rats, according to a study.
Researchers at the Kresge Eye Institute in Detroit investigated the effect of carotenoid-containing supplements on retinal oxidative stress and inflammation and the development of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes was induced and confirmed in all rats in the study, and then some rats were given a diet that included the nutritional supplements while others were given the same food but without the supplements. After 11 months, the retinas of the rats were evaluated for changes in blood vessels, cellular damage and other retinal changes characteristic of diabetic retinopathy.
In rats that had not received the nutritional supplements, diabetes-induced damage to retinal blood vessels was three to four times greater than among rats who had received the added nutrients.
The study authors concluded that the nutritional supplements used in this study prevented diabetic retinopathy and preserved normal retinal functioning. They also said that, though human testing is required to confirm, these supplements “could represent an achievable and inexpensive adjunct therapy” to inhibit diabetic retinopathy in people with diabetes.