Food Sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Food Sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin
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Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two carotenoids within the retina of the eye. These naturally occurring carotenoids can also be found in certain foods like fruits and vegetables.

Unlike some other carotenoids (like beta carotene) lutein and zeaxanthin do not convert into vitamin A (retinol) in the body.


Carotenoids are antioxidants that slow the aging process and protect cells from free radical damage. Free radicals have been linked to many age-related diseases.

Lutein and zeaxanthin greatly benefit the eyes. Some studies suggest both can protect the eyes from macular degeneration disease and cataracts.

Other health conditions that benefit from carotenoids include AIDS, asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, infertility, heart disease, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and skin cancer.

Food Sources

The body does not make lutein or zeaxanthin so it is important to include both in your diet.

Food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include spinach, collard greens, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, broccoli, zucchini, romaine lettuce, green beans, Brussels sprouts, green peas, cabbage, carrots, green peppers, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi, mangoes, peaches, apricots, tangerines, corn, and egg yolks. Other sources include many yellow flower petals, algae, and nettles.

Eat a variety of sources to ensure you benefit from both carotenoids.

Carotenoids are fat-soluble. For proper absorption, dietary fat is needed. People who eat extremely small amounts of fat or people who have a disease that reduces the absorption of fat (such as liver disease or Crohn’s disease) will have a much harder time absorbing lutein and zeaxanthin.

There is no recommended daily allowance (RDA); however, positive effects have been seen just from eating foods high in both. Supplements are available but food sources are preferred. People who smoke or drink alcohol should use caution when taking supplements.


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