Lutein is a carotenoid that supports the skin and eyes.
What are carotenoids? Naturally occurring pigments. The body does not manufacture this particular antioxidant on its own, so people get lutein from outside sources (i.e., food). In fact, some experts suggest that individuals should take in at least 7 to 10 mg. of this nutrient per day.
Which foods are rich in lutein? Here are several examples.
- Kale. Kale possesses impressive amounts of this fabulous free radical fighter.
- Spinach. Raw spinach has higher levels than cooked, but the cooked variety also provides a respectable amount.
- Swiss chard. Swiss chard is another green edible that packs a powerful lutein punch.
- Raw garden peas. Once we leave the leafy veggies behind, lutein content seems to drop off. Still, it’s smart to put raw garden peas on the grocery list.
- Zucchini. Zucchini offers an adequate amount of lutein, but their blossoms are even better.
- Pistachios. This tasty nut has multiple health benefits, and lutein is one of them.
- Carrots. Remember when Mama said, “Eat carrots, they’re good for your eyes”? Well, it seems Mama was a wise woman.
- Egg yolks. Egg yolks may not be as high in lutein as certain leafy vegetables, but some experts suggest the amount it does possess is better absorbed.
Now that we’ve listed some lutein-rich foods, let’s look a little closer at lutein’s health benefits.
- Eyes. Lutein is found in the macula and is believed to guard against oxidative stress. Experts suggest that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is less likely to occur (or progress) when lutein levels are sufficient. AMD typically results in mild vision loss. Even so, 10 to 15% of AMD cases can lead to severe loss of sight. Eating foods high in lutein helps to protect eyesight. A Harvard study suggested that individuals who ate a lutein-rich diet also reduced the risk of developing cataracts. Even those with otherwise normal vision seem to enjoy crisper sight when lutein is added to their meal plan.
- Skin. Everyone wants nice skin. Nonetheless, as we age, that desire becomes less likely. Why? Time takes its toll on mature skin and can result in less elasticity, wrinkles, poor hydration, and a weathered appearance. Interestingly, European researchers studied the effects of topical and oral lutein on the skin and came up with some amazing findings. It seems people who used lutein supplements (20 mg. per day) enjoyed a satisfactory increase in elasticity, hydration, and surface lipids. Still, the group who took oral lutein and concurrently applied a lutein cream realized even greater benefits.
Is lutein thought to offer other gains? Yes, it may help ward off illnesses like heart disease and cancer. Naturally, almost everyone can profit from lutein-rich foods, but people over 50 especially realize the benefits. Supplements are available at health food stores and some supermarkets, but supplements should only be taken with the consent of your doctor.
Lutein? It’s worth a look!