Has your mother or father ever told you to “eat all your vegetables, so you will grow up healthy and strong?” How many times did you push your peas or try to feed the carrots to the dog? Your parents knew that vegetables were beneficial because they are loaded with vitamins and minerals, including lutein.
What is lutein?
Do you remember your parents telling you to eat carrots to see well? They did not know that carrots and some other tasty vegetables contain lutein, also called xanthophyll. How does this substance help your body?
When you consider the color palette on your plate, fruits and vegetables provide a rainbow of hues of red, orange, and yellow. Xanthophyll is a carotenoid responsible for these beautiful colors. When you see the impressive foliage of trees in the fall, you see this natural pigment in action.
As a vitamin, this carotenoid acts as an antioxidant, according to an article published by Nutri-facts. As your system absorbs oxygen, some red compounds called free radicals remain in your body. If they are not effectively neutralized with antioxidants, they can damage your internal organs and can be detrimental to your health.
Even many dark green fruits and vegetables have xanthophyll. The only reason you don’t see it is because the abundance of green chlorophyll masks it. Xanthophyll is also present in animals and humans who ingest it, says a study published by the Biochemistry and Biophysics Archives.
Xanthophyll gives egg yolks their classic yellow color and also gives color to meat, feathers and shells of animals.
When you think of xanthophyll, you may remember it as eye power. A diet rich in this powerful antioxidant can help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), states an article published by the American Macular Degeneration Society. The report cites a study that showed that six milligrams of xanthophyll a day could reduce your AMD risks by 43 percent.
According to a study published by Nutrition journal, xanthophyll has other protective benefits for the eyes. It can help prevent eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and an inherited disorder called chloride mixing. When you take xanthophyll, you can reduce your cataract risks, the study says.
With all the work your eyes do in one day, it’s no wonder they feel sore and exhausted. They are constantly bombarded by computer screens, cell phones, and artificial light. Supplementing your diet with xanthophyll can help reduce eyestrain symptom.
You only have one body of skin in your life, so you must protect it. One of the best ways is to wear sunscreen during all seasons and to wear light clothing that deflects the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. Your diet also contributes to the health of your skin, especially if it is rich in beneficial antioxidants.
Did you know that the xanthophyll in colorful fruits and vegetables can also defend your skin? A study published by the Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology shows promising correlations. Not only can it protect your skin from sun damage, it can also boost antioxidant power to improve your overall skin tone.
Six other benefits of lutein
While xanthophyll is one of your best friends for your eyes and skin, it can also prevent other diseases and disorders.
1. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
ALS is a progressive neurological disease that affects cells in the brain and spinal cord, explained in an article published by Nutri-Facts. As these specialized cells are attacked, it affects the voluntary muscular system. The report cites a study that concludes that diets rich in xanthophyll and beta-carotene can prevent or delay the onset of this debilitating disease.
2. Parkinson’s disease
Medical science is discovering more about how xanthophyll can help protect cells in your body, including brain cells. Experts believe that Parkinson’s disease It is caused by damaged nerve cells that decrease dopamine levels and cause movement problems. A study published by Nutritional neuroscience states that xanthophyll can protect these nerve cells or reduce damage.
3. Cardiovascular health
Your body relies on your heart and a vast network of blood vessels to circulate life-sustaining blood. When you eat a diet high in saturated fat, it can eventually clog your arteries and threaten your heart. This condition, known as atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, explains an article from the American Heart Association.
This article cites a study that showed how xanthophyll in the walls of your arteries could prevent bad cholesterol from sticking to and clogging your vessels. The study concludes that enjoying fruits and vegetables rich in xanthophyll can prevent early-onset atherosclerosis. Since this condition causes most heart problems, research suggests that xanthophyll can promote good cardiovascular health.
4. Cognitive function
Do you want to keep your brain happy and healthy? In addition to your regular brain conditioning activities, you can consider eating vibrant fruits and vegetables that contain lutein. According to an article published by Current developments in nutrition, this carotenoid can benefit your cognitive performance from infancy to old age.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another common disease in the United States. An article published by the American Heart Association states that approximately 103 million people in the United States are diagnosed with high blood pressure. The report also warns that the death rate from hypertension increased by 38 percent in 2015.
if you have High blood pressure, you may be following a healthy diet and fitness plan to reduce it. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is probably part of your plan.
6. Reduce the risks of breast cancer
To date, there are no “cures” for breast cancer or other types. However, you can lower your risk factors by modifying your diet, such as eating lean protein and more whole foods. Research published by the Molecules journal suggests that the xanthophyll in fruits and vegetables may inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.
Did you know that your body contains xanthophyll? It is one of the things that gives color to the retina. However, your body does not make its own, so you must get this nutrient from the foods you eat. A study published by the European journal of nutrition says that the average consumption of about 1-2 milligrams may not be enough for you.
Without this beneficial nutrient, you could put your eye health at risk. Since xanthophyll is an essential antioxidant, lower levels can result in less protection against free radicals. Plus, you may be missing out on many other potential benefits.
How to get more xanthophyll in your diet
If you want to be healthy, cut out junk food and sugary snacks and stick to a nutritious diet plan as discussed with your primary healthcare provider. You should get most of your daily xanthophyll intake from fruits and vegetables.
Chances are, some of your favorite fruits, vegetables, and herbs are abundant in this nutrient as well, meaning you won’t need to modify your diet too much. Egg yolks are another excellent source of xanthophyll and protein, and they are also low in carbohydrates. Here are some tasty, whole foods for you to consider:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- All the colors of bell peppers
Wheat and other grains offer a significant amount of this nutrient to your diet. This list is not exhaustive, but it does represent some common fruits and vegetables that most people eat.
An article published by the BrightFocus Foundation lists the egg yolks at the top, the carotenoid content of which is about 89 percent xanthophyll. Corn tops the article’s vegetable list with 86 percent. However, the report mentions that you should go easy on eggs due to their cholesterol content.
What about supplements?
If you are concerned about not getting enough of this vital nutrient in your diet, there are many supplements on the market. However, the exact amount the body needs is not precise. An article published by the Public Interest Science Center recommends that you get your share of this antioxidant through a diet rich in plants.
The article also mentions that since xanthophyll is fat soluble (dissolved in fat), you need a certain amount of healthy fats with each meal to absorb it. Consider heart-healthy fats like those in vegetable oils, fish, and nuts. Avoid vegetable, corn, or canola oils, as they are high in trans and saturated fats.
Lutein creates a kaleidoscope of color in our world and on your plate. When you enjoy meals that include fresh fruits and vegetables, it is more likely to meet your daily needs. Not only are they delicious, but they can provide this carotenoid vital to your vision health and other benefits.