Foods With Lutein & Zeaxanthin

by Michele Turcotte, MS, RD

About Michele Turcotte, MS, RD

Michele Turcotte is a registered, licensed dietitian, and a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She has more than 12 years of experience in clinical and corporate settings, and has extensive experience in one-on-one diet counseling and meal planning. She has written freelance food and nutrition articles for Trouve Publishing Inc. since 2004.

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Overview

The disease-fighting compounds lutein and zeaxanthin belong to the carotenoid nutrient family -- one that also includes beta-carotene, a major source of vitamin A. They promote healthy eyesight and fight eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, reports a study published in the "American Journal of Epidemiology" in March 2001. Consuming 12 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin protects your eyes, according to the American Optometric Association.

Leafy Green Veggies

Many dark, leafy green vegetables are rich in the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin. Kale is among best food sources; providing 20.5 to 26.5 milligrams per cup, cooked. Other leafy greens that provide substantial amounts include cooked spinach, which offers 20.4 milligrams and collard greens, which provide 14.6 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin per cup, cooked. Cooked turnip greens round out the richest leafy green food sources of these phytochemicals, providing 12.2 milligrams per cup. Cooking increases the carotenoid content and availability. One cup of raw spinach, while still an excellent food source, offers substantially less lutein and zeaxanthin, 3.7 milligrams per cup. Romaine lettuce provides about 1.3 milligrams per cup.

Other Vegetables

Other vegetables, green and otherwise, are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, such as zucchini, a green variety of summer squash, broccoli, green peas, yellow sweet corn and carrots. One cup of cooked zucchini, with skin, provides 2.1 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin. All About Vision reports that 1 cup of cooked broccoli provides 1.7 milligrams. One cup of green peas, cooked, provides 2.2 milligrams. Yellow sweet corn and carrots are also good sources of these phytonutrients. One cup of yellow sweet corn, from canned, drained, provides about 1.6 milligrams and 1 cup of cooked carrots offers about 1.1 milligrams.

Fruits and Egg Yolks

Fruits and egg yolks are a food source of lutein and zeaxanthin, but offer much less of these phytochemicals than their leafy green vegetable counterparts. Japanese persimmons and tangerines or Mandarin oranges are good food sources of these phytochemicals, providing 1.4 milligrams and 0.5 milligrams per fruit, respectively. Other fruits that contain small amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin include kiwi fruits, California avocados, kumquats and apricots. Egg yolks are one of the few animal-derived foods that provide small amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin. Two large egg yolks offer approximately 0.3 milligrams.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.