Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid compound responsible for giving paprika, corn, and saffron their unique color. Scientists have recently discovered that Zeaxanthin is linked to some powerful eye health benefits.
What is Zeaxanthin?
Plants use carotenoid alcohols for coloring. Zeaxanthin is one carotenoid alcohol produced by micro-organisms in various plants. It’s responsible for giving paprika, corn, saffron, wolfberries, and other plants their unique yellowish color.
The word “zeaxanthin” comes from the Greek word for yellow.
Zeaxanthin and the Eye
For years, we knew zeaxanthin as a natural coloring agent in food. Today, however, researchers have discovered that zeaxanthin is one of two main xanthophyll carotenoids contained within the retina of the eye (lutein is the other one).
Some researchers have suggested that eating more zeaxanthin in your diet can improve your eye health and reduce your risk for various ocular diseases.
We don’t know the exact link between zeaxanthin and eye health. Researchers first developed a connection between zeaxanthin and eye health through observational studies: researchers noticed that populations that consumed diets of foods rich with zeaxanthin also experienced reduced risk of eye problems – including age-related macular degeneration.
The results were published in something called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study. That 2001 study famously measured how different supplements affected eye health.
The study determined that people who already had high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their diet did not improve their eye health through zeaxanthin supplementation. Those who were lutein/zeaxanthin deficient, however, were observed to gain a protective effect against eye disease by using zeaxanthin supplements.
Think you might be at risk of zeaxanthin deficiencies? The study determined that those with high oxidative stress, which comes from poor nutrition and heavy smoking, among other causes, are at a higher risk of zeaxanthin deficiency.
Ultimately, zeaxanthin is thought to provide all of the following benefits to your eye:
— Reduced glare (lutein and zeaxanthin both filter high-energy blue wavelength light)
— Higher antioxidant levels in the eye help protect and maintain healthy cells
— Reduced risk of cataracts (cataracts are caused by oxidation of the crystalline lens in your eye, and the antioxidants in zeaxanthin help protect this lens)
How to Get Zeaxanthin
One of the unique things about zeaxanthin is that the body cannot synthesize it on its own. That means all of your zeaxanthin needs to come from the foods you eat.
Fortunately for you and anyone else who cares about their eye health, getting your daily recommended supply of zeaxanthin is relatively easy. It’s one of the most common carotenoid alcohols found in foods, which means you probably already get enough from the foods you eat.
There’s no official established daily value for zeaxanthin, although research seems to suggest approximately 2mg per day.
Some of the best sources of zeaxanthin include:
— Eggs (0.3 Mg In 2 Large Eggs)
— Spinach (14.6 Mg In One Cup Of Cooked Spinach)
— Goji Berry, Also Known As Wolfberries
— Kale (23.8 Mg In One Cup Of Cooked Kale)
— Turnip Greens (12.2 Mg In One Cup Of Cooked Turnip Greens)
— Collard Greens (14.6 Mg In One Cup Of Cooked Collards)
— Romaine Lettuce (1.3 Mg In One Cup Of Raw Lettuce)
— Broccoli (1.6 Mg In One Cup Of Cooked Broccoli)
— Corn (2.2 Mg In One Cup Of Canned Or Cooked Rice)
— Garden Peas
— Swiss Chard
— Brussels Sprouts
Basically, if you like eating green vegetables, then you should already be getting more than enough zeaxanthin in your daily diet.
If you don’t like any of the above foods, however, or are worried about your zeaxanthin intake, then you better start liking them because there are no zeaxanthin supplements on the market today. Food safety organizations, including the European Food Safety Authority, have declared there’s not enough evidence supporting zeaxanthin as a nutritional supplement, so zeaxanthin supplements are virtually impossible to find.