Lutein And Zeaxanthin: Food Sources, Benefits, And Side Effects

Written by Pathik Joshi

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two important antioxidants found in various fruits and vegetables. They have been found to fight chronic illnesses and promote human health. In this post, we will discuss these two power compounds in greater detail.

What Are Lutein And Zeaxanthin?

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two types of carotenoids. Carotenoids are compounds that give foods their characteristic color. They act as antioxidants and play a vital role in several bodily functions, including promoting eye and skin health (1), (2), (3).

Lutein and zeaxanthin are primarily found in the macula of the human eye. They are the xanthophylls that play different roles in the biological systems – as important structural molecules in cell membranes, as short-wavelength light filters, and as keepers of the redox balance.

Both these antioxidants have a similar structure and provide a range of health benefits. However, they are most popular for their beneficial effects on human eyes.

Which Foods Are Rich In Lutein And Zeaxanthin?

Below is a list of food items rich in the antioxidants.

FoodAmount of Lutein & Zeaxanthin in 100 g
Kale (cooked)19.7 mg
Winter Squash (cooked(1.42 mg
Collards (cooked)10.9 mg
Yellow sweet corn (canned)1.05 mg
Spinach (cooked)11.31 mg
Swiss chard (cooked)11.01 mg
Green Peas (cooked)2.59 mg
Arugula (raw)3.55 mg
Brussels Sprouts (cooked1.29 mg
Broccoli rabe (cooked)1.68 mg
Pumpkin (cooked)1.01 mg
Egg Yolks fresh (raw)1.1 mg
Sweet Potatoes leaves (cooked)2.63 mg
Carrots (raw)0.36 mg
Asparagus (cooked)0.77 mg
Mustard greens (cooked)5.96 mg
Beet greens (cooked)1.82 mg
Dandelion greens (cooked)3.40 mg
Garden Cress (cooked)8.40 mg
Turnip greens (cooked)8.44 mg

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database

What Are The Health Benefits Of Lutein And Zeaxanthin?

1. Promote Eye Health


A diet with a good amount of lutein and zeaxanthin increases the concentration of macular pigments, preventing the onset of age-related macular degeneration.

Both these antioxidants are concentrated at the central fovea of the macula and form the macular pigments. They are known to protect the macular region from photo-oxidative injury. They achieve this by scavenging the reactive oxygen species and filtering blue light.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are also known to improve macular pigment optical density, visual acuity (clarity of vision), and contrast sensitivity (visual ability to distinguish an object from its background) in patients with early AMD (4), (5). An increase in the intake of these carotenoids may be protective against late AMD (6).

Studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin may also reduce the risk of cataract (7), (8). Cataract (clouding of the lens of the eye) is another major vision disorder affecting the elderly. Though cataracts mostly occur due to age, they also are caused by oxidative stress, diabetes, exposure to toxic elements/pollutants, radiation, and as a side effect of certain medications (including corticosteroids).

2. Benefit The Skin


Lutein and zeaxanthin exhibit powerful antioxidant properties, which help promote skin health. Much like the eyes, our skin also suffers damage due to oxidative stress, UV exposure, and blue light.

These can cause DNA damage and alter collagen turnover (a type of protein responsible for skin structure and elasticity). This can result in tanning due to the overproduction of melanin and may even increase the risk of skin cancer (9).

The antioxidant properties of lutein and zeaxanthin also help improve the overall skin tone and texture (10), (11).

These are the two major benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin. Apart from the many food sources, one can also experience the goodness of these antioxidants through supplements.

A Note On Lutein And Zeaxanthin Supplements

Supplementation for these twin carotenoids has been found to be as effective as consuming them through diet. However, getting them from natural sources, like green leafy vegetables, fruits, eggs, and others, is preferable.

But getting enough of these from diet alone may get difficult, especially if one is busy with their work commitments. If this is the case, supplementation can help. It is an effective method to ensure adequate intake of these powerful antioxidants.

The market is flooded with a host of supplements. If you are wondering how to choose the right one, the following factors can help:

  1. The actual amount of lutein and zeaxanthin in them
  2. Cost
  3. Comparison with the formulations mentioned in the two clinical studies, AREDS and AREDS2 (AREDS stands for Age Related Eye Disease Study) (12)

The best approach, though, would be to ask your doctor to prescribe the right supplement.

How Much Of Lutein And Zeaxanthin Should You Take Daily?

Currently, there is no set Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for lutein and zeaxanthin. However, research has found that supplementing with 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin could be beneficial for overall health (including that of the eye and skin) (13).

What Are The Side Effects Associated With Lutein And Zeaxanthin?

There is no concrete research here. Some sources say that taking up to 20 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin is safe. Ensure you check with your doctor.

Studies show that excess intake of carotenoids may lead to carotenoderma (a yellow-orange skin discoloration). This condition is not harmful and usually subsides by reducing the intake of carotenoids (14).

There are no known toxic side effects of taking too much lutein and zeaxanthin, though. However, there is no evidence available to determine the safety of their supplementation in children and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Hence, please check with your doctor.


Lutein and zeaxanthin help prevent age-related eye disorders and may promote skin health. Most other benefits of these antioxidants are still being studied. Start including the foods rich in these compounds in your diet, and you will be welcoming a healthier life.
Do you have any other questions? Feel free to share with us by leaving a comment in the box below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 20 mg of lutein a day too much?

Studies have found that taking up to 20 mg of lutein every day is safe. However, as per studies, an intake of 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin is adequate for their eye and skin benefits. Moreover, intake of 20 mg of lutein was not found to be more effective than 10 mg of lutein intake (15).

Does cooking destroy lutein and zeaxanthin?

No, it doesn’t. Although the heat decreases the carotenoid content, it may enhance the bioavailability of the carotenoids (15).

Which fruits are high in lutein?

Kiwi fruit, red seedless grapes, oranges, ripe mangoes, green grapes, yellow squash, red apples, dried apricots, ripe papaya, etc. are good sources of lutein (16).


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Pathik Joshi is a Certified Nutrition and Fitness Consultant from INFS. He is also a content writer and public speaker. Pathik is an alumnus of Ravenshaw University, Cuttack. He has been working as a freelance Nutrition and Fitness Consultant, serving online and offline clients. He posts evidence-based nutrition and fitness related articles on his Instagram and Facebook handles regularly. In his spare time, he works on improving his deadlift strength and technique, reads more about nutrition and fitness, and likes going on long solo bike rides.