You may have heard of zeaxanthin, especially when partnered with lutein, and you may be wondering what it is.
Or, you may have never even seen this interesting word before.
So what is it?
Zeaxanthin is one of three primary carotenoids found in the macula of the eye. Carotenoids are fat soluble yellow to red pigments found in many vegetables and plants, and they give brightly colored vegetables their color. This potent substance is what gives paprika and saffron their characteristic colors!
Zeaxanthin is the primary carotenoid within the central macula, while lutein hangs out around the perimeter. Within plants, zeaxanthin works to dispel damaging light rays that release increased levels of energy that can harm delicate plants. In the same way, it is thought that high concentrations of zeaxanthin and lutein in the eyes may help prevent damage from blue light exposure.
Zeaxanthin is thought to be incredibly beneficial for the eyes because it concentrates in the macula, specifically in the very center. There, it helps to prevent damaging blue light rays from wreaking havoc on the cells of the macula, the area of the retina (in the back of the eye) responsible for seeing in fine detail. The macula allows us to drive, read, write, recognize faces, and function during any other small detail task. Zeaxanthin is joined in the macula by carotenoids lutein and meso-zeaxanthin as well, and all function in much the same way to protect the cells of the eye.
These carotenoids appear to function as antioxidants in the body, acting alongside other antioxidants like Vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene. These antioxidants work to guard the eyes against oxidative damage from free radicals that can build up and destroy the cells of the eye, leading to diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and others.
There have been many studies showing that zeaxanthin, when partnered with lutein and a few select vitamins and minerals, can be beneficial in preventing the development of AMD. The most significant study to note is the AREDS2 study which demonstrated that those with early macular degeneration who took the studied supplement containing 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin daily for 5 years experienced a 10-25 percent reduction in the risk of AMD progression.
This is huge!
Zeaxanthin Foods | Foods With Zeaxanthin
Just like lutein, the best food sources of zeaxanthin include those with bright color. Green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greensand spinach are perfect sources that pack a big punch and are easy to incorporate into a smoothie or salad.
Paprika, saffron, and spirulina are also rich sources of zeaxanthin and can easily be added to various dishes.
Other great foods containing zeaxanthin include corn, orange pepper, kiwi fruit, zucchini, and other types of squash. How about making some roasted vegetables with dinner tonight?
There are so many great recipes that can ensure you're getting a good amount of zeaxanthin into your diet.
Top 3 Zeaxanthin Supplements
Supplements are a great way to make sure you're getting the right amount of zeaxanthin into your body, so we'll highlight a few we recommend here. Zeaxanthin is usually sourced from peppers for these supplements, but can also be extracted from marigolds and other sources.
1. HEYEDRATE LUTEIN AND ZEAXANTHIN- Maintains healthy macular pigment and protects the eyes from free radical damage with 20 mg Lutein and 1 mg Zeaxanthin. This new, simple, easy-to-use formula ensures that your eyes will be protected from blue light and oxidative damage, which can threaten your vision.
2. HEYEDRATE OCULAR HEALTH FORMULA - This formula is specifically for those with macular degeneration or for those desiring a more complex ocular formula for enhanced protection. This supplement protects the retina with Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Zinc, Copper, Selenium, Vitamin B-6, Folate, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Bilberry, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Grapeseed Extract, and L-Glutathione.
3. PURE ENCAPSULATIONS LUTEIN/ZEAXANTHIN- This hypoallergenic line of supplements contains 10 mg Lutein and 2 mg Zeaxanthin for overall eye protection. The simple formula is great for those who wish to ensure visual health for a lifetime.
There is no recommended daily allowance or intake of zeaxanthin or any of the carotenoids. The AREDS studies looked at 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin, and this amount is safe and often found in supplements. There are no known toxic effects of taking too much zeaxanthin. The most notable side effect of eating too many carotenoids is a yellowing of the skin, known as carotenemia, so if you love carrots you may notice this effect. This condition can also occur due to taking too high of a dose of carotenoids in supplement form, but the condition is reversible by cutting back on the amount you are consuming.
Zeaxanthin has so many great benefits for the eyes and vision that it's well worth looking into a supplement or ramping up your intake via food sources. The blue light being emitted from our cell phones, computers, and other devices is nothing to mess with, but at least you know you can protect yourself by increasing the carotenoids in your diet, protecting your eyes for a lifetime of great vision.