Lutein is an important carotenoid and is the pigment produced by plants that give fruits and vegetables a yellow to reddish colour. Lutein is a powerful antioxidant that defends the body against unstable molecules called free radicals. In excess, free radicals can damage cells in the body, contribute to ageing and lead to the progression of diseases such as heart disease or cancers.
Lutein works to protect the eyes from free radical damage. As the eyes require a lot of oxygen, this, in turn, promotes the production of harmful oxygen-free radicals. Lutein cancels out these free radicals, so they can no longer damage the cells of the eye.
Lutein (and the antioxidant zeaxanthin) are the only dietary carotenoids that accumulate in the retina, particularly the macula region, which is located at the back of your eye and is essential for vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin work as important antioxidants in this area. It’s thought that a reduction of these antioxidants over time can impair eye health.
Lutein (and zeaxanthin) also act as natural sunblock by absorbing excess light energy, which helps protect the eyes from harmful blue light.
Currently, there is not enough evidence to work out how much lutein we need.
Foods that contain lutein include dark-green vegetables – spinach and broccoli – as well as egg yolks, kiwifruit, and grapes.
Recipe: Super Green Soup with Spinach and Broccoli
Last modified: August 1, 2022