Lock in Lutein
Scientists all agree: Lutein is an antioxidant that may help protect cells from damage and has the ability to filter some of the damaging light from the sun.
Lutein contains carotenoids, which have shown beneficial effects in reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease and eye disease, and in enhancing the body's immune response.
Lutein and Cataracts
Lutein is the carotenoid found most abundantly in the eye and 58 percent of eye doctors surveyed believe that lutein is the nutrient that best supports long term eye health.
We know that lutein is present in both the lens and the macular region of the eye -- that is, the eye tissues responsible for central vision. Lutein is the antioxidant that forms the yellow pigment in the retina of the eye, where it has the ability to filter out some of the damaging light from the sun. In a sense, lutein acts like built-in sunglasses!
Women who consume more lutein (and its cousin, zeaxanthin) have a lower risk of cataracts. Researchers tracked more than 35,000 women who were enrolled in the Women's Health Study. Those who consumed the most lutein and zeaxanthin (they averaged 6,700 micrograms a day) had an 18 percent lower risk of cataracts over the next 10 years than those who consumed the least.
Why is lutein important in our diet?
Simply put, lutein is an antioxidant that appears to quench or reduce harmful free radicals in various parts of the body. Free radicals can play a role in a variety of chronic diseases.
Because the body is unable to naturally manufacture lutein, humans rely on their consumption of lutein rich foods or lutein supplements to maintain optimal levels of lutein.
The major dietary sources of lutein in are spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, oranges and orange juice, carrots, celery, and greens. Data suggest that incorporating these foods into the diet may help reduce the risk of developing colon cancer.
Studies have shown that the amount of lutein in the macula can be changed based on the level of lutein supplied in the diet. Dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are some of the highest lutein-containing foods. Foods with smaller amounts of lutein include broccoli, corn, romaine lettuce, peas, zucchini, oranges and tangerines.
How much lutein do we need? Research suggests a minimum of 6 to 10 mg per day of lutein from dark green leafy vegetables and other sources is necessary to realize lutein's health benefits. Even if you eat a balanced diet, you'd need a large bowl of fresh spinach to get about 6 mg of lutein. Most Americans just don't consume enough foods rich in lutein.
Lutein is widely available in a variety of nutritional supplements and fortified foods and beverages for people wanting to supplement their dietary intake of lutein, making their diet even better for their eyes and skin.
See also: Eggs: Better Than We Thought
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