Maintain Your Eye Health with Zeaxanthin
You’ve probably heard about the phytonutrient beta-carotene, but have you heard of zeaxanthin? (Pronounced zee-uh-zan-thin).
Zeaxanthin belongs to the carotenoid family of phytonutrients! It is found in dark green vegetables, orange and yellow fruits, and egg yolks. Zeaxanthin and lutein are the two phytonutrients you can find in the eye, thus they are associated with eye health.
First things first though, we need to talk about how to get the benefits of zeaxanthin. Nutrients—including vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals—can often be isolated or synthetic. These don’t even come close to natural nutrients in their whole food state; they are not the same. We believe in the synergistic effect of all phytonutrients. Read our helpful resource about how they are different and why natural nutrients, as opposed to isolated or synthetic, are safer and much more beneficial.
Ever heard carrots are good for your eyes? Zeaxanthin gives paprika, saffron, and corn their pigment. It has also been found in cantaloupe, pasta, carrots, peppers, fish, eggs, dark leafy greens, peas, summer squash, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, and pistachios.
Consumption of such carotenoid-rich foods have been linked with lower risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, the leading causes of blindness.
Zeaxanthin contributes to good eye health. According to Nutrients, it protects the macula from blue light damage, improves visual acuity, and scavenges harmful reactive oxygen species.
The Annual Review of Nutrition explains that zeaxanthin is most abundant in the macula’s central fovea and retina of the eye. There’s about 10 percent in the ciliary body and 75 percent in the active lens tissue of the epithelial/cortical lens layers. The ciliary body is the tissue responsible for aqueous humor formation; any defects in this contributes to the development of glaucoma.
Carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin of the macula are responsible for absorbing anywhere between 40 and 90 percent of blue light, which protects the retina from damage. They also act as antioxidants, reducing oxidative damage by absorbing light.
Carotenoids might also play a role in cell communication. Zeaxanthin is also found in the inner plexiform layer, neural retina, and brain. It has been suggested that exposure to zeaxanthin (as well as lutein) in fetal life and infancy is important for visual development and vision throughout life. Many carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, are present in breast milk.
Finally, zeaxanthin (and lutein) may help prevent glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Glaucoma causes optic neuropathy and degeneration of retinal ganglion cells, which comes with less visual sensitivity. It can lead to irreversible blindness. High intake of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids has been associated with lower incidence of glaucoma. So be sure to eat more of those plant foods containing zeaxanthin! In diabetic mice, foods containing zeaxanthin mitigated retinal abnormalities and protected against oxidative damage. Therefore, increased intake of zeaxanthin (and/or lutein) could lower the risk of glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
The Last Bite
Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid that may improve eye health. By eating more of the foods that contain it, you can reduce your risk of macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. Foods rich in zeaxanthin include dark leafy greens, eggs, cantaloupe, carrots, peas, summer squash, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, and more! And eat your Balance of Nature!