While there are many types of antioxidants, which Mary Purdy, MS, RD, nutrition and sustainability consultant at Big Bold Health, calls a family of plant-protective chemicals, one important group to be aware of is the carotenoids.
The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University describes carotenoids as a group of more than 750 natural pigments (in red, yellow, and orange) that plants and algae can synthesize. Fruits and vegetables contribute the largest amount of carotenoids to human diets and are one of the key players in offering us great antioxidant power.
Zeaxanthin Health Benefits
Purdy says that one of the most important things to know about zeaxanthin is that, like other members of the carotenoid family, it is converted to vitamin A in our bodies. While we often associate vitamin A with eye health (Purdy says research shows the antioxidant properties of carotenoids may protect against eyestrain, macular degeneration, and cataracts), it serves many other important purposes throughout the world. body. “Vitamin A is also essential for supporting immunity and preserving the integrity of our gut lining,” she says.
Research shows that carotenoids can help our bodies fight infection, as well as improve gene regulation and angiogenesis, a process that helps us better transport oxygen and nutrients to various tissues to promote healing and prevent heart disease. all. A comprehensive review of research conducted in 2021 found that zeaxanthin also appears to help protect against neurological disorders due to its ability to fight inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which may play a role in protecting against all sorts of other inflammatory conditions. , from allergies to chronic illnesses. health problems. More specifically, zeaxanthin has been found to protect against different types of cancer and osteoporosis, as well as other bone-related problems to keep us healthy and strong for years to come.
More specifically, zeaxanthin has been found to protect against different types of cancer and osteoporosis, as well as other bone-related problems to keep us healthy and strong for years to come.
Best Food Sources of Zeaxanthin
All of these impressive health benefits probably have you wondering what the best sources of the antioxidant zeaxanthin are. According to Purdy, zeaxanthin is found in several types of vegetables, such as orange and red bell peppers, yellow corn, cooked chives, and can also be found in certain fruits such as mangoes. Plus, you can find it in eggs and algae like the ever-popular spirulina and chlorella.
Zeaxanthin is found in various types of vegetables, such as orange and red bell peppers, yellow corn, cooked chives, and can also be found in certain fruits such as mango. Also, you can find zeaxanthin in eggs and algae.
“The use of chemicals to grow food can reduce carotenoid content, so buying ‘certified organic’ may be a good option,” says Purdy.
While Purdy hasn’t seen an exact recommendation for consuming zeaxanthin as an isolated compound, she notes that most research related to the nutrient indicates that the greatest benefits are found when consumed in conjunction with other carotenoids, micronutrients, protein, and healthy fats. . Purdy stresses that dietary fats are especially important for proper zeaxanthin absorption, as it’s a diverse diet full of fiber, omega-3 fats, and other delicious foods that help support a healthy gut, which will help your body absorb the nutrient.
Purdy stresses that dietary fats are especially important for proper zeaxanthin absorption, as it’s a diverse diet full of fiber, omega-3 fats, and other delicious foods that help support a healthy gut, which will help your body absorb the nutrient.
Interestingly, Purdy explains that carotenoid uptake can be affected by temperature, both positively and negatively. She says high-temperature processing methods might lower zeaxanthin concentration in raw foods, but might improve its bioavailability in others, so sticking with moderately hot food sources is a safe bet.
Some easy ways to up your zeaxanthin intake is to start your morning with scrambled eggs slow-cooked to perfection—bonus points if you also serve them with some sautéed bell peppers cooked in olive oil for a healthy fat pairing. You can also get double the antioxidant power by whipping up a batch of Mango Avocado Corn Salsa for a tasty and nutritious snack. You can always add a serving of chlorella or spirulina to your morning smoothie to give it some vibrant color and help you feel more vibrant too.