Nutrient to Know: Lutein

Every wondered what makes spinach green? Or egg yolks yellow? The answer: Lutein. This antioxidant doesn’t just add color to your groceries -- lutein has numerous health benefits for your body, inside and out.
Related To:

Ever wondered what makes spinach green? Or egg yolks yellow? The answer: Lutein. This antioxidant doesn’t just add color to your favorite foods; lutein gives a boost to your body, too -- inside and out.

What Is It?

Similar to beta-carotene, lutein is a type of naturally occurring pigment called a carotenoid, which has various beneficial functions throughout the body. Lutein specifically impacts the health of the eyes, skin and heart. Just as beta-carotene creates the orange and red colors in fresh foods (like carrots and peppers), lutein makes foods yellow and green (like those egg yolks and spinach).

Why Is It Good For You?

Among other benefits, lutein keeps your eyesight strong. Getting enough in your diet can help reduce the risk of vision loss as you age -- known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Lutein also helps maintain your skin’s elasticity and hydration and has been linked to preventing plaque build up in your arteries, which is very important for a healthy heart. Foods in the carotenoid family may also help protect against breast cancer.

Where Can I Find It?

Leafy greens (e.g. spinach, kale and collards), corn, broccoli and papaya are all good places to go for lutein. In addition to its plant sources, this antioxidant also comes from animal sources such as egg yolks. Even though one egg has considerably less lutein than a cup of kale (see below), research indicates that the our body's better use egg’s lutein -– a good reasons to eat both!

USDA guidelines recommend 4 to 6 milligrams of lutein per day. According to the Lutein Information Bureau, the average American only consumes between 1 and 2 milligrams per day. Research, meanwhile, says we should get 6 to 10 milligrams a day to reap lutein's proper healthy benefits. What's that mean? Eat up!

Here are some example amounts of lutein found in common foods:
1 cup raw kale = 26.5 milligrams
1 cup cooked kale = 23.7 milligrams
1 cup cooked spinach = 20.4 milligrams
1 cup cooked green peas = 4.1 milligrams
1 cup cooked corn = 1.5 milligrams
1 cup romaine lettuce = 1.1 milligrams
1 cup cooked broccoli = 0.8 milligrams
1 large egg = 0.2 milligrams
Keep Reading

Next Up

Nutrition News: Is Eating Egg Yolks as Bad as Smoking?

By now you’ve probably heard the rumor that eating egg yolks is as bad for your heart as smoking. We just had to weigh in on this!

10 Healthy Foods Under $3

It’s a common misconception that healthy foods have to carry a high price tag. Here are 10 foods teeming with nutrients that won’t bust your budget.

6 Foods to Fuel Your Brain

Instead of overdosing on coffee or jittery energy drinks, here are some fresh foods that can help keep your mind focused -- especially into any of those late-night study sessions.

Tips for Making Perfect Poached Eggs

Find 1000s of Food Network's best recipes from top chefs, shows and experts. And watch videos demonstrating recipe prep and cooking techniques.

Celebrate National Deviled Egg Day with These Egg-cellent Ideas

Check out some of our favorite ideas for easy deviled egg inspiration.

How to Poach Eggs: A Step-by-Step Guide

Egg poaching takes practice. But with these easy steps, you'll get the hang of it in no time.

Croque Madame Sandwich — Most Popular Pin of the Week

It's no wonder Alex's next-level ham-and-cheese sandwich is this week's Most Popular Pin of the Week. It's layered with creamy bechamel sauce and finished with a golden egg.

Top 5 Quick Breakfast Ideas

Think you don’t have time for breakfast? Think again. These healthy, well-balanced quick bites are ready in 10 minutes or less.

7 Foods With the Most Omega-3s

Here’s a refresher on why omega-3s do the body good and some wonderful recipes for omega 3-loaded salmon, tuna and eggs to boost your intake.

Weekly Bits: Budget-Friendly Fare

This week, readers shared some favorite dishes that your wallet and your waistlines will love. Plus, find out one reader's trick for cutting the fat in creamy soups.