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

Eggs: Good or Bad?

Over the years, eggs have gotten a bad rap as cholesterol no-nos. But should you totally ditch them in your diet?

The Top 5 Foodborne Illnesses, and How To Avoid Them

I’ve been teaching and preaching about food safety for over 12 years and am glad to see more focus put on this issue. These days the food supply is brimming with food bugs – luckily, we can do something about it. A newly released study from the University of Florida found that the top 14 food microorganisms kill more than 1,300 people each year and cost over 14 million dollars in healthcare costs. Let’s stop these bad boys from making us sick (and costing us a fortune)— read up on the top 5 and what you can do to stop them.

Reading List: The Biggest Loser Resort, Top 10 Riskiest Foods & Gourmet Folds

In this week’s nutrition news: Healthy foods top the risky food list, study shows nutrition info on menus doesn’t change calories ordered, and say farewell to Gourmet magazine.

Lentils with Fried Eggs — Meatless Monday

Try Food Network Magazine's easy recipe for Lentils with Fried Eggs for a quick Meatless Monday dinner.

50 Egg Ideas

Egg lovers, rejoice! Here's a recipe for every Sunday until this time next year from Food Network Magazine.

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

These step-by-step tips will teach you how to make fried eggs, whether you like them sunny-side up or over easy.

Speedy Baked Eggs with Salsa Verde — Meatless Monday

Make it a breakfast-for-dinner night with these easy, cheesy baked eggs.

Egg Salad, Lightened Up

Egg salad can be high in fat, cholesterol and calories but with a few simple tweaks you can make light and delicious versions of this comfort food classic.