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

Nutrient to Know: Chlorogenic Acid

If you’re a coffee drinker, you may be getting plenty of this potent antioxidant – find out why it’s good for you.

Wine Varietals to Know

With our glossary in mind, let's dig deeper into the big six grape varietals.

Wine Tasting Terms to Know

Swirl your wine, breathe deeply, take a taste, and think about what comes to mind. Here is what to look for when tasting wine.

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Bottled Coffee Drinks

Although a plain cup of java runs about 50 calories, many brands add ingredients that can make you think twice before sipping. Here are four things coffee lovers should be aware of.

The Right Way to Know When Your Steak is Done Cooking

Don't rely on tricks or gimmicks — all you need is a thermometer to nail steak every time.

7 Salads That Know How to Celebrate Summer Fruit

Sweet strawberries. Juicy peaches. Luscious mango. If you're looking for fresh ways to update a summer salad, prime-time fruits are an excellent place to start.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Cheese (Plus 10 Cheesy Recipes)

Is cheese a staple ingredient of your menus? Here are some nutrition tips, a couple insights and, of course, some healthy cheese recipes.

Everything You Need to Know About Thanksgiving Turkey

Save this link: It's everything you need to know about the big bird from Food Network Magazine.

How to Know When Your Turkey Is Done

Say goodbye to serving a dry turkey on Thanksgiving. Use these tips to ensure you cook the bird perfectly on the big day.