Healthy Foods That Are High In Lutein

Lutein is a yellow-to-orange colored pigment that's related to vitamin A. Lutein is concentrated in the retinas of your eyes, so it's a necessary component of healthy vision. It also works as an antioxidant to reduce the damage done by free radicals and may support healthy blood vessels. Several dark leafy green and yellow/orange vegetables are high in lutein.

Your body can't synthesize its own lutein, so you need to consume it in your diet. These 15 lutein-rich foods also offer other nutritious vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and, in most cases, fiber.

Benefits of Lutein

Lutein is particularly beneficial for eye health. Research shows that lutein can help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of age-related vision decline. It contains anti-inflammatory properties and may also improve cognitive functioning, lower cancer risks, and improve cardiovascular health.

High Lutein Foods

Several foods are high in lutein, including many fruits and vegetables. Foods that are dark green, yellow, or orange are typically highest in lutein.

  • Kale has a reputation as a health food for a reason. It contains 6447 mcg of lutein per cooked cup. Besides lutein, kale is rich in calcium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin K, and fiber. It's also low in calories—one cup of raw kale has only 8 calories.
  • Winter squash, which includes butternut, Hubbard, and acorn squash, is very high in lutein and vitamin A. These squashes are also rich in potassium and contain substantial amounts of several other vitamins and minerals. One cup of cooked butternut squash has 6.5 grams of fiber and about 80 calories.
  • Collards are rich in vitamins and minerals, including 11774 mcg of lutein per cooked cup. Besides lutein, beta-carotene, and vitamin A, collards are particularly high in calcium and magnesium. They're also super-rich in vitamin K and have plenty of vitamin C.
  • Yellow sweet corn is high in lutein, with 933.8 mcg per cup and potassium, plus it has some fiber and B vitamins. Popcorn is also high in lutein and fiber and is a whole grain—making it a nutritious snack, as long as it's not soaked in butter or topped with too much salt.
  • Spinach is another green leafy vegetable that's super good for you. It's rich in lutein with 20354 mcg per cooked cup and iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber. It's also low in calories—only 7 calories per cup of raw spinach leaves.
  • Swiss chard is yet another leafy green vegetable rich in lutein, containing 19276.3 mcg per cup. A 1-cup serving of chopped cooked chard has just 35 calories, but it's a good source of calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. 
  • Peas aren't the most exciting of vegetables, but they are nutrient-dense. Not only are they high in lutein, with 4148.8 per cup, they also offer magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, B-complex vitamins, and vitamin A.
  • Arugula (also known as "rocket") is another green leafy vegetable that's high in lutein, containing 711 per cup and just about every other vitamin and mineral. Arugula is super low in calories and is perfect for a salad base or wilted in a little bit of olive oil and garlic. 
  • Brussels sprouts are a good source of lutein with 2012.4 mcg per cup, and they also contain many other vitamins and several minerals. They're also high in dietary fiber and have only 56 calories per cup.
  • Broccoli rabe (also called broccoli raab or rapini) is high in lutein, with 1430.6 mcg per cup, vitamin A, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K. It's also a good source of fiber and very low in calories—about 9 calories per cup, raw.
  • Pumpkin's rich orange flesh is super high in lutein, containing 2484.3 mcg per cooked cup. It's also high in potassium. Pumpkin also isn't high in calories unless you add a lot of sugar with 1 cup of plain mashed pumpkin offering about 50 calories.
  • Eggs are a fantastic source of lutein with 251.5 mcg each. Lutein gives the yolk its yellow color. Eggs are also a good source of protein.
  • Sweet potatoes are rich in lutein, with 1053 mcg per 100 grams, vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium, manganese, vitamin C, and fiber.
  • Carrots have been rumored to help you see better, with good reason. They are high in lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin C, plus they're a good source of several B vitamins, potassium, and manganese. A 1-cup serving of sliced carrots has about 50 calories.
  • Asparagus is high in lutein with 1387.8 mcg per cooked cup, and many other nutrients, including calcium and magnesium. It's also an excellent source of vitamins A, K, and C. Asparagus is low in calories too—1 cup of cooked asparagus has about 40 calories.

Lutein Supplements

If you have certain medical needs or conditions, your doctor may recommend that you take a lutein supplement. Lutein is often paired with zeaxanthin, another antioxidant that's important for healthy vision. There is not a recommended daily intake for lutein and zeaxanthin but research suggests that lutein supplementation at 10 mg/day and zeaxanthin at 2 mg/day can provide health benefits.

As part of the Age-Related Eye Disease study, researchers found that large doses of lutein, combined with the zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and copper, may help slow down the progression of macular degeneration (MD) and preserve vision in people who have early MD.

Evidence that lutein can prevent or treat cataracts, however, is inconclusive according to a 2018 study, and more research is needed.

What Is Zeaxanthin?

Zeaxanthin is a dietary carotenoid that also plays a role in eye health. Zeaxanthin and lutein are often taken together because they are found together in nature and work synergistically for eye health.

How Much Lutein Do You Need?

The USDA does not provide a daily recommended intake for lutein. Recommendations are instead based on what is typically utilized in research which is around 10 mg of lutein per day. Up to 20 mg is deemed safe for adults, but no upper limit of too much has been determined. However, consuming a large number of carotenoids can cause yellowing of the skin.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Lutein Good For?

Lutein is concentrated in the retinas of your eyes and is a necessary component of healthy vision. It is also an antioxidant that reduces the damage done by free radicals and may support healthy blood vessels. Lutein is also known to support brain health.

What Are the Side Effects of Taking Lutein?

There are no known side effects of lutein. It is wise to speak to your doctor before taking any supplement.

How Much Lutein Should I Consume Per Day?

The typical consumption of lutein is 1–2 mg per day. Evidence shows that lutein is safe in doses up to 20 mg per day.

A Word From Verywell

Lutein can have several benefits, so consuming healthy foods high in this important antioxidant can be beneficial. While supplements are available, the best source of this substance is to each a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables and eggs. The foods that contain lutein are rich in many other nutrients that boost health.

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