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Are You Getting Enough Lutein and Zeaxanthin for Eye Health?

by Caroline Fontein

There’s a lot of hype out there about what supplements can and can’t do. But when it comes to lutein and zeaxanthin, seeing really is believing.

Maintaining healthy levels of these superstar nutrients may be key for good eye health.*

Lutein and Zeaxanthin can help improve your visual performance, reduce daytime disability glare, support your eyes’ ability to see distant objects more clearly and act as a natural filter to high-energy blue light (like from your smartphone, laptop and sunlight).*

Both are found naturally in your eyes, but they’re not something your body makes. Instead, they must come from your diet.

But when’s the last time you thought about eating (let alone pronouncing) the right foods to get your daily dose of lutein and zeaxanthin?

You’re not alone. It’s estimated that the average daily intake of these nutrients in the United States is far below the suggested amount to benefit eye health.

So, here’s what you need to know to help optimize your oculi.

First, let’s start with the basics:

What are Lutein and Zeaxanthin?

Lutein (pronounced loo-teen) and zeaxanthin (pronounced zee-uh-zan-thin) are carotenoids that play an important role in good eye health.* (Don’t worry, we explain what carotenoids are below.)

These carotenoids are highly concentrated in the macula, the part of your retina responsible for fine visual activities. Your retina is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of your eye. The concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin is so high here, that they’re visible as a dark yellow spot called the retinal macular pigment (MP).

The amount of these carotenoids in the retina is measured as macular pigment optical density (MPOD). Emerging science suggests that the thicker and denser the MPOD, the better your vision is in terms of sight, glare recovery, bright light sensitivity, contrast sensitivity and visual processing speed.

What are carotenoids?

Carotenoids are a class of phytonutrients found in the cells of many plants, algae and bacteria. There are more than 600 carotenoids found in nature, and approximately 20 - 30 have been identified in human blood and tissues. However, lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids that accumulate in the eye.

This class of phytonutrients is also responsible for the bright red, yellow and orange hues in plants, fruits and vegetables. (To note: At SmartyPants, we source our lutein and zeaxanthin, Lutemax 2020®, from marigold flowers.)

But there’s more to these vibrant colors than meets the eye.

Carotenoids help play an important role in plant health. When you eat foods containing carotenoids, you can get protective health benefits too!

The science behind sourcing lutein and zeaxanthin at SmartyPants

How do lutein and zeaxanthin work and what are the health benefits?

These important nutrients have many health benefits due to their ability to act as scavengers for reactive oxygen species (aka free radicals) and to bind with physiological proteins in humans. Free radicals can compromise the integrity of cells and cause cell damage.

Health benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin:

  • Support the eyes’ ability to see distant objects more clearly*
  • Support fast-acting retinal response*
  • Support rapid increase in macular pigment density*
  • Promote healthy eye function against high-energy blue light like from your smartphone, laptop and natural sunlight*
  • Support visual function under bright light conditions*
  • Help eyes recover faster from bright light exposure*
  • Improve contrast sensitivity* Safe and natural support for cognitive function*
  • May protect the brain from free radical damage*
  • May provide antioxidant protection for the brain*
*These statements have not been evaluated  by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Where do lutein and zeaxanthin come from?

You can get lutein and zeaxanthin from the foods you eat, especially vegetables and fruit. However, only about 1 in 10 Americans actually get enough fruits or vegetables in their diets on a daily basis. At SmartyPants, we include these nutrients in our multifunctional supplements to help fill those nutritional gaps. Call us visionary.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are the most common xanthophylls (class of oxygen-containing carotenoid pigments) in dark green leafy vegetables, with kale containing the highest amount. Yellow-orange fruits and vegetables also contain these nutrients, but the amounts are not as high.

Foods that contain lutein and zeaxanthin include:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Lettuce
  • Egg yolks - Thought to provide a highly bioavailable source of lutein due to their natural fat content.
  • Einkorn wheat
  • Khorasan wheat 
  • Durum wheat 
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Pistachio

Which SmartyPants formulas contain lutein and zeaxanthin?

You can find these superstar ingredients in our Teen Formulas and our Masters Formula, Women 50+ .

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Caroline Fontein