Kale Is High in Lutein and Zeaxanthin, Powerful Nutrients that Protect the Eyes
One of the most common consequences of aging is that eyesight gets worse.
Fortunately, there are several nutrients that can help prevent this from happening.
Two of the main ones are lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoid antioxidants that are found in large amounts in kale, and some other foods.
Nicknamed “the eye vitamin,” lutein is a type of carotenoid antioxidant that is most well-known for protecting eye health.
Many studies have shown that people who eat enough lutein and zeaxanthin have a much lower risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two very common eye disorders
What does lutein do for your eyes?
• The antioxidant abilities of lutein help fight free radical damage caused by blue light or sun exposure, a poor diet, and other factors that increase the risk of developing age-related vision loss or disorders. These include problems like macular degeneration and cataracts.
• In the process, antioxidants like lutein protect healthy cells while halting the growth of malignant cells.
• Within the eyes, one of the most important functions of the lens is to collect and focus light on the retina. That is exactly why the lens needs to remain “clear” and free from the cloudiness that is indicative of cataracts. The major reason the lens becomes cloudy is damage due to oxidation. This is why we need antioxidants to help neutralize free radicals.
• Even in people who have existing eye damage, including plenty of lutein in their diets can help stop the condition from progressing and further damaging vision.
This eye vitamin isn’t just beneficial for older adults — taking preventative measures is the real key to preserving your vision and eye health. Both older and younger people should consume plenty of lutein in order to reduce the risk of oxidative damage that can lead to disorders down the road.
Although carotenoids are extremely important for vision and your eyes, their benefits don’t stop there. Aside from protecting eyes, lutein uses also include helping prevent skin disorders, several types of cancer including colon or breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and risk factors associated with coronary heart disease.
Lutein vitamin is considered a natural treatment for macular degeneration symptoms (AMD), which is considered the most common cause of blindness among older adults. Estimates show that more than 25 million people worldwide are affected by age-related macular degeneration or cataracts, especially people aged 55 and older living in industrialized Western nations. Sadly, the incidence of AMD is expected to triple by 2025, according to the American Optometric Association.
Lutein protects the eyes by filtering out a percentage of damaging short-wavelength UV light that negatively affects delicate parts of the eyes, such as the retina (the macula). Research done at Harvard University has found that supplementing with lutein daily can lower the risk for macular degeneration.
Similarly, other studies show that higher dietary intakes of zeaxanthin and lutein along with other natural antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin E, are associated with a significantly decreased risk of cataract formation. While the research is still in its early stages, taking lutein three times weekly for up to two years has been shown to improve vision in older people who already have cataracts.
Other benefits of lutein for eye health include:
• helping reduce eye fatigue, glare, and light sensitivity
• helping keep the lens and retina at appropriate densities
• strengthening eye tissue
• and ¬helping vision be more acute
Helps Protect Skin Health
In addition to being found within the pigments of our eyes, carotenoids are also present within the skin. To preserve skin health and fight skin cancer, lutein helps filter high-energy wavelengths of visible light, which slows down the rate of oxidative stress. Some animal studies show evidence that lutein offers significant protection against light-induced skin damage, such as signs of aging and potentially skin cancer.
Can Help Lower Diabetes Risk
According to some animal studies, higher levels of carotenoids within the blood are linked with fewer problems controlling blood sugar and a lower risk for diabetes or related complications. A 2009 study conducted on diabetic rats found that supplementing with lutein and DHA (a crucial type of omega-3 fatty acid) helped normalize all diabetes-induced biochemical modifications.
Compared to the control group, diabetic rats taking the supplements experienced lower oxidative stress rates and less damage done to the retina of the eyes, despite being under hyperglycemic conditions.
Might Help Lower Risk of Cancer
Some evidence shows that people who obtain more lutein from their diets experience lower rates of breast, colon, cervical, and lung cancers. While we don’t know exactly how lutein and cancer formation is tied just yet, correlational studies have shown that adults with higher levels of lutein in the blood experience a reduced risk of developing several forms of common cancers. This includes a 2018 study in which researchers concluded: “Dietary lutein supplementation may be a promising alternative and/or adjunct therapeutic candidate against breast cancer.”
Lutein may act as a natural cancer treatment because of the fact that foods rich in lutein (like leafy greens and citrus fruits) also provide other beneficial antioxidants and nutrients that lower disease-causing inflammation and oxidative stress. However, at this time, more research is still needed to help us fully understand the effects of carotenoids on cancer, along with immune, hormonal and cardiovascular health, independent of other nutrients that are found in fruits and vegetables.
Can Help Maintain Heart Health
Some observational studies show that xanthophyll carotenoids, including lutein, can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Just like with the previously mentioned studies that show potential cancer-protective effects of this carotenoid, we aren’t exactly sure yet how it improves heart health. Because it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it seems that it would benefit heart health by lowering inflammation, which is an underlying cause of coronary heart disease.
Studies done by the University of Southern California suggest that low levels of lutein within the blood might contribute to the thickening of artery walls. This raises the risk for arteriosclerosis development and clogging of the carotid arteries that can lead to heart attacks. USC’s observational studies show that people with the highest levels of lutein in the blood experience less plaque build-up in the arteries, while the opposite is also true: The fewer lutein-rich plant foods someone eats, the more clogged their arteries seem to become. Another convincing factor is that after the researchers tested effects of the carotenoid on human arteries that were removed during surgery, fewer white cells were present within the arteries after lutein supplementation compared to controls, suggesting that less inflammation and clogging occurred.
SUMMARY Kale is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that have been linked to a drastically reduced risk of macular degeneration and cataracts and also have a lot of other health benefits, so it is a good idea to include them in your diet and kale is a great source.
Look out for Today's Kale recipe.
KALE SCRAMBLE BREAKFAST BOWL
PREP 5 mins COOK 9 mins TOTAL 14 mins
Eat kale not because it’s trendy, but because it’s delicious and exceptionally nutritious. And it’s memorable when paired with scrambled eggs in this breakfast bowl.
· 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
· 120g Organic Green Kale
· 1/4 tsp sea salt
· 3 eggs
· 2 Lemon Wedge
1 Heat the oil in a medium or large (PFOA-free) nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the kale and 1/8 tsp. of the salt and cook while tossing with tongs until the kale is wilted about 7 minutes.
2 Turn heat to low, crack the eggs directly into the skillet, add the remaining 1/8 tsp. salt, and quickly scramble until the eggs are done, about 1 minute.
3 Transfer to a bowl and serve with the lemon wedges.
310 CALORIES PER SERVING
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Total Fat 23g 34%
Saturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 558mg 186%
Sodium 636mg 26%
Carbohydrates 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g
Protein 20g 13%
* The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.