Lutein and Zeaxanthin for Vision

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on May 05, 2021

Why Are Lutein and Zeaxanthin Good for Your Eyes?

Not only can you find these potent antioxidants in many vegetables, they are also in your eyes, especially the lens, retina, and macula. That’s why doctors believe they play a key role in healthy vision.

How Do They Help?

Lutein and zeaxanthin can help protect your eyes from harmful high-energy light waves like ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Studies suggest that a high level of both in eye tissue is linked with better vision, especially in dim light or where glare is a problem.

Diets rich in these two nutrients may help hold off age-related eye diseases. For example, one study found that people who ate foods rich in zeaxanthin -- think “green veggies” like spinach, kale, and broccoli -- may be half as likely to get cataracts. Another showed that if you have macular degeneration, which causes damage to the middle of your retina and can take away your central vision, supplements with lutein and zeaxanthin can slow its progress. 

Note: Many studies combine these two nutrients with others such as vitamins C and E. It may be that the mix of nutrients does more for your eyes than any single one of them.

Recommended daily allowance: No RDA has been set for either nutrient.

Recommended level for eye health: 10 mg/day for lutein and 2 mg/day for zeaxanthin.

Safe upper limit: Researchers have not set an upper limit for either.

Potential risks: In excess, they may turn your skin slightly yellow. Research seems to show that up to 20 mg of lutein daily is safe.


Foods With Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Kale (1 cup) 23.8 mg

Spinach (1 cup) 20.4 mg

Collard greens (1 cup) 14.6 mg

Turnip greens (1 cup) 12.2 mg

Corn (1 cup) 2.2 mg

Broccoli (1 cup) 1.6 mg

Show Sources


American Optometric Association, "Diet, Nutrition and Eye Health."

Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute.

Wong, I. International Ophthalmology, 2011.

National Institutes of Health web site: "NIH study provides clarity on supplements for protection against blinding eye disease."

American Macular Degeneration Foundation:  "What Is Macular Degeneration?"

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