Lutein benefit suggests that enjoying your greens and eggs hugely reduces the risk of age onset blindness. It is one of the many hundreds of phytochemicals in the carotenoid foods, giving them their bright colours. What is unique is that it is selectively taken up by the retina and lens in the eye, and in the brain.
This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 29th October, 2020.
Incidentally, can you tell which of these three eggs is free range? We're having difficulty keeping our hens out of the kale, and fresh corn on the cob is their delight; it's all about carotenes.
This page arose out of a recent consultation with my optician; after examining my eyes he remarked that I obviously ate plenty of green leafy vegetables.
On inquiring how he could possibly know, the man replied there was absolutely no sign of macular-degeneration or cataracts which was unusual in someone approaching seventy.
He was in fact correct, and we often enjoy green foods from our garden at all three meals; and so arose an interest in which phytochemicals protect the lens and the retina against disease.
This urgency increased when two friends recently went blind in one eye immediately after what is today considered routine surgery for cataracts, and several others can only read with the use of a magnifying glass because of macular degeneration.
And yet another is now almost completely blind; she smokes and abhors her greens. Both are hugely important factors in macular degeneration. These are of course simply anecdotes but there is a huge amount of research now confirming that the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are found in very high concentrations almost exclusively in the macula of the eye.
Zea means from maize, and xanthin is the Greek for yellow; so eggs being rich in this carotenoid have an orange colour, the deeper the hue, the more zeaxanthin; the blue light is absorbed protecting the macula.
Macular degeneration is largely a preventable disease; enjoying eggs Florentine regularly is one way to ensure you are getting enough lutein benefit.
The macula is where the cones that give fine discrimination and detect colour are to be found.
Lutein and zeaxanthin have a yellowish or reddish colour, aborbing blue light; they give protection to the most sensitive areas of the eye against high energy photons of radiation that enter.
Zeaxanthin and lutein benefits are thus simply vast considering that five million Americans are blind from age related retinal disease; it's largely preventable.
Worse, another ten million are well on their way to using a white stick wherever they go.
Lutein benefit, together with zeaxanthin, thus is of vital importance to each and every one of us. Which food sources are richest in these two carotenoids becomes a fascinating question.
Another of these carotenoids is lycopene which gives substantial protection to the prostate gland against a malignancy; it is in fact the most common fatal tumour of men. The treatment is severe leaving many of those from Mars impotent, and when it metastasizes to the bones of the pelvis and spine is severely painful.
So we shall look at the research to find out which foods are richest in lycopene too.
A friend calls me a food snob; it's an interesting statement. When does a determination not to suffer from preventable disease disintegrate into what is known as orthorexia? That's a psychological illness characterised by a refusal to eat out because the menu pay possibly contain certain additives that one considers, rightly or wrongly, unhealthy.
It's a fine line that distinguishes between a food snob, health nut and orthorhexia. If you find yourself taking your own fare to a host's home because of a fear of what they might feed you, then it is time to beware; you are teetering on the edge.
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For me, Bernard Preston, a food snob if you like, there are two important issues here, and keeping them in balance can be difficult; but the tongue can be trained.
The first is the sheer enjoyment of our food; thus I detest counting calories, weighing my portions and fussing about how many colours I've consumed today. These destroy the joy of eating; I refuse to do it.
The second is that I don't like being sick, and I hate swallowing pills, and abhor visiting doctors; is that so unusual? Thus, if I have to adapt my taste, and train my tongue, so be it, I will discipline myself and do it.
A recent example is a life long indifference to broad beans; perhaps the first and only time I had them they were old, or my tongue was just untrained. They tasted awful.
There happens to be a very high incidence of Parkinson's disease in our area. On discovering that they have a very high level of naturally occurring L-Dopa it did not take long for me to find out how to plant broad beans. Now I find to my surprise, that straight from the garden they are perfectly delicious. They also have the highest level of plant protein of all legumes incidentally.
136 lutein + zeax
These figures are taken from the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
* Kale is the richest source of lutein and zeaxanthine, but I'm still looking for the correct split. Provisionally I've divided them 50/50, but that's not fact.
# Notice that freshly squeezed OJ is high in many nutrients; alas its distant cousin from a carton is a pale shadow of the real thing; in my humble opinion a highly glycemic junk food.
Eggs Florentine is one excellent way to make sure you are getting enough lutein benefit, and zeaxanthin too; both spinach and eggs are rich sources of these vital carotenes.
Eggs Florentine is a very quick way to make a healthy breakfast; even our grandchildren love it. Make it the way you particularly like it so toss in a tomato perhaps for the lycopene, garlic for the allicin benefits, and other greens like a few snippets of scallions or fresh green peas.
The bioavailability of zeaxanthin and lutein benefits is limited unless the spinach or kale is chopped up, well chewed, perhaps cooked and the use of a fat like butter or olive oil to enhance absorption.
Of interest is that researchers have shown that although kale and spinach have greater concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin than eggs, the fat content of eggs makes them a good source of these carotenoids due to increased bioavailability.
In an interesting experiment reported in the Journal of Nutritional Science (2016) researchers compared the carotenoids in hens fed a normal diet to that fortified with different formulations. It makes interesting reading enhancing the benefit of obtaining carotenoids from our food as compared to in pill form.
Enjoy more recipes for cooking kale; dicky it up with some herbs and spices and perhaps a little fatty fish to help with absorption of the lutein and give a different flavour.
In two remarkable studies at Tufts university researchers found that both those taking supplementary lutein, and those enjoying an avocado a day (a lutein source) had higher levels of lutein in the eye and the brain, and showed improvements in problem solving and other brain functions.
Two cups of packed spinach also contains 10 mg of lutein, considered sufficient. The average American is eating only 2 mg per day. It should be necessary to take supplements of a nutrient so freely available in our food.
Bernard Preston is very conscious of what he calls the health nut neurosis; it's a serious illness in which we become so consumed with what's in our food that we refuse to eat what others have prepared; lutein benefit IS important but not to the extent that we go crazy.
We all need to beware that what started out as a passion for healthy living doesn't end up in us becoming extremely antisocial and neurotic; it can and does happen. When we start worrying about what lutein benefits there are in a particular meal, or this or that, then danger lurks.
Having said that, I will never drink colas, eat white bread or margarine, and try to avoid fast food where possible. It's delicious fresh green salads, and experimenting with condiments like parsley pesto that fascinate me.
Bernard Preston is the author of three chiropractic books, a trilogy and is busy with a fifth, provisionally called Priests Denied.
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