March 27, 2024/Nutrition

What Is Zeaxanthin? Benefits and Side Effects

Found in colorful foods like spinach, corn and oranges, this carotenoid helps with eye, skin and liver health

Assorted fruits and vegetables in variety of colors

Carotenoids may sound like a new species of robots taking over Earth. But carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant hue.


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One of these carotenoids, known as zeaxanthin, can be found in a lot of foods you eat daily and comes with a host of benefits like promoting eye health. And just like R2-D2 and C-3PO are often found roaming the cosmos together, zeaxanthin and another carotenoid known as lutein can be found side-by-side in many of the foods you eat.

“Zeaxanthin and lutein are very similar in structure with only slightly different arrangement of atoms,” explains registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD. “They don’t work synergistically — meaning they don’t need each other to work.”

So, why is zeaxanthin so important for keeping our body’s motherboard running? Zumpano explains why you need zeaxanthin and how to work more of it into what you eat.

Health benefits of zeaxanthin

Thanks to its antioxidant properties, zeaxanthin can help your body in a variety of ways. Here are some zeaxanthin benefits.

Promotes eye health

Zeaxanthin is closely related to vitamin A and is naturally located in your eye’s macula and retina, along with lutein. Zeaxanthin protects your eye’s tissues by blocking damage from sunlight and by blocking free radicals that can cause oxidation.

Studies show that taking a supplement that contains lutein and zeaxanthin may be effective at improving vision in people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.

Prevents and treats liver diseases

Studies show that zeaxanthin may be able to help prevent and treat metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) and steatotic (fatty) liver disease (SLD) by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.


Prevents LDL oxidation

LDL oxidation can lead to atherosclerosis, an inflammatory disease that affects the walls of your arteries. Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease.

“Lutein and zeaxanthin are transported in HDL (‘good’ cholesterol) particles, so they specifically help the HDL particles grow,” explains Zumpano. “Bigger HDL particles help protect from the damage that LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) can have because HDL carries cholesterol from liver tissues and then transports them out. In a nutshell, zeaxanthin and lutein help the good cholesterol and reduce the oxidation of the bad cholesterol.”

Protects skin against blue light damage

Just like how zeaxanthin and lutein protect your eyes by absorbing harmful blue light, they can do the same for your skin.

A study shows that a zeaxanthin and lutein supplement may help improve skin hydration, elasticity and inflammation.

Foods that contain zeaxanthin

Foods typically contain both zeaxanthin and lutein. The following foods are a good source of both:

  • Dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach.
  • Eggs yolks.
  • Oranges.
  • Red grapes.
  • Corn.
  • Mango.
  • Honeydew melon.
  • Orange peppers.
  • Goji berries.

By eating five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, you should get all the zeaxanthin (and lutein) your body needs, says Zumpano. Make sure you choose each color of the rainbow.

Should you take a zeaxanthin supplement?

If you struggle to get five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, you may not be getting enough zeaxanthin. In these cases, it may be worth taking a zeaxanthin supplement.


Overall, zeaxanthin supplements are generally considered safe — though zeaxanthin may lower your blood sugar and can also cause yellowing of the skin. And there isn’t enough research to know if a zeaxanthin supplement is safe for pregnant people or children, or safe to take long term (past five years).

So, if you’re considering a zeaxanthin supplement, Zumpano recommends speaking with a healthcare provider before adding any kind of supplement to your diet.

And it’s important to remember that supplements aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so you want to do your homework. Choose a product that’s been tested by a third party such as USP or NSF.

Another tip? Zeaxanthin supplements are absorbed best when taken with a high-fat meal says Zumpano.

The bottom line

When it comes to the health of your eyes, skin and liver, making sure you have enough zeaxanthin in your diet — whether that’s naturally through the foods you eat or by taking a supplement — is something you should consider.

“Zeaxanthin is found in so many foods,” encourages Zumpano. “You should definitely focus on getting zeaxanthin-rich foods in your diet on a daily basis.”

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