X is for Xanthophyll

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By Juliana Dewsnap (Dietetic Intern) & Olivia Morgan (RDN, LDN)

You may recall learning about “Chlorophyll,” the natural substance in plants which makes them green, during middle school science class. But what about the parts of the plant that are lighter and yellow colored? This is called xanthophyll, which is a subtype of chlorophyll and has  antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants are substances which prevent chemicals from causing “oxidative stress”, or damage, to cells in your body. Antioxidants have been proven to lower your risk for many diseases and cancers. Some vitamins naturally act as antioxidants, particularly vitamin C and vitamin E. Xanthophyll is known for being anti-inflammatory, lowering carcinogenic (aka cancer causing) effects of food in the body, and improving skin elasticity (keeping your skin looking young). An antioxidant which belongs to the xanthophyll family, Lutein, is partially responsible for protecting your eyes. Studies have shown that Lutein may be be important for preventing cataracts and macular degeneration.

There is no set recommendation on the exact number of antioxidants you should have per day. Just remember to try to get a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal and eat a healthy, well-balanced, and colorful diet. Taking antioxidant supplements in high doses is generally not recommended, as it has been associated with increased cancer risk and decreased exercise performance. As always, speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian before trying any supplement.

Sources of Xanthophyll:

  • Egg yolks

  • Broccoli

  • Green peas

  • Kale

  • Spinach

Sources of antioxidants:

  • Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)

  • Nuts like pecans, walnuts, and almonds

  • Artichokes

  • Beets

  • Beans

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