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Lutein, a chemical found in green vegetables, is a member of a family of substances known as carotenoids . Beta-carotene is the most famous nutrient in this class. Like beta-carotene, lutein is an antioxidant that protects our cells against damage caused by dangerous, naturally occurring chemicals known as free radicals.
Recent evidence has found that lutein may play an important role in protecting our eyes and eyesight. It may work in two ways: by acting directly as a kind of natural sunblock, and also by neutralizing free radicals that can damage the eye.
Lutein is not an essential nutrient. However, it is possible that it may be useful for optimal health.
Green vegetables are the best source of lutein, especially spinach, kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce, leeks, and peas. Unlike beta-carotene, lutein is notfound in high concentrations in yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots.
We don't know how much lutein is necessary for a therapeutic effect, but estimates range from 5 to 30 mg daily. (However, see Safety Issues .)