Lutein is a type of carotenoid, which is a yellow-orange pigment and is found abundantly in green and yellow vegetables. It is said to be found in the macular area of the eyes and also in the skin, breast tissue, cervix and brain. Various benefits of lutein for our body continue to unveil as the research on lutein expands over the years.
Zeaxanthin is a yellow-orange pigment, with characteristics similar to those of lutein. It is abundant in corn and Fuyu persimmons, and can also be found in yellow, orange and red-coloured fruits and vegetables, egg yolk and so on. Although zeaxanthin is present in the macular area of the eye, which is similar to lutein, the highest concentration of zeaxanthin can be found in the central macular of the eye.
β-cryptoxanthin is an orange pigment abundant in unshiu mikan (satsuma mandarin oranges). Unshiu mikan is a general term for "mandarin oranges" in Japan. Besides mandarin oranges, β-cryptoxanthin is also abundant in red capsicums, papayas, persimmons, loquat and so on. Although the unshiu mikan is regularly consumed in Japan, it is not as common in other countries. Therefore, the research on β-cryptoxanthin is slower compared to the research on lycopene and other carotenoids. However, its benefits are becoming more apparent in the recent years, and now it is an ingredient that is attracting a lot of attention. It is a provitamin A that converts to vitamin A according to the needs of the body.
Both α- and β-carotene are yellow and orange pigments found in carrots and pumpkin. Known for their safety, they have been used as a colour additive in foods, drinks and cosmetics since the ancient times. Before they are converted to vitamin A, they play the role of supporting overall health as one of the phytochemicals and a carotenoid component.
It is said that lycopene is produced in tomatoes to protect them from sunlight while they ripen by absorbing sunrays. As the old European saying goes, "When tomatoes turn red, the doctor's face turns green" (A tomato a day keeps the doctor away). Today, various research findings have helped us realise that lycopene is a beneficial ingredient. Compared to absorption by eating raw vegetables, lycopene is more easily absorbed by consuming processed foods. Given its oil-soluble nature, cooking foods containing lycopene with some oil can enhance the absorption of lycopene by the body.
It is said that tomatoes need lycopene to protect themselves from the sun rays as they ripen in the sun. Since ancient times in Europe, it has been treasured as an essential nutrient for maintenance of health. Today, various research findings have helped us realise that lycopene is a beneficial component. As with all carotenoids, lycopene is also easily soluble in oil, so its absorption rate varies according to the cooking method.