What is astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a reddish-colored antioxidant of the carotenoid family, which causes the reddish or pinkish color of animals that consume it as their main source of food.
Within the food chain, astaxanthin is generated by microalgae that feed krill and zooplankton, which in turn are the food source of many fish and even birds, which in turn often have a characteristic pink color, such as salmon. Krill is a tiny reddish crustacean that is the primary food source for many species, including whales.
Astaxanthin is known for its great antioxidant power, which helps neutralize free radicals that cause damage to cells, helping to prevent some diseases. Therefore, it is crucial to include in the diet foods rich in this powerful antioxidant.
Benefits and properties of astaxanthin
Astaxanthin stands out for its powerful antioxidant capacity, but it also has other properties to take into account, such as: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antitumor, protective of cardiovascular health, and stimulating the immune system.
- The best antioxidant in nature.
- It is much more potent than vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin E.
- Improves physical performance.
- Powerful natural anti-inflammatory.
- Attacks free radicals.
- Protects against oxidative stress.
- Protects eyes, brain and central nervous system.
- Fights cancer.
- Improves cardiovascular health.
- Antioxidant effect
If we compare natural astaxanthin with other sources of antioxidants we can see how potent its action is:
- 550 times more antioxidant than vitamin E10 times more than beta-carotene.
- Much more effective than vitamin C.
- Free radical scavenger, even more than any carotenoid such as B-carotene.
These properties make it an ideal nutrient to mitigate the harmful effects of oxidative stress, such as ultraviolet rays.
- Promotes cardiovascular health
Astaxanthin protects myocardial cells against ischemic accidents, thus protecting the cardiovascular system as well. It also helps to lower the levels of C-reactive protein, which is produced by the liver when there is inflammation throughout the body. In addition, it improves fat metabolism.
- Enhances the immune system
Antioxidants help maintain the integrity of cell membranes, including those of the immune system. It also helps the immune system detect, identify, and destroy harmful microorganisms.
- Contributes to improved vision
Astaxanthin protects the eyes from oxidative stress by acting as other carotenoids do: it captures the activity of free radicals against eye tissues. It protects against inflammation by reducing the formation of lipo-polysaccharide, which induces inflammation and improves long-distance vision, visual acuity, depth perception, and eye fatigue.
- Improves skin condition
Like other carotenoids, it has a protective action on the skin against sunburn and sun damage to cellular DNA.
- Lowers cholesterol
Astaxanthin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that prevent inflammation and oxidation of fat cells. This lowers LDL cholesterol levels, known as "bad cholesterol".
- Prevents diabetes
Thanks to its antioxidant activity, astaxanthin protects the cells of the pancreas against possible damage caused by free radicals. It thus improves insulin function and prevents problems such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Foods in which astaxanthin is found naturally
Astaxanthin occurs naturally in freshwater microalgae (Haematococcus pluvialis) and the yeast fungus (Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous). When algae are stressed by lack of nutrients, increased salinity, or excessive sun, they create astaxanthin, and animals that feed on the algae, such as salmon, red trout, sea bream, and crustaceans (shrimp, krill, crabs, lobsters, and crayfish), subsequently reflect the red-orange pigmentation of astaxanthin.
It can also be found in some fruits, such as red papaya, a great source of vitamins and minerals that is also known for its antioxidant properties. Another fruit containing astaxanthin is watermelon, which is not only low in calories but also rich in nutrients and antioxidants, including astaxanthin. Finally, it is worth noting the presence of astaxanthin in citrus fruits, especially oranges, and tangerines, but also lemons and grapefruit. In addition to being rich in vitamin C, these fruits also contain the crucial astaxanthin.
On the other hand, some seaweeds, such as spirulina and chlorella, also contain a significant amount of astaxanthin. These algae are an excellent choice for those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet and are looking for a source of astaxanthin in their diet.
Supplements rich in this antioxidant can also be included in the diet, such as pure Antarctic krill oil, which provides all the benefits of this superfood along with highly absorbed bio-efficient Omega-3, choline, and phospholipids, with great benefits for cardiovascular health, eye health and skin elasticity and hydration.