What Are the Best Foods to Get All the Astaxanthin You Need, Naturally?

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    Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant. Let’s take a look at some natural sources of it.

    What is astaxanthin, exactly?

    Astaxanthin has been getting quite a bit of buzz lately in the nutrition world. But what is it?

    Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, which is a type of chemical found in some plants and animals – including algae and certain fish. Astaxanthin is found in a type of microalgae that produces a pinkish red pigment that’s passed to the animals that consume it. Consider the color of coral, salmon, shrimp, and lobster. That comes from astaxanthin!

    So, what explains the surging interest in astaxanthin among nutritionists? Well, astaxanthin is an antioxidant – and, as recent research suggests, it seems to be a very powerful antioxidant, far outpacing other carotenoids. Antioxidants are substances that protect your body against harmful free radicals, thereby managing oxidative stress. In other words, they’re very important for your health and well-being. We’ll discuss astaxanthin’s health benefits in more detail below.

    What are the benefits of astaxanthin?

    The first thing to know about the benefits of astaxanthin is that astaxanthin is a very powerful antioxidant. Indeed, it’s been found to be about 10-times more powerful than other carotenoids and about 1000-times more powerful than a type of vitamin E. By one significant metric – the quenching of singlet oxygen – it’s been found to be 6,000-times more potent than vitamin C. Singlet oxygen quenching activity has important implications for your health.

    As an antioxidant, astaxanthin is a fighter of harmful free radicals. This means that astaxanthin helps reduce oxidative stress and related symptoms.

    Astaxanthin is also used to support cardiovascular health, eye health, skin health, and brain health.

    Cardiovascular Health

    There have been some studies concerning astaxanthin’s benefits for cardiovascular health, though more research is warranted. Available research suggests that astaxanthin can indeed promote cardiovascular health. One study, for example, found that astaxanthin can promote healthy blood pressure levels for those already within a normal range. Another study found that participants with cholesterol levels already in normal range experienced increased HDL (good cholesterol) levels after supplementation.

    Skin Health

    One study found that participants who took astaxanthin over a six-week period experienced improved skin health, including a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and better overall skin hydration.

    Eye Health

    Because of its antioxidant properties, astaxanthin may support retinal health. Studies show that subjects with eye issues who use astaxanthin supplements report improvements in vision-related functions. There’s also evidence to suggest that astaxanthin can be effective at relieving eye fatigue and other symptoms.

    Brain Health

    Astaxanthin is also increasingly known for its support of brain health. A 2012 study found that people supplementing with astaxanthin performed better on learning and cognitive tests than those who took a placebo.

    What are the best natural sources for astaxanthin?

    Because of the health benefits described above – and more – astaxanthin has become a very popular supplement. Care/of offers an astaxanthin supplement, dubbed “The Coral King,” that’s been shown to support brain, heart, skin, and eye health, and it even helps athletic performance and recovery. Like all Care/of products, our astaxanthin is third-party tested, C.L.E.A.N. certified, non-GMO, and isn’t packed with any unnecessarily fillers. If you’re thinking of astaxanthin supplementation, you can’t go wrong with a Care/of supplement.

    But there are natural sources of astaxanthin, too, that can help you boost your intake. Let’s take a look at some of the best natural sources.

    Krill oil

    When we’re talking about astaxanthin, we have to talk about krill. It’s one of the largest biomasses in the world, helping to provide sustenance to many different species. There’s a particular species of krill, known as Euphausia superba, that’s the main source of krill oil. Krill oil not only contains the essential nutrient choline, but it also is a rich source of astaxanthin. It also contains the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. In other words, krill oil is packed with nutritional value and is a great option for combating oxidative stress. Its rich omega-3 content makes it especially useful for promoting cardiovascular health. Krill oil has also been used for other health-related purposes, including to support cognitive health.


    Salmon is a highly nutritious food that’s rich in selenium and omega-3s, and it also contains astaxanthin. In fact, astaxanthin is part of what helps salmon become great swimmers, supporting them as they make their tireless journeys upstream. When deciding which salmon to eat, you may want to look into whether it’s wild-caught or farmed.

    Which type of salmon has the most astaxanthin?

    Studies show that among the types of wild salmon, the maximum astaxanthin content was found in the wild Oncorhynchus species. Studies found a range of 26-38 mg/kg of flesh in sockeye salmon, whereas low astaxanthin content was reported in chum. Wild-caught sockeye salmon is the richest salmon source of astaxanthin, partly because wild-caught salmon have spent their lives consuming microalgae, the purest form of astaxanthin. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, have only been getting a commercially-made, synthetic version. In other words, opt for the wild-caught salmon whenever you can.

    Phaffia yeast

    The red yeast Phaffia rhodozyma is another natural source of astaxanthin. It has activities approximately 10 times stronger than that of other carotenoids.

    Green algae

    Haematococcus pluvialis is a type of green microalgae that accumulates high levels of astaxanthin content under certain conditions. These conditions include: high salinity, nitrogen deficiency, high temperatures, and light. Such algae is the main way people get their astaxanthin intake, aside from seafood-derived sources.


    Crustaceans like shrimp can be an excellent food source of astaxanthin.

    Do carrots have astaxanthin?

    Carrots do contain dietary beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant that your body then converts into vitamin A. Carrots get their orange color from beta carotene. Carrots are also sources of alpha-carotene and lutein, which are other types of carotenoids that boost carrots’ nutritional value. That said, carrots are not a source of astaxanthin.

    They are, however, great sources of fiber, vitamin K, potassium, and antioxidants. As such, carrots are known to promote eye health and cardiovascular health.

    When to consider taking an astaxanthin supplement

    Reading through the above list of natural sources, you may have noticed a few things. First of all, they’re not super easy to find. You don’t typically sit down at a restaurant and find Phaffia yeast on the menu, for example. Secondly, the foods that are more widely available tend to be on the expensive side. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t have them once in a while. But if you’re looking for a more cost-effective, tailored way to boost your astaxanthin intake, then supplements might be the path for you.
    As mentioned above, the Care/of astaxanthin supplement is top notch – third-party tested, certified C.L.E.A.N., gluten-free, vegan-friendly, non-GMO, and containing no unnecessary fillers. Our astaxanthin is proven effective and can support eye health, skin health, cardiovascular health, and brain health, as well as athletic performance and recovery.

    As always, you should consult a medical professional before adding any new supplement to your routine. Talk to your doctor and come up with a supplement plan that’s right for you!

    Does astaxanthin come with any side effects?

    As with most anything, astaxanthin can sometimes come with side effects. More studies are needed to discover the benefits and side effects of astaxanthin. But from what we know now, astaxanthin is considered safe and unlikely to produce any noticeable side effects. Astaxanthin is best absorbed with healthy fat.

    Key takeaways

    Astaxanthin is getting more attention in the nutrition world – and for good reason! It’s rightly been called a “superstar antioxidant.” It’s even been found to be up to 6,000 times more potent than vitamin C in this regard!

    Astaxanthin is found naturally in a variety of sources, mainly of the seafood variety; it’s richly found in shrimp, krill and salmon, for example.

    Astaxanthin has been shown to support brain health, cardiovascular health, skin health, and eye health. If you’re looking to boost your astaxanthin intake, the natural sources listed above might be useful. That said, it’s not easy to get many of these natural sources, and eating wild-caught salmon on a regular basis can be beyond what many people’s budgets can handle. If that’s the case, you might want to look into an astaxanthin supplement. Taking a supplement can also ensure that you’re getting the right dose.

    As always, talk to a medical professional before adding any new supplements to your routine.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.