Ever wonder what gives flamingos that adorable pink color? Or shrimp, crabs, lobsters or salmon for that matter? It’s what they’re eating; Haematococcus pluvialis to be exact. It is a freshwater green algae that when exposed to harmful conditions like harsh light, dehydration, or poor nutrition, it produces a ton of the carotenoid astaxanthin (which is blood red) to protect itself from UV radiation. So when the aforementioned animals eat this algae, they turn pinkish red, too. But what is so special about this gastronomical goo? It happens to be one of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet. This powerful pigment provides protection from free radicals - which destroy cells and cause us to age and die. This unique antioxidant fights off free radicals 6,000 times better than Vitamin C, 550 times higher than Vitamin E, and 40 times more than beta-carotene (a carotenoid found in carrots and bell peppers). Because free radicals basically can wreak havoc and create many opportunities for disease, something that smacks them down will help to prevent all those ailments so you can imagine the benefits of astaxanthin. Following are a few of our favs.
Various benefits for health have been recognized to date including boosts to the brain, heart, eyes, and kidneys. Other benefits are anti-stress, anti-inflammation, and of course, enhanced skin health just to name a few. One human study published in 2012 showed that there was significant improvement in the skin when astaxanthin was applied topically and the participants also ingested 6mg per day. All layers of the skin showed improvement ranging from improvements in skin wrinkling, skin texture, age spots, moisture content, and elasticity.
And just like in that green algae, the pigment helps protect us from UV radiation and may decrease chances of getting burned. So now you must be wondering, “where do I score this super supplement?” Let us have the honors of informing you.
The best source is still through eating whole foods. Astaxanthin can be found in your bright pink foods such as wild-caught sockeye salmon, krill, crawfish, salmon roe, red trout, red seabream, crab and of course, lobster (best consumed with a glass of pink champagne). Shrimp, in general, we typically don’t recommend. Because it is the most popular seafood in the USA, most of it has become farm raised to keep up with the demand. Unfortunately, it is often misrepresented and not marked as farm raised which may contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria, antibiotics and pesticide residues. Best to avoid. But even by eating the best source of astaxanthin which is from sockeye salmon, you would have to eat ½ to ¾ of a pound per day to get 4mg of of the stuff. That’s a lot of poundage for not that much pigment.
Don’t want to eat that much meat, or none at all, but still want the benefits and the highest bioavailability of this holy grail of antioxidants? You can purchase supplements of astaxanthin - just make sure it is from the algae and not synthetic. Also, make sure it is mixed with a phospholipid because it is fat soluble and mixes well with fat increasing its absorption in your body by as much as twelve times. Even better, eat it with some more fat such as a slab of salmon or some coconut oil. We love Dr. Mercola’s® Astaxanthin because it is extracted from H. pluvialis algae and it is mixed with alpha-linolenic acid, a phospholipid from perilla seed oil. Thanks Doc! Another favorite source is farmed off the Kona Coast of Hawaii and is manufactured by the Nutrex Hawaii Company®. It is known to be the best and most pure source and anything that comes from the big island gets a big Aloha from us! And yes, a big dose of 12mg is mixed with fatty Vitamin E and when you have hot Kona Iron Wo/Man triathletes touting its joint supporting - UV protecting attributes, who are we to argue? Move over Kona Iron Man Coco Vinny - we need some astaxanthin too!
And just like the mirrors on the luxury liner Queen Mary that have that ever so slight rosy pink hue to banish any sea sick chartreuse from your complexion, astaxanthin, when taken daily like you should, may also make you naturally turn a light shade of the most adorable pink - just not from the sun!