Variation in Carotenoid Content of Kale and Other Vegetables: A Review of Pre- and Post-harvest Effects

J Agric Food Chem. 2015 Nov 11;63(44):9677-82. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b03691. Epub 2015 Oct 28.


Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that are selectively taken up into the macula of the eye, where they are thought to protect against the development of age-related macular degeneration. They are obtained from dietary sources, with the highest concentrations found in dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach. In this Review, compositional variations due to variety/cultivar, stage of maturity, climate or season, farming practice, storage, and processing effects are highlighted. Only data from studies which report on lutein and zeaxanthin content in foods are reported. The main focus is kale; however, other predominantly xanthophyll containing vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are included. A small amount of data about exotic fruits is also referenced for comparison. The qualitative and quantitative composition of carotenoids in fruits and vegetables is known to vary with multiple factors. In kale, lutein and zeaxanthin levels are affected by pre-harvest effects such as maturity, climate, and farming practice. Further research is needed to determine the post-harvest processing and storage effects of lutein and zeaxanthin in kale; this will enable precise suggestions for increasing retinal levels of these nutrients.

Keywords: AMD; composition; lutein; xanthophylls; zeaxanthin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brassica / chemistry*
  • Brassica / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Lutein / analysis*
  • Lutein / metabolism
  • Macular Degeneration / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / analysis*
  • Vegetables / chemistry*
  • Vegetables / growth & development
  • Vegetables / metabolism
  • Zeaxanthins / analysis*
  • Zeaxanthins / metabolism


  • Plant Extracts
  • Zeaxanthins
  • Lutein