Astaxanthin is a red-pigmented carotenoid, a member of the family of chemicals that colors fruits and vegetables. FDA approved, it is used in some fish and animal foods as a dye to give it reddish color. It is also considered to be food coloring by the European Union. The characteristic pink hue of salmon and other seafood signifies the presence of astaxanthin.
The most regularly consumed sources of astaxanthin, other than in the form of supplements, come from fish such as sockeye salmon, rainbow trout, red sea bream and pink salmon. Fish ingest astaxanthin as a result of feeding on the microalgae that produces it or through the food which they are fed if they are farm raised. A 113g portion of salmon from the wild yields 4.5mg of astaxanthin, while 113g of farmed varieties only give up to 2mg per serving.
Shellfish and seafood such as lobsters, crab and shrimp, all of which contain astaxanthin, get their reddish-pink color from it and offer a dietary change from fish. Farmed seafood shows lower levels of astaxanthin per gram than seafood caught in the wild.
Haematococcus Pluvialis Microalgae
Some fish get their red pigmentation from consuming large amounts of tiny creatures called microalgae. Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae produce astaxanthin as a natural sunscreen to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays or the UV radiation when the region they inhabit periodically dries up. Sold in a cracked and dried form like some seaweed products, the algae contains 1.5 to 3.5 percent astaxanthin. Care should be taken to investigate sources of raw algae products to ensure they come from unpolluted waters.
Red Phaffia Yeast
Red phaffia yeast contains up to 5,000mg of astaxanthin per kilo. From use as a type of animal feed to coloring eggs, this product is becoming common in North American markets in supplemental form. Technically a synthetic form of astaxanthin, it is often combined with natural forms for production of pills and powders for sale to health food businesses.
This oil is extracted from Krills, which are small shrimp like creatures. It is put into capsules and sold for its high omega 3 content. Krill, like shrimp, also have astaxanthin in them.