What foods contain astaxanthin?
Jan 22, 2021

Natural Sources of Astaxanthin

The natural sources of astaxanthin are algae, yeast, salmon, trout, krill, shrimp and crayfish. Astaxanthin from various microorganism sources are presented in Table 1. The commercial astaxanthin is mainly from Phaffia yeast, Haematococcus and through chemical synthesis. Haematococcus pluvialis is one of the best sources of natural astaxanthin [17,18,19,20]. Astaxanthin content in wild and farmed salmonids are shown in Figure 1.

Among the wild salmonids, the maximum astaxanthin content in wild Oncorhynchus species was reported in the range of 26–38 mg/kg flesh in sockeye salmon whereas low astaxanthin content was reported in chum [20]. Astaxanthin content in farmed Atlantic salmon was reported as 6–8 mg/kg flesh. Astaxanthin is available in the European (6 mg/kg flesh) and Japanese market (25 mg/kg flesh) from large trout. Shrimp, crab and salmon can serve as dietary sources of astaxanthin [20]. Wild caught salmon is a good source of astaxanthin.

In order to get 3.6 mg of astaxanthin one can eat 165 grams of salmon per day. Astaxanthin supplement at 3.6 mg per day can be beneficial to health as reported by Iwamoto et al.


Table 1

Microorganism sources of astaxanthin.

SourcesAstaxanthin (%) on the Dry Weight Basis
Haematococcus pluvialis3.8
Haematococcus pluvialis (K-0084)3.8
Haematococcus pluvialis (Local isolation)3.6
Haematococcus pluvialis (AQSE002)3.4
Haematococcus pluvialis (K-0084)2.7
Chlorella zofingiensis0.001
Neochloris wimmeri0.6
Enteromorpha intestinalis0.02
Ulva lactuca0.01
Catenella repens0.02
Agrobacterium aurantiacum0.01
Paracoccus carotinifaciens (NITE SD 00017)2.2
Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous (JH)0.5
Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous (VKPM Y2476)0.5
Thraustochytrium sp. CHN-3 (FERM P-18556)0.2
Pandalus borealis0.12
Pandalus clarkia0.015

Astaxanthin As An Antioxidant

Astaxanthin has been found to have more antioxidant power than beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, and vitamin C

Antioxidants fight oxidative stress by scavenging free radicals that seek to harm your heart, brain, joints, skin, eyes, and stamina

Best Sources For Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is responsible for the red-pinkish hue of salmon, red trout, lobster, crab, shrimp, and more

At your supermarket, the highest natural level of astaxanthin is found in wild Pacific sockeye salmon

Astaxanthin In Krill Oil

Krill Oil is a great source of astaxanthin, while also containing Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA

Astaxanthin helps to stabilize DHA and EPA, making it more bioavailable to humans

In turn, Omega-3 fatty acids deliver benefits to your heart and brain

The Best Sources For Astaxanthin

How can you get all the astaxanthin you need in order to reap the benefits? Astaxanthin, like other carotenoids, delivers pigment colors along with support for good health—but astaxanthin has been dubbed the “king of carotenoids,” and as such imbues a vibrant red-pinkish hue to an array of marine life. Astaxanthin even helps salmon to become skillful swimmers, giving the fish the energy they need to swim upstream.

Most of those natural sources of astaxanthin can be found at your local grocery store, including sockeye salmon, red trout, lobster, shrimp, crawfish, crab, salmon roe, and red sea bream. Of those proteins, astaxanthin is found in its highest concentration in wild Pacific sockeye salmon, which contains 26-38 mg of astaxanthin compared to 6-8 mg in farmed Atlantic salmon. The reason for this disparity is that wild marine life consumes the truest form of astaxanthin—microalgae. Whereas farmed fish mainly consume commercially made food additives that contain synthetic astaxanthin.

So clearly the lesson here is to purchase wild salmon when available, especially if you want a more robust dose of astaxanthin. But even if you were to eat exclusively wild salmon, you would need to consume about 6 ounces (165 grams) daily in order to get a 3.6 mg dose of astaxanthin, the amount that studies show you need in order to see any true benefits. Now the question becomes, if salmon isn’t the absolute best source for astaxanthin, what is?


Astaxanthin Rich Vegetarian Foods

Amount of Astaxanthin In Salmon & Salmonoids

typemg of astaxanthin per kg of flesh
mg of astaxanthin in 3 ounce serving size
1.Wild Sockeye Salmon383.2
2.Farmed Rainbow Trout252.1
3.Wild Coho Salmon211.8
4.Farmed Atlantic Salmon90.8
5.Wild Arctic Char8.50.7
6.Farmed Arctic Char80.7
7.Wild Pink Salmon7.50.6
8.Chinook Salmon5.50.5
9.Chum Salmon50.4
10.Masu Salmon40.3

FoodAstaxanthin Concentration (ppm)
13.Arctic Shrimp (Pandalus borealis)1,200
14.Phaffia Yeast (Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous)10,000
15.Green Algae (Haematococcus pluvialis)40,000

16. Crawfish

17. Crab

18. Lobster

19. Shrimp (warm water varieties)

20. Red snapper

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