Do you worry about your eye health? Maybe you already wear glasses or contacts, or maybe you’re just concerned about the daily strain put on your eyes from reading, typing, and watching TV. Either way, you may be asking yourself, "What food is best for my eyes?” Like any other system in your body, your eyes require proper nutrition in order to function optimally and stay healthy.
Fortunately, it’s not too hard to eat an eye-friendly diet. Most of the advice that applies to keeping your body healthy in general also applies to your peepers. In fact, this article provides you with the top advice for retaining your vision easily.
The Nutrients You Need for Optimum Eyesight
The food you eat can protect your optical organs in multiple ways. Antioxidants (e.g. vitamins A, C, and E) show promise for preventing the progression of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a progressive loss of vision, typically as you age.
Researchers are also studying the efficacy of antioxidant vitamins in preventing serious ocular ailments, like cataracts and glaucoma. In addition to antioxidants, other easy-to-find nutrients can boost your optical health and slow the progression of eye problems you may already deal with. Look below for the best food sources of these vision staples.
Top Foods for Eye Health
- Leafy Green Vegetables - f there is a single food group you need to be eating, it is leafy green vegetables. Everyone from your mother to Popeye recommends spinach, kale, and broccoli, so why aren’t you eating more? The big deal about these low-calorie munchies is that they contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which reduces the risk of age related macular degeneration and cataracts. These important nutrients are carotenoids that block harmful blue-wavelengths of light. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in the macular region of our retina, but unfortunately our bodies do not synthesize these important antioxidants. Which is the reason why good nutrition is essential to good eye health.
You may be surprised that new research shows lutein and zeaxanthin may be more important to eye health than beta carotene (previously the star nutrient in keeping your optical organs well).
Bonus: most leafy greens are also high in vitamin C (see below to find out why that’s important!). You’re still not convinced? If you just don’t care to eat salad or creamed spinach, you can still get these two vision essentials in eggs and oranges, so make your breakfast a salute to your eyes.
- Vitamin C Foods - Vitamin C already has a good rap. It’s long been trumpeted for the prevention of various illnesses, and the good news is it’s readily available in a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Some particularly C-loaded choices include strawberries, oranges, and those jacks-of-all-trades, leafy green vegetables (e.g. broccoli, kale, turnip greens, or Swiss chard).
So, what does this vitamin bring to your eye health diet? Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports the health of ocular blood vessels and may reduce your chances of developing cataracts or macular degeneration. Though cataracts is a normal aging change, studies have shown that vitamin C can help in delaying the onset of cataracts by up to 10 years!
- Vitamin E Foods - Nuts and seeds are some of the best sources of vitamin E. You can also find it in leafy greens, avocadoes and sweet potatoes. Vitamin E plays an important role for cellular health, specifically DNA repair and like the other antioxidant vitamins, can help with stopping the progression of macular degeneration. The best foods to choose in order to get a maximum health advantage are those that give a double dose of benefits. For instance, many seeds and nuts (especially cashews) also contain zinc, another nutrient that is vital for vision.
- Seafood - You've probably heard a lot about the benefits of eating more seafood. For one, it's a healthy source of protein. But, seafood also contains several eye-friendly perks. Shellfish, such as oysters, crab, and lobster, are high in zinc, which boosts the vision health effects of vitamin A and also fights the progression of macular degeneration. Other zinc-containing foods include beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, and baked beans. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids can also prevent macular degeneration. Good sources are salmon, tuna, and trout.
In addition to its other advantages, omega-3 has been heralded as a remedy for dry eyes by reducing inflammation associated with dry eye syndrome. This may not sound like much, but dry eyes lead to other problems that may greatly impact your quality of life. They can prevent you from enjoying relaxing activities, such as reading or watching a movie. They can affect your productivity at work if you depend upon a computer screen. Dry eyes can even endanger your life if they make it difficult for you to drive.
Omega 3 is also essential for proper visual development and retinal function in the developing fetus. Hence it is ultra important for expectant mothers to take their pre-natal vitamins containing DHA and EPA.
- Vitamin A Foods - Vitamin A is perhaps the best known antioxidant for improving vision and is required for the formation of a photopigment found in the rods of our retina. It is a key to preventing night blindness, which is difficulty adapting to darkness or low light settings. One common form of vitamin A is beta carotene. Of course you’ve heard that carrots are good for your eyes, and beta carotene is the reason why. The good news is you don’t have to eat carrots every day (unless you really dig them!). Other yellow and orange fruits and vegetables are also high in the nutrient. Try roasted sweet potatoes or pumpkin soup.
Considering Supplements for Vision Health
Several companies sell over-the-counter vitamin and mineral supplements that claim to promote healthy eyes. However, all you really need is balanced nutrition. To this end, you can supplement your normal diet with a simple multivitamin supplement. That’s all you really need.
Make sure the multivitamin you choose is well-balanced and contains the right amounts of each micronutrient essential to good vision. These include 10mg of Lutein, 500 mg of zeaxanthin, 100 mcg of selenium, 200 mg of vitamin E, 250 mg of Vitamin C, 25 mg of zinc, and 5,000 IU of beta carotene. You may also want a supplement that provides at least 2,000 mg of omega-3 if it’s not already included in your multivitamin.
Forget about keeping a dozen bottles of different pills in your medicine cabinet! This one for eyes, that one for bone health, and a bottle of zinc because there’s not enough in the eye vitamin—don’t make taking care of your eyes so tedious that you refuse to do it. Not only will it make you less likely to stick with the routine, but it’s completely unnecessary.
Whoa there! Before you go thinking that the key to ocular health is as easy as popping a pill, remember that your body absorbs its nutrition more readily from actual foods. So, review the list above, and if particular nutrients are lacking in your meals, try adding a few new items that satisfy your palate and your health requirements.