Taking care of your eyes is something you may not be thinking about when making food choices, but it turns out, eating for a healthy body includes your eyes.
Most people believe that declining eye health is a necessary result of the aging process. Interestingly, there are some contributing factors that can lead to poor eyesight, including smoking and inadequate nutrition. Luckily, there are some key nutrients with protective benefits for your eyes that you can easily add to your regular diet. Here are seven of them.
No. 1 Vitamin A
You likely may have been told to eat your carrots because they help your vision. This is true! Carrots, like some other vegetables, contain large amounts of beta-carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body.
Vitamin A is an important antioxidant shown in studies to prevent vision loss associated with macular degeneration and cataracts. Vitamin A can also help to slow the progression of nerve damage in the eyes caused by diabetes.
Foods with Vitamin A
Sweet potatoes, liver, spinach, fish, milk, eggs, carrots
No. 2 Vitamin C
Known for its immune-boosting power, vitamin C is also an important nutrient for your eyes. Vitamin C helps to prevent free radical damage to protect your vision.
Proper amounts of vitamin C also help improve the absorption of necessary trace minerals. Vitamin C assists in reducing inflammation in the body and repairing tissue damage.
Foods with Vitamin C
Sweet red peppers, citrus, kiwi fruit, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cantaloupe
No. 3 Vitamin E
Another nutrient that is important for maintaining healthy eyes is vitamin E. Along with vitamins C and A, vitamin E supports healthy tissues and protects the body from the harmful effects of inflammation.
When taken along with vitamin A, vitamin E helps reduce the risk of macular degeneration and to improve vision and healing after laser eye surgery.
Foods with Vitamin E
Wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds
No. 4 Zinc
Zinc is a highly protective nutrient for eye health. It helps to support proper absorption of other essential nutrients, and is a key mineral that helps to fight inflammation and prevent damage to cells.Zinc is important for eye tissue and plays a central role in cell division and cell growth. It helps to prevent autoimmune reactions in the body, and supports good circulation and proper balancing of hormones.
Foods with Zinc
Oysters, red meat and poultry, Alaska king crab
No. 5 Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Significant amounts of Omega-3 essential fatty acids are found in fish oils and flax seed. Omega-3s provide various health benefits, including protecting body tissues, reducing inflammation, supporting healthy blood sugar levels, and preventing mutation of cells.
Omega-3s are typically lacking in the diet due to overly processed foods, yet they are an important part of maintaining good health, including eye health.
Foods with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
For alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eat vegetable oil, green vegetables, nuts and seeds. For eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eat fatty fish.
No. 6 Lutein
Lutein is a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient that is referred to as “the eye vitamin”. It is categorized as a carotenoid phytonutrient, and it is found in dark pigmented foods like orange and leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and egg yolks.
Lutein protects the eye lens and macula, and research shows that lutein significantly lowers your risk for developing macular degeneration.
See below for foods with the lutein/zeaxanthin super combo!
Meantime, take a look at this cool video about making kid (and adult)-friendly smoothies that are actually good for your eyes!
No. 7 Zeaxanthin
Another key carotenoid known as zeaxanthin protects the eyes like lutein to support clear vision, prevent cataracts, and reduce problems with light sensitivity or glare.
Both zeaxanthin and lutein are delivered in higher quantities to the eyes’ macula than other carotenoids, making them key nutrients for eye protection.
Foods with Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Nasturtium/yellow flowers, kale, dandelion leaves, turnip greens, spinach, swiss chard, collard greens, watercress, garden peas (raw), romaine lettuce, zucchini, brussels sprouts, pistachio nuts, broccoli, carrot (cooked), corn, egg (hard boiled), avocado (raw), carrot (raw), kiwi fruit
To sum it up…
It is true that our eyes can become more susceptible to damage or disease as we age, but significant contributors appear to be immune system dysfunction and unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Having a poor diet is considered to be a strong risk factor for those who develop cataracts and macular degeneration. Foods that are processed and contain unhealthy additives contribute to inflammation in the body and oxidative stress.These are the key factors that can lead to problems with your health, including your eyes.
A diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables contains powerful antioxidants and nutrients essential for good eye health. Eating a diet that is mostly comprised of foods in their natural state supports healthy eyes.
While a healthy diet can provide the beneficial nutrients needed for eye health, some individuals may not get proper amounts of the key nutrients in their diet. Others may have trouble absorbing nutrients, so supplements may be recommended by your doctor. Getting regular exercise and refraining from unhealthy habits like smoking can also go a long way to help protect your eyes.
Ask your eye professional for more great advice on eye health!