We have all heard the saying, “Carrots are great for the eyes – have you ever seen a rabbit wearing glasses?” If it were only so simple, that would be great. Even though carrots are reputedly good for eye health, simply eating your weight in carrots alone won’t make you bright eyed. When it comes to protecting the eyes from degenerative disorders like cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and glaucoma, a mixture of essential nutrients, such as antioxidants, lutein, carotenoids and zeaxanthin, is required. Fortunately, these are all found in foods we consume every day.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Your peepers require regular doses of vision-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty types of fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut, and sardines. Nuts and seeds (e.g., walnuts and flaxseed) are also very beneficial. In fact, eating fish just a few times per week can significantly boost eye health. The American Optometric Association (AOA) tells us that two particular omega-3s (EPA and DHA) are required for natural eye lubrication, to control light sensitivity, to produce DHA, and to protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Oranges and kiwi, strawberries and grapefruit – oh, my! It’s true! You can enjoy any of these many fruits for their spectacular eye-boosting benefits. Foods rich in vitamin C reduce the chances of cataracts forming as we age. Vitamin C is a cell protecting nutrient. Thanks to the antioxidants within, it guards cells against damage in all parts of the body.
Zinc is a vitamin particularly good for eye health! Zinc can be found primarily in foods like eggs (which are also a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin). Research shows that both zinc supplements and foods rich in antioxidants can ward off age-related macular degeneration and vision loss.
According to WebMD.com, you can look to vitamin E (found in yogurt, oysters, chickpeas, and red meats) as a potent antioxidant that boosts the health of certain parts of the eye. Specifically, alpha- Vitamin E has been linked to preventing cataracts caused by UV ray sunlight exposure. Also, vitamin E has been associated with guarding the eyes against free radicals that gradually deteriorate healthy eye tissues, which can lead to age-related macular degeneration.
Zeaxanthin and Lutein
These powerful eye-boosting antioxidants help protect the eyes from evil oxidative stress. Luckily for your eyes, these carotenoids can be had in dark leafy green veggies such as romaine lettuce, collard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and also in papayas and squash. Studies from the Glaucoma Research Foundation report that lutein and zeaxanthin work to prevent oxidative stress from causing damage to the eyes. Oxidative stress on the optic nerve has been linked to vision issues such as glaucoma, and eating leafy greens can help prevent the onset of glaucoma and also prevent it from getting worse.
We’ve already established that carrots are great for the eyes. However, this vision-boosting food gets its powers from vitamin A. Vitamin A is another antioxidant that can be found in foods like spinach, red bell peppers, mangos, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, carrots, and apricots. Much like zeaxanthin and lutein, vitamin A combats oxidative stress that can cause gradual ocular damage.
Before any change in your diet, talk with your primary physician. Some medications can be affected by certain food items. Also, if you do not have an eye care provider, we would welcome you at Summit Eye Care.