Not everyone thinks the link between the food they eat and eye health is important enough to worry about. That’s fine, and other eye-protection measures are quite important. Still, nutritional and quality food helps a person’s overall health – eyes included.
You might imagine eating a diet to help with your eye health is inconvenient, but it is not. There are many nutrients in everyday foods that assist the health and function of your eyes, including your retinas, macula, and other eye components. By increasing your consumption of green, leafy vegetables, oily fish, citrus fruits, eggs, and nuts, you can provide the right balance of vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids that help prevent vision problems.
We at Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center take preventive eye health very seriously, as a part of our goal to provide ideal eye care. So consider:
1. Green, Leafy Vegetables
There are a number of nutrients present in nature that help promote your eye health. For example, lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that reduce the likelihood you will develop cataracts or macular degeneration. You can only get lutein and zeaxanthin from foods or supplements in your diet, as your body does not produce them naturally. Green, leafy vegetables are an excellent source of these nutrients.
There are hundreds of carotenoids in nature, but less than 20 are present in the human body. When it comes to your eyes, lutein and zeaxanthin are the only relevant carotenoids. They function largely as antioxidants for healthy cell growth and maintenance. Lutein and zeaxanthin also filter out harmful blue light and ensure a clear crystalline lens of the eye.
Free radicals can cause retinal damage, and the antioxidant function of these nutrients counteracts free radicals and the buildup of cataracts. They also prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition related to the thinning of the macula that can seriously affect vision, even to the point of blindness.
There are many benefits to eating green, leafy vegetables, and high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health are only a couple of them. A serving of vegetables is typically a half-cup, but you will need to eat more a week to gain these benefits for your eyes. You do not have to eat them raw to get these carotenoids, although raw is usually considered the best method. Add them to a smoothie or even bake them into chips. Increasing your consumption of these vegetables can help you achieve your goal of a lifetime of healthy eye function, along with excellent preventative care and treatment from Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center.
2. Salmon, Tuna, and Other Oily Fish
To be healthy, you have to eat some fat. However, there are good fats and there are the best ones for your health. Two fats classified as Omega-3 fatty acids are especially useful for proper eye function. They are known as Docosohexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA).
DHA is found in the retina more than any other part of the body, and EPA works to create DHA. If you do not eat enough foods containing these fats, you run a greater risk of developing chronic dry eyes and other conditions, according to the American Optometric Association. In a 2005 study of nearly 40,000 women, researchers found that those who ate the least of these good fats had an increased risk of developing dry eye symptoms or requiring dry eye treatment over time. To get a nice boost of these fats, add a few 3-ounce servings of salmon, tuna, or other oily fish to your weekly meal plan. Omega-3 pills are also acceptable.
These fatty acids are present in almost all types of fish or shellfish, but some sources are better than others. Red and black caviar has the highest content of these fats, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, you would need to consume an overly large serving of caviar (and spend an overly large amount of money) to get the same benefits.
These oily fish do not provide high levels of mercury, which may be a concern for you. You can enjoy unlimited quantities of salmon or whitefish without worrying about mercury levels, but the Natural Resources Defense Council suggests you limit consumption of tuna to three servings or less per month.
3. Citrus Fruits
Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins for your body, especially for your eyes and brain. There are many delicious foods rich in Vitamin C. Fresh foods and green, leafy vegetables are important sources. You can get almost all of your recommended daily value of Vitamin C just by eating a small orange each day. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, is particularly healthy for your eyes. A regular dose of the vitamin can stave off the development of AMD and cataracts, and ensure proper eye function.
Experts at Oregon Health & Science University discovered in 2011 that Vitamin C is far more important to the function of the eye and brain than was previously thought. Your eyes’ retinas are considered part of your central nervous system, and it must maintain high levels of Vitamin C to function properly.
You probably already know that you can get lots of Vitamin C from your diet. If you want the best results, the National Eye Institute claims that 500 mg of Vitamin C each day from a combination of foods can decrease the development of AMD and related loss of visual acuity by about a quarter. It is such a simple change to make, with so many benefits for your eyes and overall health.
If you ever needed a reason to enjoy egg yolks, you now have one. You now know how important it is to eat foods that contain lutein and zeaxanthin, and eggs are rich in both. They also contain high levels of zinc, which you need to help prevent AMD. The standard recommended is 12 to 16 mg.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that helps to transfer Vitamin A from the liver to the retina (and elsewhere) so that melanin can be produced. Melanin is the pigment that defines your hair, skin, and eye color, and it provides protection for the eyes. In particular, the retina and the choroid, the layer of tissue under the retina, need zinc.
Of course, you may worry about eating too many eggs and getting high cholesterol. Eating one egg a day can improve your lutein and zeaxanthin levels without risking the accumulation of unhealthy cholesterol. A 2006 study noted that adults over age 60 who ate one egg a day for five weeks had an increase in lutein and zeaxanthin levels without noticing a significant difference in total cholesterol or triglycerides.
Since the development of cataracts and AMD are particularly problematic for older adults, as are health conditions related to high cholesterol, this study shows that moderate consumption of eggs is a great idea. We at Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center are happy to recommend a good level of minerals and vitamins based on your unique needs and vision concerns.
Lots of people love to eat nuts these days, and you are about to find out why. You can get about half of your recommended daily value of Vitamin E, in one serving of nuts. You may already use Vitamin E oil as a way to minimize the development of lines and blemishes in the skin around your eyes. Did you know that Vitamin E is great for your eye health, as well? Almonds in particular are rich in Vitamin E. Nuts are also a great source of protein and unsaturated fats as a part of a healthy diet.
If you have allergies to nuts, you can get a lot of the same benefits by eating a similar serving of sunflower seeds.
There are a lot of potential causes of certain eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. With a plan for preventive eye care, implantable contact lenses, and LASIK eye surgery from Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center, you can enjoy improved vision, no matter your age.
You need all of the nutrients mentioned here, including Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin, to prevent AMD from becoming your problem. The AOA notes that AMD is the most common cause of blindness in adults over the age of 55 and that more than 25 million people worldwide suffer from AMD and cataracts. If you can minimize your risk simply by changing your diet, why not?