Did you know that your diet may help to prevent the development of serious eye conditions? It’s true! Your eyes require more antioxidants than any other organs, and incorporating them into your diet can help to prevent conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and dry eyes.
Your eyes need lots of different antioxidants to stay healthy so, as ever, a varied whole foods diet is imperative for maintaining healthy eyes!
Here are some of the best foods that you can eat for your eye health:
Almonds: If you love nuts, good news! Almonds are a fantastic source of Vitamin E, which helps to protect the tissue in your eyes and keep them healthy. Vitamin E is a group of vitamins which are fat soluble, and they protect fatty acids from oxidative damage. Your eyes are made of a high percentage of fatty acids, so adequate amounts of vitamin E in your diet can help to protect your eyes. Vitamin E is vital in the prevention of cataracts and macular degeneration and can be found in a lot of different nuts and seeds, so if you’re not a fan of almonds, you can always incorporate sunflower seeds or peanuts into your diet instead. I love sunflower seeds in salad, and now I know they’re good for my eyes, I’ll be adding them into my meals a lot more. (SanGiovanni and Chew, 2005)
Carrots: There is an age old adage about carrots being good for your vision - and it’s actually true! Carrots contain Vitamin A and beta carotene, both of which are beneficial for eye health by helping to maintain the surface of the eye, protect the cornea, and prevent infection. Vitamin A is part of the makeup of a protein called rhodopsin, which helps the eye to absorb light. This means that Vitamin A is vital for protecting the photoreceptors inside your eye, and a deficiency is one of the most common causes of blindness in the world. Ensuring you get enough Vitamin A can help to prevent night blindness and potentially more serious conditions (Gilbert, 2013). Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of beta carotene.
Kale: One of my favourite leafy greens, kale is a powerhouse of nutrition so it should come as no surprise that it’s really great for your eye health. Kale contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are present in high concentrations in the eye and are responsible for reducing the damage done to the eyes by light and oxidation, as well as preventing age related tissue deterioration. We all know that the blue light emitted by our phones and other devices can damage the surface of our eye. Both lutein and zeaxanthin act like sunscreen, preventing that damage. As with many of the vital nutrients we need, our bodies cannot produce either lutein or zeaxanthin, meaning that we have to get it from our diet. The takeaway here? Eat more kale! (Krinsky, 2002) If you don’t like kale, then sweetcorn and red grapes both contain lutein and zeaxanthin along with green peas and spinach - sounds like the beginning of a fabulous meal to me.
Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits, like oranges, are packed with Vitamin C, which contributes to healthy blood vessels within your eyes and help to prevent the development of cataracts. It is highly concentrated in the liquid part of the eye called the aqueous humour, and the higher the amount of vitamin C in your diet, the higher the concentration in this part of the eye, and the more protection against cataracts it can offer (Jacques and Chylack, 1991). Not a fan of citrus? No problem. Guava, peppers and broccoli are all also packed with vitamin C! Remember though: Vitamin C can be broken down with heat, so go raw when you can for an extra boost of nutrition.
Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, along with peanuts. Zinc is found in high concentrations in the eye and is involved in the process of creating visual pigments in the eye. It is believed that a zinc deficiency might lead to night blindness, and can increase the rate of macular degeneration, a leading cause of sight loss (Newsome et al., 1988).
Whole grains: Whole grains are naturally high in Vitamin B1, which is also known as thiamine. B1 can reduce the risk of cataracts, reduces inflammation and may be able to help prevent and treat uveitis. This is an inflammatory condition which can lead to blindness if left (Yadav, Kalariya and Ramana, 2011).
Omega-3 fatty acids: We could talk about fatty fish, but you don’t need to contribute to overfishing and the destruction of marine environments to boost your eye health. Plus, fish often contain contaminants, which can damage your health over time, so cleaner supplements, seaweeds and plant-based sources of omega-3 are what we’re looking at here. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA makes up a large percentage of your retina, and the body can’t produce it, so we need to get it from our diet or through supplementation. It’s vital for eye development, so a lack of DHA can impair our vision, and damage visual health in children (Innis and Friesen, 2008). DHA and EPA can also help to encourage the creation of tear fluid in the eye, helping to prevent dry eye disease, and certain studies have shown that eye problems associated with diabetes are reduced in people who have adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Using Vivo Life’s Vegan Liquid Omega-3 can provide all the DHA and EPA you need to help keep your eyes healthy.
Innis, S.M. and Friesen, R.W. (2008). Essential n−3 fatty acids in pregnant women and early visual acuity maturation in term infants. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87(3), pp.548–557. doi:10.1093/ajcn/87.3.548.
Jacques, P.F. and Chylack, L.T. (1991). Epidemiologic evidence of a role for the antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids in cataract prevention. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 53(1), pp.352S355S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/53.1.352s.
SanGiovanni, J.P. and Chew, E.Y. (2005). The role of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in health and disease of the retina. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, [online] 24(1), pp.87–138. doi:10.1016/j.preteyeres.2004.06.002.
Newsome, D.A., Swartz, M., Leone, N.C., Elston, R.C. and Miller, E. (1988). Oral zinc in macular degeneration. Archives of ophthalmology (Chicago, Ill. : 1960), [online] 106(2), pp.192–8. doi:10.1001/archopht.1988.01060130202026.
Yadav, U.C.S., Kalariya, N.M. and Ramana, K.V. (2011). Emerging Role of Antioxidants in the Protection of Uveitis Complications. Current medicinal chemistry, [online] 18(6), pp.931–942. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3084581/.