Do you ever feel like your eyesight isn’t what it used to be? Whether it's trouble seeing in low light or reading fine print, eye health isn’t something you should take for granted.
The good news is nutrition can play a huge role in helping maintain healthy vision. This post takes a closer look into why your diet plays an essential role in keeping your eyes functioning at their best.
What Foods and Nutrients Impact Eye Health?
The quality of your diet significantly impacts vision and overall eye health. Therefore, eating the proper nutrients helps reduce your risk for eye diseases, such as:
These eye conditions, especially age-related macular degeneration, tend to affect older adults. Most age-related diseases develop from long-term oxidative stress.
How Does Oxidative Stress Affect Your Eye Health?
Oxidative stress occurs when your body collects excess free radicals. This process causes an imbalance between free radicals and the antioxidants that neutralize them. It also speeds up the aging process and increases inflammation.
Your body generates free radicals from normal metabolic processes. However, there are external sources that contribute to free radical production, including:
- Smoking cigarettes
- Air pollution
- Toxic chemicals (such as household cleaners or pesticides)
- Deep-fried foods
- Processed meats (such as salami or ham)
- Refined sugars (such as high-fructose corn syrup)
- Radiation (such as X-rays)
Common Nutritional Deficiencies That Affect Global Health
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies affect approximately two billion people worldwide.9 The most common deficiencies include:
- Vitamin A
How Do Diet And Nutrition Impact the Eyes?
Consuming powerful antioxidants and other nutrients is an excellent way to combat free radicals and protect your eye health.
There are many benefits to adding these nutrients to your diet:
Beta-carotene is an orange pigment in many fruits and vegetables. Your body converts this substance into vitamin A, which is crucial for maintaining healthy vision. Without adequate vitamin A, night blindness can occur.
Beta-carotene also acts as an antioxidant, safeguarding your cornea's health and preventing dry eye discomfort. A combination of beta-carotene with vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and copper slows the progression of macular degeneration.10
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that assists with essential functions, such as:
- Tissue repair
- Collagen formation
- Immune system function
Increasing vitamin C in your diet helps prevent macular degeneration and slow down cataract progression. It also reduces the risk of glaucoma.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that you can only get through your diet. Incorporating this vital nutrient into your daily routine can delay the onset of cataracts. You can also significantly lower your risk of macular degeneration.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are highly pigmented antioxidants that protect your eyes from blue light damage. These pigments are highly concentrated in the macula and shield it from oxidative damage, preventing macular degeneration.
Research suggests these nutrients also reduce the risk of cataract formation.11 Lutein and zeaxanthin give certain foods their natural yellow or orange color.
Your retina contains high concentrations of zinc. This mineral also helps your body metabolize vitamin A.
Zinc enables you to maintain normal night vision and plays a role in macular degeneration prevention.
Selenium is another mineral that has antioxidant properties.
Just like the other nutrients in this list, selenium helps prevent macular degeneration.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids. Omega-3s also combat inflammation associated with dry eye syndrome.
Unfortunately, your body doesn’t produce them naturally, so you have to include them in your diet. Some studies suggest that natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of progression in people with macular degeneration.12
These compounds also reduce your risk of glaucoma. Flavonoids also play a role in reducing oxidative stress related to diabetic retinopathy.
You can maximize your defense against age-related eye diseases by avoiding free radical sources. You can also adopt a healthy diet for best results. While vitamin supplements are beneficial, getting nutrients from natural food sources is the optimal choice.
13 Top Foods for Eye Health
In general, brightly colored fruits and vegetables are very nutritious. If you want to include eye-healthy nutrients into your diet, try eating more of these foods:
- Sweet potatoes, sweet bell peppers (orange, yellow, or red), and carrots are rich in beta-carotene and contain some vitamin C.
- Dark green leafy vegetables are abundant in lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamins A, C, and E. Examples include spinach, kale, mustard greens, and collard greens.
- Squash vegetables like pumpkin, yellow squash, butternut squash, and zucchini contain lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
- Broccoli and Brussels sprouts have several eye-healthy nutrients. These include lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
- Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E.
- Oysters, beef, and pork are rich sources of zinc. Additionally, these foods also provide selenium.
- Legumes like chickpeas and lentils are an excellent vegetarian source of zinc and selenium.
- Fish contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. The best sources are fatty, oily fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, and sardines.
- Seaweed, flaxseed, hemp seeds, and chia seeds are also natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids if you prefer vegetarian options.
- Tea is packed with flavonoids, and green tea especially boasts a high concentration of these powerful antioxidants. Black, white, and oolong tea also provide numerous health benefits.
- Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are high in vitamin C and flavonoids.
- Seafood is rich in selenium, with various options such as yellowfin tuna, crab, shrimp, oysters, and salmon.
- Eggs contain selenium, zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin E. Egg yolks contain a lot of lutein and zeaxanthin. You can also purchase enriched eggs for extra boost in omega-3s.
Overall, diet and nutrition have a big impact on eye health. The key is to consume plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
You should also ensure you get enough essential vitamins and minerals. Eating more eye-friendly foods above can help you maintain healthy vision for many years.
Moreover, remember that supplements aren't a substitute for nutritious foods. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, and seek their advice for the best diet to maintain optimal eye health.
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