The eyes are the window to the soul. You’ve probably heard this saying before. The eyes are also your personal window to view the colorful world around you. Preserving your vision is important and you can help with the very foods you choose to eat each day. Without protection, you run the risk of developing different eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends a diet abundant in lutein and zeaxanthin, essential fatty acids, vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid), zinc, and vitamin E for protecting your eyes.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are nutrients that have been found to reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. These nutrients are primarily found in dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collard greens, and turnip greens. They are also present in lesser amounts in corn, broccoli, green beans, peas, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, orange peppers, persimmons, kiwi, honeydew, and tangerines.
Essential Fatty Acids
The fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6 are considered essential because your body does not make them and therefore, you need to get them from your diet. These fats are important for maintaining the central nervous system and maintaining proper eye function.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it protects the body’s cells against damage from free radicals which are unstable molecules that the body produces because of environmental exposure and other factors. This protection helps to slow the process of macular degeneration and vision loss.
Zinc is important for transporting vitamin A from the liver to the retina of the eye. In the retina, it helps the eyes produce melanin which protects the eyes.
Vitamin E is another antioxidant working to protect the eyes by sparing the body’s cells from damage by free radicals.
Choosing foods abundant in some or all of these nutrients is a great way to eat for your eyes health. Keep reading to find out some examples of these foods.
Foods Good for Eye Health:
The Honorable Mention: Carotenoids
Carotenoids are the colorful pigment found in many fresh fruits and vegetables which help to protect your eyes. They are what give carrots their bright orange color or tomatoes their vibrant red.
How to incorporate carotenoids into your daily diet:
Broccoli salad with walnuts and cashews
Steam spinach with garlic for 2 to 4 minutes
Scrambled eggs with broccoli chunks
Corn/ green pea salad
Coleslaw salad, using green cabbage and low fat mayonnaise
To maximize the benefits from your intake of carotenoids, the USDA suggests that lutein and zeaxanthin-containing foods are most beneficial when steamed or microwaved.
The average American takes in approximately 2 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin per day, compared to the 6 mg per day seen to decrease the risk of developing AMD and cataracts. Consider a multivitamin/mineral containing lutein and zeaxanthin to better meet your needs if unable to through food sources alone. Talk to your physician before starting any nutrition supplements.