: Eat for Your Eyes
Most of us don’t think about the health of our eyes until there’s a problem—blurry vision, irritation, or vision loss. Much of the damage that leads to eye conditions is linked to free-radicals, so your first line of defense for maintaining healthy eyes is eating a diet rich in foods that are high in nutrients that nourish the eyes: antioxidant vitamins and minerals; the carotenes lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene; and healthy fats. The following foods are top choices for eye health.
These antioxidant-rich berries contain flavonoids called anthocyanidins, antioxidant compounds that are responsible for their bright blue color. Studies show that blueberry extracts help to improve night vision and may be protective against the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and cataracts.
Broccoli is a rich source of antioxidant vitamins C and E. It’s also rich in lutein, the carotenoid that concentrates in the retina, protecting it from damage and helping to prevent AMD. Broccoli and other members of the cabbage family, such as kale, Brussels sprouts, and collards, are all excellent sources of beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
We’ve all heard it before, but carrots really are good for your eyes. The beta-carotene in carrots provides protection against AMD and the development of cataracts. Carrots also support good night vision. Their antioxidant compounds are good for the eyes and also encourage heart health.
Bell peppers are one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. Studies show that bell peppers protect against cataracts, possibly due to their high vitamin C and beta-carotene content.
Spinach is one of the richest dietary sources of lutein, making it important for supporting healthy eyesight and preventing AMD and cataracts. It’s packed with antioxidant compounds that may also have anti-cancer properties.
Oily fish such as salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are helpful in fighting free-radical damage. Retinal photoreceptors (the cells that allow vision to occur) break down in the presence of light, and EFAs protect against the free radicals produced by light. Studies show that adding omega-3s to the diet helps to support healthy vision.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to reverse the damage to your eyesight—start taking a proactive approach to eye health today by incorporating these nutrient-packed foods into a balanced diet. An added bonus? They’ll benefit overall health as well. Research shows that most Americans aren’t meeting the daily recommendations for many eye-protective nutrients from the diet alone, so also consider supplementation with a high-quality multivitamin, eye health formula, and omega-3s.
2014 Kristy Erickson
Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael T. Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno (Atria Books, 2005)