Good nutrition and good health tend to go hand in hand. You’ve probably heard about some of the great benefits that come from eating a balanced diet, like helping you stay at a healthy weight or lowering your risk for heart disease. But did you know that a healthful diet can also protect your eyes? It’s true: what we eat can affect how we see!
The Eyes Have It
Why is caring for our eye health so important? As we get older, the risk for certain eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts increases. Most of these conditions can’t be cured, leading to permanent vision impairments or loss that negatively impact quality of life. Many surveys have shown that sight is the most important of the five senses to maintain for American adults. Clearly, vision loss is a major concern.
Focusing on Nutrition
This all might sound scary, but there are some easy steps you can take to make the most of your eye health. Studies have shown that eating foods that are rich in certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can slow down or even help prevent most eye diseases. Let’s take a closer look:
- Lutein & zeaxanthin are carotenoids that act as antioxidants in the retina. They act like a shield for healthy eye cells by absorbing harmful blue light and protecting the cells from damage.
- Beta-carotene is made into vitamin A in the body and is needed to prevent night blindness.
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps support the health of the blood vessels in the eye.
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant that works with vitamin C to protect eye tissue and keep it strong.
- Omega-3 fatty acids including DHA and EPA. A lot of DHA is found in the retina where it is thought to fight inflammation, protect cells, and help prevent dry eyes.
- Zinc helps bring vitamin A to the eye to create the protective pigment melanin.
These nutrients all work together to lower your risk of AMD, diabetic retinopathy, and cataracts, so it’s important to make sure you are getting enough of all of them—not just one or two!
Eating for Eye Health
Wondering how to get more of these eye-friendly nutrients in your diet? Keep your eyes peeled for these foods:
- Lutein & zeaxanthin: Kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, collard greens, broccoli, eggs
- Beta-carotene: Carrots, pumpkins, winter squash, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers
- Vitamin C: Oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, Brussel sprouts, green bell peppers
- Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, wheat germ, almonds, hazelnuts, vegetable oils
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel, fortified dairy
- Zinc: Oysters, red meat, eggs, turkey, wheat germ, black-eyed peas, mixed nuts
Challenge yourself to add more of these foods to your diet this year to help keep you seeing with ‘2020’ vision well into the future!