Many people believe that eye issues are due to aging. This isn’t quite true. If it was, then only the elderly would suffer from cataracts, glaucoma, or night blindness. The fact is that everyone, from babies to the elderly, is at risk of experiencing vision problems.
The secret to maintaining optimal eye health is simple:
Vitamins and eye health
You can prevent eye problems by eating a healthy diet that consists of foods rich in nutrients such as:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
You might think supplements are the easiest and most convenient way to get sufficient amounts of these vitamins. That may be true, but keep in mind that there are caveats that come with taking supplements. While there is nothing wrong with supplementation, consuming whole foods is still much better.
This is because whole foods contain complex nutrition—nutrition you simply can’t get from supplementation.
In addition to essential vitamins and minerals, whole foods contain a wide variety of micronutrients. Whole foods are also rich in fiber. Your body needs both micronutrients and fiber, and they aren’t replicated in vitamin supplements.
Whole foods: the best nutrition for eye health
If you want to maintain excellent eye health and reduce your risk of experiencing eye problems, consider making these whole foods a part of your daily diet.
1. Carrots and sweet potatoes
You probably know that carrots are great for your eyes. This is because carrots are loaded with a specific type of vitamin A.
Carrots are rich in provitamin A carotenoids (beta-carotene), which are crucial for clear and proper vision. These carotenoids can also treat the symptoms and prevent the recurrence of dry eye syndrome.
Carrots aren’t your only source of vitamin A, though. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A too. They are also great sources of fiber.
When you consume vitamin A in conjunction with other vitamins, you decrease your risk of AMD-related vision loss. According to a study by the National Eye Institute, people who consumed vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, E, and Zinc had a 25% lower risk of developing AMD.
2. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits contain high amounts of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant that helps maintain your body’s connective tissues, which includes those found in your eyes.
By consuming citrus fruits, you prevent cataracts from forming in your eyes. Studies have shown that people with cataracts have low levels of antioxidants in their eyes.
Like lutein and zeaxanthin, your body cannot produce vitamin C. This means that vitamin C must come from your diet. A diet lacking in vitamin C can lead to other significant problems such as muscle weakness, joint stiffness, and tooth loss among others.
3. Nuts and seeds
Get an adequate amount of vitamin E by consuming nuts that include:
- Pine nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Cashew nuts
You can also get vitamin E from seeds (including oils derived from the seeds) like:
- Sunflower seeds
- Flax seeds (including flaxseed oil)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Grapeseed oil
- Canola oil
Like lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant. Vitamin E protects the cells in your eyes (and throughout your body) from damage caused by free radicals. Studies also show that regular consumption of vitamin E halts the progression of eye problems such as AMD and cataracts.
Chickpeas, lentils, and beans are all legumes that contain substantial amounts of zinc.
Zinc is important for maintaining the health of your retina and the cell structure of your eye. It helps in the production of melanin, which protects your eyes from harmful ultraviolet light.
According to a study, zinc also stalls the progress of retinal degeneration by preventing cell damage in the photoreceptor in your eye caused by excessive light.
5. Dark green leafy vegetables
Spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, kale, and other dark green leafy vegetables are rich in two powerful antioxidants known as lutein and zeaxanthin.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids stored in the macula of your eye. They help your macula serve as your eye’s natural sunblock, protecting your eye from excessive light. Lutein and zeaxanthin help filter harmful blue light and ultraviolet light, which ensures that your eyes remain healthy and functioning properly.
Consuming foods that contain these antioxidants aids in slowing the progression of conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Unfortunately, your body is incapable of producing its own lutein and zeaxanthin. This is why eating dark green leafy vegetables is essential for eye health.
To maintain good eye health, you need to have a healthy diet that’s rich in nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Instead of taking supplements, it’s best to get these from whole foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and dark green leafy vegetables.
However, a healthy diet is not enough to protect your eyes, especially if you wear contact lenses. You also need to follow proper contact lens care and safety procedures.