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Eating for Eye Health: Foods to Support Vision

Maintain Healthy Eyes Through Diet and Lifestyle

You’re probably familiar with the old wives’ tales about carrots supporting vision. And, to a certain extent, they’re true. You see, carrots are a nice source of beta-carotene, which – when converted into vitamin A by the body – helps promote eye health and good vision. So this begs the question: could munching on carrots for breakfast, lunch and dinner give you extraordinary 20/20 vision? Well, it’s unlikely. If anything, they will just turn your skin a strange orange hue. To keep your vision sharp, you need to think beyond carrots and eat a host of nourishing minerals and vitamins.  Feast your eyes on these peeper-popping foods.


Oily fish

Did you know fish is one of the world’s healthiest foods? Not only is it loaded with protein and vitamin D, but it’s also teeming with omega-3 fatty acids. These compounds are vitally important for a host of biological functions, supporting everything from your brain to your skin to your joints. Simply put, they’re all-rounders for health and wellness. Now, researchers propose these healthy fats are crucial for eyesight and vision, too. Beyond moisturising your peepers and supporting the reduction of Dry Eye Syndrome (DES), omega-3 fatty acids are thought to protect vision in old age. In one study, regular consumption of fish – that is, eating 2-3 portions every week – was associated with a 42% lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness worldwidei. Oily fish is the most abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, so load upon on salmon, anchovies, mackerel, and sardines.
 

Seeds

Not a fish fan? No problem. You can crunch your way to healthy eyes with seeds. Don’t judge these little guys on their small size; they serve up a delicious helping of omega-3 essential fatty acids to keep your vision sharp and conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) at bay. Flaxseeds, and hemp seeds and chia seeds are the richest sources of omega-3. Did you know just 28g of chia seeds would meet and even exceed your daily recommendation of omega-3, delivering a staggering 4,195mg? Sprinkle on salads, muesli, porridge or snack straight from the packet.


Leafy greens

It may be advice you hear time and again from the wellness community, but we’ll say it again for good measure: eat your greens! Dark leafy greens are peeper-powerhouses. Kale, spinach, swiss chard, and parsley are brimming with two potent antioxidants that are essential for healthy vision: lutein and zeaxanthin. Not only do these fellas protect your eyes from free radical damage, but they also act as natural sun protection, soaking up harmful UV raysiii. Plus, these compounds are found in concentrated amounts in the macula – the part of your eye that’s responsible for detailed vision. According to a growing body of research, lutein and zeaxanthin have shown great promise in reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy – all of which conspire to skew visioniv. Pass the veg, please.


Blueberries

Folklore has it that Royal Air Force pilots snacked on bread and blueberry jam to improve their night-time vision during World War II. Though unlikely you’ll transform into a first-class pilot, blueberries are chock-full of antioxidants called anthocyanidins that can certainly work wonders for your peepers. In one study, scientists found the anthocyanidins in blueberries helped eyes recover after exposure to bright light, proving especially helpful when driving at nightv.  You really don’t have an excuse not to eat more of these jewelled beauties by virtue of their versatility: blend in smoothies, add to porridge, stew into compote, or snack on them straight from the punnet. Not berry season? Don’t worry; go frozen (they’re just as nutritious – promise!).


Citrus fruits

Besides jazzing up your H20, citrus fruits are fantastic for your eyes. Packed with tons of the antioxidant-rich vitamin C, these zingy foods fight free radical damage and promote the overall health of your capillaries – the tiny structures that transport oxygen and nutrients to different parts of the body via blood. Your peepers are teeming with capillaries, which can explain why vitamin C is so acutely important for eye health. Data suggests this antioxidant may lower the risk of developing cataracts and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)vi There are myriad ways to squeeze (literally) more citrus fruits into your diet. Add lashing of lime juice to homemade guacamole (side note: avocado is another vision-enhancing fruit), eat a whole grapefruit first thing in the morning, and send yourself to sleep with fresh lemon tea.


Avocados

Holy guacamole! These creamy, velvety, buttery beauties pack a ton of vision-loving goodness. In addition to a slew of nutrients that safeguard eyesight, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E, the humble avo is also chock-full of lutein and zeaxanthin, which – as we’ve established above – are critical to eye health and sight. This verdant guy is also brimming with healthy fats, which help promote optimal vision, too. Smash into guacamole, slice into salads, or add to your morning smoothie – there are countless ways to reap the fruits of this delicious fruit. 


Sweet potatoes

Move over carrots, sweet potatoes are vision champs, too. Just like their orange friends, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene – a powerful weapon for eye health. When consumed, the body transforms beta-carotene into vitamin A, which plays an essential role in vision thanks to it supporting the surface of the eye (cornea). Experts believe vitamin A may help decrease the risk of cataracts and vision loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD)vii. So instead of reaching for traditional carrots, throw some sweet potatoes in the mix. Mash, roast, boil or fry your tatters – they’re all totally scrumptious.


Eggs

Scrambled, boiled, sunny side up – eggs pack a powerful punch to eye health. Egg yolks are loaded with vitamin A, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc offering a smorgasbord of nourishment for your peepers. The high vitamin A content safeguards the cornea, while the lutein and zeaxanthin support the function of the macular, protects eyes from harmful UV rays, and lowers the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. The zinc credentials will help with the overall health of your retina, too. Eggs are enormously versatile and cracking partners for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Almonds

These heart-shaped nuts are crammed with benefits for your eyes. Most importantly, almonds are loaded with vitamin E – a powerful antioxidant that protects against free radical damage in the eyes. Research suggests regularly consuming sources of vitamin E can help prevent cataracts and age-related macular degenerationviii. To meet the recommended 15mg of vitamin E, all you need is 23 almonds a day. Always keep a bag stashed in your office drawer – they’re the perfect snack when the four o’clock slump strikes.
 



References:

  1. , , & Dietary ω-3 fatty acid and fish intake and incident age-related macular degeneration in women. Archives of ophthalmology (Chicago, Ill. 1960), 129(7), 921-9.

  2. & The Photobiology of Lutein and Zeaxanthin in the Eye. Journal of ophthalmology, 687173.

  3. , , & Lutein and Zeaxanthin-Food Sources, Bioavailability and Dietary Variety in Age-Related Macular Degeneration Protection. Nutrients, 9(2), 120.

  4. , , , , , , & Lutein and zeaxanthin intake and the risk of age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 107(03), 350-359.

    Does dietary lutein and zeaxanthin increase the risk of age related macular degeneration? The Melbourne Visual Impairment Project. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 90(3), 389-390.

    , , , , , , , & Lutein effect on retina and hippocampus of diabetic mice. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 41(6), 979-984..

  5. , , & Blueberry Effects on Dark Vision and Recovery after Photobleaching: Placebo-Controlled Crossover Studies. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 62(46), pp.11180-11189.

  6. & Nutrients for the aging eye. Clinical interventions in aging, 8, 741-8.

  7. & Nutrients for the aging eye. Clinical interventions in aging, 8, 741-8.

  8. A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Clinical Trial of High-Dose Supplementation With Vitamins C and E, Beta Carotene, and Zinc for Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Vision Loss.. Archives of Ophthalmology, 119(10), 1417.





 

 

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Our Author - Olivia Salter

Olivia

Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.

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