Everyone knows eating healthy enables you to live a healthier life. By simply consuming foods rich in essential vitamins and minerals, you can prepare your body to defend itself from illness and reduce any damage caused due to ageing. Like our bodies, our eyes also require a certain amount of multivitamins to fight the effects of age-related degenerative diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration. That is why we put together a list of all the nutrients your eyes need, their dietary sources and potential benefits.
1. Lutein and Zeaxanthin
These two carotenoids are potent antioxidants that help protect and maintain the cells in your eyes by filtering harmful high-energy light wavelengths. The presence of lutein and zeaxanthin in your eyes enhances your vision while reducing the risk of chronic eye diseases, cataracts and macular degeneration.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are the yellow and red pigments widely found in veggies and fruits. They are also found in leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, etc. and fruits like apples, blackcurrants, bilberries etc. Pasteurized egg yolk and salmon are also great sources of these carotenoids.
2. Bioflavonoids (Flavonoids)
Bioflavonoids are a type of phyto-nutrient that protect your eyes from damage and are known for assisting with the circulation of blood to and within the retina. They act in combination with multiple vitamins to strengthen and maintain healthy eyesight.
Bioflavonoids are the naturally occurring yellow, red and blue pigments found in multiple berries and citric fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries; as well as vegetables like broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts and green tea.
Beta-carotene is a type of vitamin A which helps with the functioning of the retina and other sections of the eye. When taken in combination with vitamins E and C and zinc, beta-carotene can help reduce the progression of macular degeneration (AMD). It’s also a potent anti-oxidant known for protecting against ageing and cancer.
Beta-carotene is responsible for giving foods their orange hue, and is commonly found in carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cantaloupes, kale, spinach etc.
4. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
These are the building blocks for fats and are one of the fuel sources for energy in the cell. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are the two types of EFAs needed by the body, in an appropriate ratio, to maintain good vision and general health. The presence if these EFAs also ensure that the intraocular fluid is drained from your eye, thereby decreasing glaucoma risk and the risk of high eye pressure. Studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, benefit eye health by enhancing vision development in case of infants; and is also known to prevent diseases like diabetic retinopathy and AMD in adults.
The EFAs are commonly found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring, tuna, cod liver oil etc. You can also find these fatty acids in freshly ground flaxseeds, walnuts, roasted soya beans and canola oil.
Regular intakes of selenium combined with zinc could help with protecting against glaucoma, which can ultimately result in damage to the optic nerve and blindness. Selenium can help in neutralizing free radicals that damage the eyes. And, if you supplement your selenium intake with vitamins C & E, it can also reduce the risk of advanced AMD in adults.
Selenium can be found in Brazil nuts, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, garlic, enriched noodles, brown rice, eggs, mushrooms, and onions. Another great source of selenium is seafood, namely; tuna, flounder, halibut; and a variety of shellfish (shrimp, crab, oysters).
6. Vitamin A
Vitamin A helps in protecting the cornea (the eye surface), and is an essential nutrient for healthy vision. Research shows vitamin A to be an effective in dry eye treatment and also for treating a kind of eye inflammation known as superior limbic keratoconjunctivitis. When taken in combination with other vitamins, it is known to protect against night blindness, loss of peripheral vision and age related degeneration of your eyes.
The most common food sources containing Vitamin A are beef & chicken liver, eggs, butter and milk. You can even find high quantities of this vitamin in sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and melons.
7. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is known to help and maintain your overall health by not only protecting your bones, skin and blood vessels, but also the delicate capillaries present in your retina. According to research, regular consumption of Vitamin C is known to reduce risk of degenerative eye diseases, such as cataracts and AMD.
Even though oranges are known to be the most common source of Vitamin C, there are a variety of other fruits and veggies you can eat; such as kiwi, strawberries, butternut squash, cantaloupes, papaya, spinach, tomatoes, spinach, kale and sweet peppers (both red and green).
8. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that benefits our eyes. It also provides anti-inflammatory benefits with aid in the prevention of AMD as well. It also helps prevent the problem of dry eyes by inducing production of an anti-microbial protein called cathelicidin in the eye which is known to heal eye wounds.
The best source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight; best results can be achieved by standing in the sun in the early hours of the day for a few minutes. You can also contribute to your Vitamin D intake by consuming seafood, namely; tuna, mackerel, trout, snapper, scallops; and vegetables like avocado, spinach, collard greens and other dark leafy vegetables.
9. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a group of vitamins which help neutralize oxidation. For that reason, it’s believed to play an important role in the protection of the parts of the eye that are especially susceptible to oxidative damage. It also protects the eye from free radicals damage, thus lowering the risk of both, cataracts and AMD.
Foods high in vitamin E include dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, mustard and turnip greens; nuts like almonds and hazelnuts; plant seeds such as wheat germ, pumpkin and sunflower seeds; other vegetables like avocados, broccoli, squash; and fruits like kiwi and butternut squash.
Zinc is found in high levels in your macula, which plays a large part in the overall eye health. It also has the ability to prevent oxidative damage. When taken with vitamin A, it creates a pigment called melanin, which protects your eye. Vitamin E helps you see better at night as well and reduces tendency of contracting night blindness. Regular zinc intake is also known also lower the odds of contracting age-related vision problems like AMD.
This mighty mineral can be found in oysters, crab, lobster, a variety of other meats and poultry. Apart from this you can also supplement your zinc intake by consuming cashew nuts, pecan nuts, pumpkin and squash seeds, spinach and mushrooms.