10 best foods for your eyes and eye health
“The eyes are the window to the soul,” goes the common saying. People’s eyes literally allow them to see the world. Imperfect eyesight, which may be the result of eye strain, cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, dry eyes, or simply aging, makes navigating everyday life challenging. Some people mistakenly believe declining eyesight is an inevitable result of aging. There are lots of things people can do to protect the health of their eyes, however, including making sure they have adequate lighting when reading or writing, monitoring screen time, wearing sunglasses when going out, and exercising eye muscles.
Diet also plays an important role in eye health. According to the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, consuming foods with lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids, beta carotene, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E can reduce the risk of some eye diseases and improve overall eye health.
Below are 10 foods rich in the above nutrients, making them among the healthiest foods for the “windows to the soul.”
Fatty fish, particularly tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and herring, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for proper functioning of the retinas. They also protect against dry eyes, macular degeneration, and cataracts.
2. Leafy greens
Leafy greens such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, and collard greens contain lutein and zeaxanthin—plant pigments that stop macular degeneration. These pigments are antioxidants that protect the eye cells from free radicals, harmful molecules that break down healthy tissue. Retinas are especially susceptible to the damage of free radicals. Leafy greens also contain vitamins A, C, and E and beta carotene, all of which are important nutrients for eye health.
Carrots are rich with vitamin A and beta carotene. Beta carotene helps make vitamin A, which is a necessary component of a protein called rhodopsin. Rhodopsin helps the retina absorb light and adjust to darkness.
Legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, and black-eyed peas are high in zinc, which protects the retinas and helps reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
5. Sunflower seeds
An ounce of sunflower seeds has half of the USDA-recommended amount of vitamin E. Sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of zinc. Both of these nutrients prevent and slow the development of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Egg yolk is an effective source of lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which prevent age-related vision deterioration. Their yellow-orange color blocks harmful blue light, which can damage the retina. Furthermore, lutein and zeaxanthin increase the amount of protective pigment in the macula, which controls central vision. Eggs also contain vitamin A, which helps protect against night blindness and dry eyes, and vitamins C and E, and zinc.
7. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, which helps with night vision. Furthermore, one sweet potato has more than half the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Sweet potatoes also contain small amounts of vitamin E, which protects against macular degeneration and cataracts.
8. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps fight against age-related vision deterioration. Vitamin C-rich citrus fruits include oranges, grapefruits, and lemons. In addition to citrus fruits, berries are also rich in vitamin C.
Summer squash contains vitamin C and zinc, whereas winter squash contains vitamins A and C and omega-3 fatty acids. Both kinds of squash also have lutein and zeaxanthin, making squash an eye-friendly food all year.
Water is a building block of life. Therefore, it is also essential to eye health. Drinking enough water prevents dehydration, which can prevent and reduce the severity of dry eyes.
Vision deterioration does not have to be an accepted reality of aging. A diet rich in eye-healthy nutrients can help prevent or slow the development of eye diseases and maintain optimal eye health throughout one’s life.