Many of our patients ask if there are ways to improve their vision. While there may be no easy answer to that question, there are good habits you can develop to help preserve your vision for longer. In addition to getting regular eye exams and practicing good hygiene habits, you can adjust your diet to foster good eye health. You’ve probably heard the bit of folk wisdom that carrots are good for or can even improve your eyesight. While there is a kernel of truth to this idea, it’s a bit overblown. Carrots do contain vitamin A, an essential nutrient for healthy vision, but you only need small amounts of this nutrient to promote eye health. Furthermore, carrots are hardly the only or best source of vitamin A. There are several nutrients that have some degree of influence over a well running vision system, but the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) specify lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc as the most important nutrients for eye health. Here are three food categories that will readily provide you with those nutrients:
Leafy green vegetables
It’s no secret that leafy green vegetables are great for your overall health, but you may not have realized that they can also help preserve your vision. Kale and spinach are among the foods most rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that have been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and other chronic eye conditions. Moreover, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, and mustard spinach are among the most vitamin-C-dense foods, and vitamin C has been shown to have similar effects to those of lutein and zeaxanthin. It’s also an essential nutrient for day-to-day eye health. Many of these nutrient-dense foods are also rich in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from damaging, unstable molecules that break down cellular tissue over time. Otherwise known as free radicals, these unstable molecules are thought to play a significant role in the aging process and age-related eye diseases).
Oranges are famously great sources of vitamin C, but citrus fruits (like lemon and grapefruit) in general tend to be rich in this fundamental nutrient. Kakadu plums, acerola cherries, chili peppers (especially green ones), sweet peppers (especially yellow ones), guavas, kiwis, lychees, papayas, and strawberries are some of the top common sources of vitamin C. You have no shortage of delicious choices for getting your daily dose of this antioxidant. Incidentally, many fruits are also high in vitamin E.
Healthful protein sources (nuts, fish, and eggs)
Almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and brazil nuts are among the many types of nuts that contain lots of vitamin E. You can also get your daily value of vitamin E from the various oils derived from those nuts (though you won’t get much protein that way). Other nutritious proteins that deliver on vitamin E include goose meat, chicken, and several types of seafood, such as salmon, trout, cod, lobster, and abalone. Many of these same types of fish and nuts also contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids are essential to overall health and, in the words of the AOA, “proper visual development and retinal function.” Eggs contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, and they have reasonable amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, a mineral that assists with various bodily functions and is extremely concentrated in the eye. Along with oysters (which provide omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, and zinc), eggs provide most of the main nutrients that can benefit your eyes.
When it comes to good sources of beneficial nutrients, there’s considerable overlap among the various healthful foods. There are also tons of places to get the vitamins and minerals your eyes need to stay healthy. Dairy products contain high levels of zinc, and sweet potatoes have just about everything you’ll ever need, but neither of these fit into the broad categories we’ve assembled here. There are many ways to help maintain your vision, and one of the most essential is to have regular eye exams. If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment with us, contact Georgia Eye Physicians & Surgeons today, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more tips for healthy eyes.