Healthy eyes and good vision are important to us all, and particularly as we age. Given the increased prevalence of obesity and associated chronic diseases like diabetes; rates of myopia, poor vision and blindness (diabetic retinopathy) are on the rise for all ages. However, a diet rich in wholefood and plant based diet can help prevent age-related eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, vision loss, dry eyes, cataracts and problem with night vision.
Food Good for Eyes
Similar to the heart, a large part of eye balls are vascular (blood vessels) in nature and a consistent supply of blood and oxygen through these blood vessels ensures healthy vision. To keep blood vessels in your eyes healthy, eat a heart-healthy diet that is rich in antioxidants and low in sugar (especially fructose), trans and saturated fat. Avoid processed, packaged, baked and fried foods such as french fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies, pastries, and crackers.
For healthy vision, besides maintaining an overall healthy and active lifestyle, eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in whole plant-based foods. These foods are loaded with eye-friendly nutrients such as antioxidants, phyto-nutrients (lutein, zeaxanthin, anthocyanin, lycopene, beta-carotene), vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. Antioxidants can prevent or at least delay age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Eye-Friendly Foods and Nutrients
Research shows that these eye-friendly nutrients are found in the lens and retina of your eyes and work as antioxidants to protect your eyes against free-radical damage caused by direct sunlight or other environmental toxins found in today’s environment.
Dark Leafy Greens
Green leafy vegetables are excellent source of nutrient carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) that are essential for eye health. These antioxidants are stored in the macula region of your eyes and act as a natural sun block, protecting your eyes from damaging light and reducing your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Though, kale and spinach are the richest source, you can choose other healthy options such as collard greens, dark green lettuce, turnip greens and Swiss chard.
Which Vegetables are Best for Eye Health?
Other green vegetables such as broccoli, peas, green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin, squash, peppers, corn and Brussels sprouts are also good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which help in protecting central vision by preventing cell damage and vision loss. These nutrients besides improving your vision also help in maintaining a healthy vision for long-term. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin C, which further enhances the protective properties of lutein and zeaxanthin, and help in significantly reducing the risk of vision loss. Read more about the benefits of broccoli here
Which Fruits are Best for Eye Health?
Fruits including apricots, cantaloupe, tomatoes, strawberries are excellent choices for improving eye health. These foods are excellent source of vitamin C too, which works in synergy with vitamin A to protect eyes against disease and promote healthy vision. Orange Pepper has the highest amount of zeaxanthin. Eating more of these bright colored fruits can significantly reduce your risk of losing these pigments with age and protect your eyes from cataracts and age related vision loss.
Citrus Fruits and Berries
Oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons and strawberries are loaded with vitamin C, an antioxidant that promotes eye health and reduces the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Papaya, green and red peppers, peaches, cauliflower and tomatoes are other good sources of vitamin C. Tomatoes, besides being excellent source of vitamin C, are packed with carotenoids such as lycopene, which helps in protecting vision by preventing light-induced damage to the eye.
Nuts & Seeds for Eye Health
Eye-friendly nutrients (lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and carotenoids) are fat soluble in nature, so to boost the absorption and functioning of these nutrients you need to eat your fruits and vegetables with healthy fats. Nuts such as pistachios, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts are rich source of healthy fat such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, which protect your eyes from free radical damage and slow down the progression of cataracts and AMD. Pistachios are the only nuts that also contain significant amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Seeds are also excellent sources of vitamin E and zinc, which help in boosting eye health and protect them against disease. Snack on sunflower and flax seeds, as these are excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids that promote eye health and help in preventing dry eye syndrome, macular degeneration and cataracts. Consider adding dark chocolate to your diet also!
Improve Eye Health with Whole Grains
Complex carbohydrates from whole grains help in controlling blood sugar spikes and reduce risk of diabetes and AMD. So, include more whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, whole oats and whole-wheat breads and pasta in your diet. These whole grains are also good source of vitamin E, zinc and niacin that are essential to promote overall eye health. Wheat germ is especially an excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects the eyes from free-radical damage and slows down the progression of cataracts and age related vision loss. You can add wheat germ while baking, making smoothies or sprinkle it on oatmeal, yogurt and salads.
Legumes for Good Eyesight
Legumes of all kinds be it beans or lentils are good sources of bio-flavonoids and zinc that help in protecting your eyes from the damaging effects of light and lower the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts. Add beans such as kidney beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, mung beans and lentils in stews and casseroles, or add a handful of them to your salads.
Other foods for healthy eyes and sharp vision include black currants, bilberries, organic pastured egg yolks and wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Include these foods on a regular basis and certainly over the holidays to maintain excellent vision.
Vitamins for Eye Health
- Foods rich in Vitamins A, C E are all vital to good eye health. As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps protect the body from damage caused by some things we eat, unhealthy habits and environmental factors.
- Another important antioxidant is vitamin E, which helps keep cells healthy. Vitamin E can be found in avocados, almonds and sunflower seeds.
- Carrots are a well-known source of vitamin A. Sweet potatoes provide even more vitamin A. Sweet potato has more than 200% of the daily dose of vitamin A doctors recommend. Fruits, including cantaloupe and apricots, can be a good source of vitamin A.