Healthy eyes are vital to enjoy quality life but in recent years, with increased prevalence of obesity and associated chronic diseases like diabetes; rates of myopia, poor vision and blindness (diabetic retinopathy) are on the rise at all stages of life. However, it’s heartening to note that including certain foods in your daily diet can help you get healthier healthy eyes, and prevent age-related eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, vision loss, dry eyes, cataracts and problem with night vision.
Eat a Heart Healthy Diet
Similar to 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. So, to keep blood vessels in your eyes healthy, you need to take 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, you need to 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.
Get Healthier with Eye-Friendly 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 like air pollution and cigarette smoke.
Here is a list of best foods that help keep your eyes healthy and get healthier to ensure bright vision:
- Dark Leafy Greens: Green leafy vegetablesare 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 (AMD).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.
- Green vegetables: Green vegetables such as broccoli, peas, green beans 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 AMD and vision loss. Read more about the benefits of broccoli here
- Bright coloured fruits and vegetables: These foods get orange, yellow and red pigments from carotenoids i.e. beta-carotene. This is a precursor of vitamin A that promotes eye health and ensures smooth functioning of retina and other parts of the eye. It also helps eyes in adjusting to low levels of light and ensures good night vision.
So, eat more of these colored fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin, squash, apricots, cantaloupe, tomatoes, bell peppers, orange Pepper, strawberries and corn to get healthier. 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 highest amount of zeaxanthin and yellow corn is a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin. Eating more of these bright colored fruits and vegetables can significantly reduce your risk of losing these pigments with age and protect your eyes from cataracts and AMD.
- 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: 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!
- 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 AMD. You can add wheat germ while baking, making smoothies or sprinkle it on oatmeal, yogurt and salads.
- Legumes: 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 get healthier!