Despite knowing how important the role of our eyes is in our day to day functioning, we tend to neglect the care necessary to maintain optimal eye health. Just close your eyes for a minute and try to walk around your home or workspace. It is quite difficult, right? That is how indispensable the eyes are.
While it is common knowledge that eye issues are a result of eyestrain or aging, most people are unaware that an unbalanced diet or a deficiency in certain nutrients can also facilitate eye issues. Eating a healthy diet that is high in certain nutrients can help reduce the risk of eye issues. Some of these nutrients include lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, C, E, zinc, copper and beta-carotene. For healthy eyes, foods that should be part of your daily diet include:
1. Leafy Green and Yellow/Orange Vegetables- These types of vegetables are very rich in lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin A and beta carotene. Lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful carotenoids and antioxidants that defend your body against unstable molecules called free radicals. In excess, free radicals can damage your cells and contribute to aging. Antioxidants reduce the risk and/or progression of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. Vitamin A is critical for vision as an essential component of rhodopsin, the light-sensitive protein in the retina that responds to light entering the eye. It also benefits our immune system and supports the normal functioning of the conjunctival membranes and cornea by soothing eye inflammation. Beta-carotene is a provitamin carotenoid that helps give yellow vegetables their bright pigmentation and is also good for our vision and overall growth and development. Beta-carotene converts into Vitamin A in the body, and as a carotenoid, beta-carotene reduces the oxidative stress put on our eyes from blue light emitted by the sun and our various electronic devices. Unlike vitamin A, carotenoids like lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene only come from foods and vegetables and therefore need to be consumed regularly. The most instrumental vegetables in keeping the eyes healthy are leafy greens like kale, spinach, arugula and other collard greens, broccoli and yellow/orange vegetables like yellow and orange bell peppers, carrots and summer squash. It is best for past or current smokers to obtain their nutritional beta-carotene from whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than in a supplement form.
2. Fish- Fish is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, especially oily fish which have oil inside their body tissue and guts. They are regarded as the major source of omega-3 fatty acids which help in improving the immune system and brain function. Omega-3 fatty acids also help in the development of the eye and retina and help maintain a healthy tear film. It is therefore important to incorporate fish into your diet about 3 times a week. Incorporating fish rich with omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, herring, mackerel, and anchovies about 3 times a week is important in helping to maintain optimal eye health.
3. Eggs- The yolk of an egg contains a combination of the nutrients vitamin A, zeaxanthin, and lutein the important antioxidants mentioned above.
4. Citrus Fruits- Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, an essential nutrient for healthy eyes. Vitamin C plays an important role in the eye itself, protecting against UV light damage. While the concentration of vitamin C in the eyes lessens with age, diet and supplementation can counteract this. Vitamin C also helps protect against oxidative damage. Citrus fruits include oranges, grapefruits, and lemons.
5. Meat, Shellfish, Nuts, Seeds and Legumes- Meats, shellfish, nuts, seeds and legumes are rich in zinc, vitamin E, copper and omega-3 fatty acids which guard the eyes against age-related disorders. Zinc is stored in melanin pigment. Both zinc and melanin protect the eyes from oxidative stress caused by light exposure. There is some evidence that zinc supplements, when used in combination with antioxidant vitamins, slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Vitamin E is believed to protect eye cells from free radicals, which break down healthy eye tissue. Copper, acting as an antioxidant, encourages the development of flexible connective tissue for proper eye structure. It binds with zinc, and the two should be supplemented together. Almonds, brazilian nuts, peanuts, walnuts, lentils, and cashews are examples of legumes and nuts.
6. Water- Water is a very important element for the body system to function normally. It also plays an important role in eye health. Water helps against dehydration and as such, it helps improve the dryness of the eyes.
In summary, meals that contain nutrients like lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, C, E, zinc, copper and beta-carotene should be incorporated into your healthy diet for healthy eyes!